Every basketball player knows of the problems with pickup games. Make a big steal near the end of the game, and you can forget about going down to the other end for a layup. The guy you picked clean will be walking out of bounds, not saying a word, showing everyone that it was absolutely obvious you took off his arm to get to that ball.
Call it face-saving or call it a lie, whatever you like, but no one gets a clean steal near the end of a pickup game. No one loses face in a pickup game. No use arguing over that call, throw him the ball and start again. Get another clean steal if you can. It’s great practice. So what if he walks straight out of bounds again? You don’t need to win pickup games that no one will ever remember. But you do need to get good practice.
Good practice is what it is all about. Almost every player who ever became a star learned his shakes, his moves, his stuff in pickup games. Pickup games are where you try new things. No one cares if the ball goes out of bounds, just so the move looks good and the ball doesn’t roll down the hill or under a car.
One big problem is that a lot of players spend so much time legislating and refereeing that they don’t get very good practice. That doesn’t make sense at all. When you play in pickup games, if you really are trying to improve your game, forget about the refereeing and forget about all the guys who shoot and dribble too much. Chances are they think you are one of them. Go there to get better.
If there is a guy who shoots too much at your playground or gym, wonderful. Guard him and don’t let him touch the ball. If you spend a lot of time getting disgusted because everyone loafs on defense, you’re crazy. Everyone loafs on defense all over the world. Big deal.
Get practice defending a four-on-two or a three-on-one. There is too much to learn to waste your time complaining. Push yourself to get down the court first on offense. So what if they don’t give you the ball? Fight for offensive rebounds while counting how many times during the game you got so open that even the rat league ball hog had to pass to you.
If you are an especially good organizer, try to shorten the games. You would be better off playing shorter, harder games, than long, drawn- out loafers’ games. In almost all pickup games around the country, the games are long enough that everyone plans on loafing the first seven or ten baskets and then plays hard when the score is 9-8 or 17-15. Yet, what excuses do you have for loafing even if the other nine are? See how many balls you can touch on defense, see how many rebounds you can get, see how often you get open for what would have been easy layups had you been playing with guys who were willing to pass. Just because the others want to play at the offensive end doesn’t mean you have to give in to complaining.
You are a competitor and you don’t like to lose, not even in a pickup game. But use your head. Your ultimate objective is to get better, not to become a better complainer. Get back on defense and stop them yourself, or at least come close and do your best.
Your time is never wasted if you are doing your best. If you lapse into complaining, as is so common in many pickup games, you are wasting your own time.
One final word…If you are lucky enough that you don’t recognize the circumstances described here as “the universal pickup game syndrome,” consider yourself lucky. You are one in a million.
From Dick’s book Stuff