You pick any court anywhere in the world, and if you wait around long enough a good game of ball is gonna show up. Basketball’s a game everybody knows how to play, at least on some level, and one of the best things about our game is the creativity and individual style people bring to it at all levels.
Unfortunately, with any game that’s any good you have to bump around this next group of guys too. For every player you meet that’s going to push you to get better, there’s also going to be somebody who’s going to try and ruin it for everybody. We’ve all seen these guys before, they’re ants at every picnic, but we should all be able to call them out when we see them, and check ourselves to make sure we’re never pulling this nonsense.
You’ve seen this guy running around the court by himself before the game, doing dramatic yoga stretches and talking out loud to himself about pick rolls and zone d before the teams even get picked. Then the game starts and the first thing he does is start whining the first time you so much as post up. Every time there’s a fight for boards he comes down holding his face and crying about how he caught an elbow, and every time you drive to the basket he’s screaming, Charge! Sometimes games get out of hand, true, but the Glass Buddha thinks any contact on the court calls for a police investigation. The tennis courts are that way, friend.
#2. The Atticus Finch
Remember that foul from ten minutes ago? He does. When there’s no refs borderline calls can always go either way, but when the Atticus Finch feels like he’s been cheated, he’ll fight like the Larry O’Brien and the fate of the free world are on the line. There’s no way he travelled, he’s got a PHD in basketball and clearly he’s forgotten more than you’ll ever know about the game. It’s always easier to just let him have his way, because he’s spent so much energy bitching about the call he’s behind the play, the perfect vantage point to watch you foul his teammate at the other end of the court.
#3. The Dr. J
Remember how earlier we talked about the guys who try different things, well, the Dr. J is a step in the wrong direction. He takes hook shots from the perimeter, throws you an alley oops from half court, and calls picks that haven’t even been thought up yet. A Dr. J will never take an easy layup when a between the legs no-look pass will do. He avoids high percentage shots like he was allergic, will be triple covered and call for the pass, and always ends up throwing more air balls than a Balloon festival. The only thing more frustrating than having him miss all the time is when his crazy bullshit actually works.
#4. The Trashcan Man
Talking a good trash game is as much a part of pickup basketball as gym shorts and hip hop, but there’s always gotta be one guy who takes it too far. The trashcan man is nonstop verbal assault that makes you want to strangle him. From your nice shot to his flagrant foul to how your girlfriend likes it, he’s a running commentary with no off switch. To his credit, the Trashcan Man is almost always skinny guy and usually a point guard, with the kind of cardio that lets him talk and play at the same time, and he’s got an opinion on every single play that he shares with anyone who’ll listen. They’re usually funny to begin with, but it stems from a nervous tick and nobody’s funny for more than five minutes at a time. You can beg, you can threaten, you can even embarrass him on the court, he won’t stop. He can’t.
#5. The Uncle Phil
Here’s the thing about pickup, it works great because everybody gets a chance to play, and since it’s the best way exercise anybody has yet to think up, it attracts some guys who have fallen off the “fitness” wagon. Fallen off, and then decided to eat the horse. The forever enemy of the shot clock and the three second rule, the Uncle Phil is playing cholesterol just as much as he’s playing you, and so long as he’s on the court, you’re always going to have a guy open. That would be fine, but the second he gets in the key it’s like trying to cover an angry, sweaty hippopotamus. All he has to do is step back like Shaq and all that baby fat has you pushed up against the wall of the gym wondering how hard it is to learn tennis.