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Streetball facts for kids

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Streetballers at the Venice Beach basketball courts, California, United States.

Streetball (or street basketball) is a variation of basketball, typically played on outdoor courts and featuring significantly less formal structure and enforcement of the game's rules. As such, its format is more conducive to allowing players to publicly showcase their own individual skills. Streetball may also refer to other urban sports played on asphalt. It is particularly popular and important in New York City.

Some places and cities in the United States have organized streetball programs, operated similarly to midnight basketball programs. Many cities also host their own weekend-long streetball tournaments, with Hoop-It-Up and the Houston Rockets' Blacktop Battle being two of the most popular. Since the mid-2000s, streetball has seen an increase in media exposure through television shows such as ESPN's ,Street Basketball' and City Slam, as well as traveling exhibitions such as the AND1 Mixtape Tour, YPA, and Ball4Real.

It is also popular in other countries like Philippines. Most of their streets have their own basketball court. Tournaments are also organized especially during summer and holiday season. Divisions are divided into 4 brackets, Mosquito (ages 7 to 13), Midget (ages 14 to 17), Junior (ages 18 to 25), and Senior division (ages 26 and up).

Rules and features

Street basketball Paris
Children playing streetball in Paris in winter

Streetball rules vary widely from court to court.

Players typically divide into teams by alternating choices.

No referees are employed, so almost invariably a "call your own foul" rule is in effect, and a player who believes he has been fouled, simply needs to call out "Foul!", and play will be stopped, with the ball awarded to the fouled player's team (free throws are not awarded in streetball). It is also standard that the hands are considered part of the ball.

Calling fouls is generally disfavored. The etiquette of what rightly constitutes a foul, as well as the permissible amount of protestation against such a call, are the products of individual groups, and of the seriousness of a particular game.

Other violations which are enforced include traveling, double-dribble, carrying, kicking, out of bounds, goaltending, and backcourt violation.

Half-court play

The majority of streetball games are played 3-on-3 on a half court. Special rules have been developed for half-court play:

  • At the beginning of the game and after each made basket, play begins at the top of the key. A "checking" system is used to ensure that both teams are ready to begin play. This involves the offensive player saying "check" while throwing the ball to his defender. The defender then makes sure his/her team is ready and then throws the ball back to begin play.
  • If the ball goes out of bounds during play, the ball can either be checked from out of bounds near where the ball went out or at the top of the key, depending on the rules established before the game.
  • FIBA recently had to add the ‘check clock’ rule into play in their streetball tournaments due to some players taking excruciatingly long amounts of time to check the ball, interrupting the flow of play. This ‘check clock’ means that when the defending player has been checked the ball, he has to return it within 5 seconds. Also the "shot clock" rule can be implemented as well to prevent longer possessions.
  • If the defending team gains possession of the ball, they must clear the ball past the three-point line before they can score a basket. This does not need to be at the top of the key and no checking is required.
  • Sometimes in a half-court game, a "winner's ball" or "make it, take it" rule is used. This means that if a team scores, it gets the ball again on offense; one team could end up never getting the ball on offense if the other team scores on every possession.

Game structure

A common feature of street basketball is the pick up game. To participate in most streetball games around the world, one simply goes to an outdoor court where people are playing, indicates a wish to participate, and from all the players who were at the court before one has played, two players acting as "captains" will get to pick their team out of the players available and play a game. Generally, the team captains alternate their choices, but different courts have differing rules in regards to player selection. Many games play up to 7, 11, 13, 15, or 21 points with the scoring system of 2-point baskets and 3-point baskets counting for 1 and 2 points respectively. It is possible to do (1's only), (2's only), (1's and 2's), or (2's and 3's). Players often play "win by 1" or "win by 2" as in tennis to win the game.

  • 1's only – each basket counts as 1 point
  • 2's only – each basket counts as 2 points
  • 1's and 2's – each basket counts as 1 point inside the arc and 2 points outside the arc
  • 2's and 3's – each basket counts as 2 points inside the arc and 3 points outside the arc

The most common streetball game played is 3-on-3 half court, even though 4-on-4 or 5-on-5 can be played at full court. In most instances, the winning team gets first possession and usually choose which direction (which basket) they get to use.

Another possible streetball feature is having an MC call the game. The MC is on the court during the game and is often very close to the players (but makes an effort to not interfere with the game) and uses a microphone to provide game commentary for the fans.

  • In a 3v3 or higher the first game (depending if y’all play like that) should be 15. Second game should be 12, then every game after is 15.

One-on-One play

Special rules have been developed for one-on-one play:

  • If the player loses the match of a one-on-one, the losing player is given a second chance to shoot a shot at the three point line. This either results with the match continuing or if the match is close enough resulting in a tie.
  • In a game of One-on-One at a close game, the game cannot end on a bank shot. If a bank shot happens on the last point of the game it is a replay of possession. (refer as the no bankshot rule)
  • Another additional variation to the rules is the (skunk rule). This merely means that if a player reaches a certain point without the other player scoring then the game is over. The skunk rule limit can vary, but is often used at the score 7 to 0 mark.
  • Another variation of the rule is no contact the game can be played on grass surface as well as Basketball courts.
  • A local dead end limit applies; for instance a game may be played to 7, win by 2, with a 9-point dead end, (refers to as 7 by 2's, 9 straight) which would mean scores of 7–3, 8–6, or 9–8 would all be final, while with scores of 7–6 or 8–7, play would continue.



A popular variation of street basketball is 21, also known as Hustle, American, St. Mary's, V or Varsity, Roughhouse, 33, 50 or Crunch, or "New York." 21 is played most often with 3–5 players on a half court. However it is possible to play "21" with only two players or more.

Further, in some forms, players can freely enter the game after it has begun, starting at zero points or being "spotted" the same number as the player with the lowest score. "21" is an "every player for himself" game, with highly variable rules. The rules of "21" are usually agreed by the players at the beginning of the game.

The typical rules of "21" are:

  • one player "breaks" to begin the game by shooting from 3 point range. Sometimes players agree that the "break" must not be a successful shot, in order to give every player an equal chance at rebounding to gain the 1st possession of the game
  • the normal foul rule is in effect
  • baskets are scored as 1's and 2's or 2's and 3's
  • after a successful shot, the shooter can take up to three 1-point free-throws (or play the shoot til you miss rule, where the shooter continues to shoot the ball until he misses), but as soon as he misses, the ball may be rebounded by anyone; conversely, if he makes all three free throw shots, he then gets to keep the ball and "check up" or start play again at the top of the arc
  • In some games 1 point free throws start at the charity stripe and then move to the 3 point line at the score 11 and so on (called 11 long or if at the 3 point line from the first score for free throws is called long all day rule)
  • the last person with a shot attempt should be the first person to step out on defense
  • after any change of possession, the ball should be cleared past the 3 point line (or at times just out of the key)
  • in order to win, a player must make exactly 21 points; if he goes over then he restarts back at either 11, 13 or 15 points, depending on the rules in use
  • whoever wins the game starts with the ball at the beginning of the next game
  • only serious fouls are called (commonly referred to as "No blood, No foul")
  • other typical basketball rules, such as out-of-bounds, are also frequently ignored in the game "21"; this is to avoid confusion on possession of the ball

Common additional rules include:

  • a player can attempt a 5-point bonus in lieu of attempting three free-throws but if the basket misses then the player won't be awarded.
  • if a missed shot is tipped in to the basket by another player without their feet touching the ground, then the shooter's score reverts to 0 (or 13 if their score was over 13); this rule may not apply on free-throws. (This is referred to as playing with tips)
  • if a player who has 13 points misses their next shot, regardless of whether it is a free-throw, then their points revert to 0. (This is referred to as poison points)
  • whoever wins the game must shoot a three-pointer in order to start with the ball at the beginning of the next game; if he makes it, he gets the three points, but doesn't have to take free-throws, and starts with the ball.
  • players with less than 13 points at the end of a game keep their points into the next game using the (handicap system) for when there is a wide variation in skill amongst the players.

"21" is considered a very challenging game, especially because the offensive player must possibly go up against several defenders at the same time. For this reason, it is exceedingly difficult to "drive to the hole" and make lay-ups in "21." Therefore, and also because of the emphasis on free-throws, "21" is very much a shooter's game, and because a successful shot means you keep the ball, it is possible for there to be come-backs when a player recovers from a large deficit by not missing any shots (this can also result in failure when they miss their final free-throw at 20 points and revert to 13 or 15). "21" is popular because it allows an odd number of people to play, unlike regular basketball or other variants.

King of the Court

King of the Court" or "Boston" is another less common streetball variant, often referred to results in essentially a one-on-one (or sometimes two-on-two) tournament between any number of players. Each match is played by the normal one-on-one rules, including violations (such as fouls and out-of-bounds) to just one point. The winner remains on the court and gets to take the ball out while the loser returns to the end of the line of players waiting to step on the court. The first player to win a set number of matches (usually 5, 7, or 11) wins the game. Each player can only take one shot per turn.


H-O-R-S-E is a game played by two or more people on a basketball court. The goal of the game involves matching baskets. The player who makes more shots that the opponent can't duplicate, wins the game. For example: The second person shooting must match the first person's shot if it is made. If the second shooter misses, he or she receives the letter H. If the first person shot is missed, the second shooter may attempt any shot. The game continues until one person accumulates 5 letters of H-O-R-S-E.

Around the World

Around the World (sometimes called Around the Key) is a basketball variant played by two or more players, who have all agreed upon a turn order. The game requires a sequence of shooting positions to be decided upon. The objective is to be the first player to make a shot from all positions. When a player makes a successful shot from the final position, the game enters the final stage with positions are around the key or even under the basket is declared the winner. Others play such that those players who have yet to act on the turn get a chance to tie, which cancels any advantage of going first.

In theory, the shooting positions are arbitrary; in practice, they are most commonly ordered along the 3-point line in equal intervals starting from one of the sides of the basket and including the straight-on center shot (0°, 30°, 60°, 90°, 120°, 150°, and 180°). This 180-degree semi-circular path is the inspiration for the game's name.

Making a shot from a position allows a player to advance to the next position. The rules are very flexible but usually a player keeps advancing until a missed shot. The consequences of missing a shot may vary. Sometimes the game is played such that a missed shot requires the player to start over at the first position. Under this rule, the game may also include another rule that allows a player to "save" their position, and pass the ball to the next player. It is probably most common, however, to play such that each player continues until a missed shot. At this point a player may save his position or elect to take another "chance" shot. If the chance shot is made, the player advances as normal. If it misses, the player's turn ends and they suffer some penalty, perhaps regressing a position or even starting over.

Other variations of basketball

Notable streetballers

  • Rafer "Skip to my Lou" Alston
  • Kenny Brunner aka Bad Santa
  • Sylvester "Sy" Blye
  • Emmanuel "Hard Work" Bibb
  • Grayson "The Professor" Boucher
  • Cardell "Ballaholic" Butler
  • Kevin "Bizzness" Butler
  • Philip Champion aka Hot Sauce/Sizzle
  • Lloyd "Swee' Pea" Daniels
  • Jamar "The Pharmacist" Davis
  • Waliyy "Main Event" Dixon
  • Brandon "The Assassin" Durham
  • Taurian "Mr. 720" Fontenette
  • Bobbito García
  • Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins
  • Deshun "Father Time" Jackson
  • Jumpin Jackie Jackson
  • Troy "Escalade" Jackson
  • Richard "Pee Wee" Kirkland
  • Raymond Lewis
  • Earl "The Goat" Manigault
  • Robert "50" Martin
  • Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell
  • Aaron "AO" Owens
  • Darren "Primal Fear" Phillip
  • Kareem "The Best Kept Secret" Reid
  • Jack "Black Jack" Ryan
  • Ed "Booger" Smith
  • John "The Franchise" Strickland
  • Roberto "Exile" Yong
  • Joe Hammond (basketball)
  • Joey "King Handles" Haywood
  • William Sanders (basketball)
  • Adrian Walton
  • Malloy Nesmith Sr.
  • Shamel Jones
  • James Pookie Wilson
  • Corey "Homicide" Williams
  • Larry "Bone Collector" Williams
  • James Speedy Williams

Streetball in popular media

Films and TV programs

Video games

  • AND 1 Streetball, video game by Ubisoft (2006)
  • FreeStyle Street Basketball, an online PC game by JC Entertainment
  • NBA Ballers, video game by Midway (2004)
    • sequels to NBA Ballers: NBA Ballers: Rebound, NBA Ballers: Phenom, and NBA Ballers: Chosen One
  • NBA Street, video game series by EA Sports
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