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Basketball Shooting Games: Fun For Everyone and Great Basketball Shooting Drills, Too

Games that employ basketballs and a basketball backboard and rim without the constraints of a time clock are varied and plentiful. The wonderful sense of accomplishment we receive from shooting basketballs through a basket and the friendly competition we experience make these games fun. These contests are more about shooting skill and less about athletic ability which explains, in part, their wide appeal. Whether you see them as basketball shooting drills (like many coaches do) or just plain fun, here are some of the most familiar ones:


    • H-O-R-S-E Next to traditional basketball, H-O-R-S-E is probably the best known game played with a basketball hoop system. It can be played by two or more participants with the order of play determined by free throw shooting (or any other method the players prefer). Player #1 decides on the kind of shot he or she is going to take from anywhere on the court, announces it and then takes the shot. There are no rules regarding length or type of shot. Player #2 (and every other player involved) must then duplicate the shot. If the shot is made, the player moves on to the next round without penalty. If Player #2 misses, he or she gets assigned the letter “H.” This procedure continues for all players. If a participant misses a second shot, he or she gets an “O”, and then an “R”, “S”, and finally an “E.” Once any player gets all five letters, he or she is eliminated from competition. The last player to remain in the game is the winner. Longer or shorter versions of H-O-R-S-E, with names like P-I-G, are also played.


    • Around The World In this game, 2 or more players take shots from pre-determined locations on a court (or driveway). In one version, the positions outline the area of the court known popularly as “the paint.” It is the zone bordered by the free throw line and out of bounds line and the 2 perpendicular lines that complete the rectangular box. In another version, the shot locations roughly follow the perimeter of the 3-point shooting line. Player #1 starts the game with a right-handed lay-up. If the shot is made, he or she shoots from the far right location. If that shot is made, he or she proceeds clockwise to the far left position “around the world” and then must make a left-handed lay-up before reversing direction back to the initial location. Making a shot from a position allows a player to advance to the next position and he or she keeps advancing until a shot is missed. When a shot is missed, a player must decide whether to save his position and pass the ball to the next player or elect to take another “chance” shot. If the chance shot is made, the player advances as normal. If the player misses, his or her turn ends and he or she pays a penalty. This may involve going back one position and waiting until the next turn or even starting over, which carries an ever higher risk the farther along the player is in the game. When a player makes a successful shot from the final position, the game enters the last stage. Generally, those players who hadn’t yet taken their final turn get a chance to tie, which cancels any advantage of going first. There are variations on the rules that make the game more difficult including requiring the shots to bank off the backboard, shooting with the non-dominant arm or shooting with alternating arms.


    • Firing Squad This game is very similar to Around The World but there’s one significant difference: each player has his or her own ball and no one waits to shoot. All players start shooting from the #1 spot in the far right location, rebound their own shots and continue shooting non-stop. When a shot is made, each player advances to the next spot. If the shot is missed, the player keeps shooting until the shot is made. The first player to make the shot from the #7 spot (far left location) is the winner. While Around The World is purely a shooting game, Firing Squad adds the component of quickness. The player who quickly tracks down a rebound and gets the next shot off as soon as possible gives him or her self an advantage.


    • Knockout This game can be played with two or more players. A line is formed, usually at the free throw line, and each player must follow in order the player in front of him or her throughout the game. Two basketballs are needed and are given to Player #1 and Player #2. Player #1 shoots. If Player #1 makes the shot, he or she passes the ball to Player #3 and goes to the end of the line. Player #2 shoots right after Player #1shoots. If Player #1 misses the shot, he or she must immediately get the rebound and try to score from anywhere on the court before Player #2 scores. If Player #2 scores before Player #1, either at the foul line or elsewhere, Player #1 is “knocked-out” of the game. If Player #3 scores before Player #2, then #2 is eliminated and so on. The last player left is the winner.


  • Fives Players form a line at the top of the key (or free-throw line for younger kids). Player #1 shoots. If the shot is missed, the player gets the rebound and shoots from where he or she retrieved the ball. He or she keeps shooting until a shot is yalla shoot  made up to a maximum of 5 shots. If the player fails to make a basket within those 5 shots, he or she gets 1 point and goes to the end of the line. Then Player #2 shoots. If Player #2 takes more shots to make a basket than Player #1, he or she gets a point. Player #2 could actually incur an additional point if he or she also fails to score within the 5-shot maximum. Player #3 must then score in the same or lower number of shots that Player #2 required or he or she is assessed a point. When a player reaches 5 points, he or she is eliminated. When that happens, the next following player in line has the shot requirement reset to 5. The last player to not get 5 points is the winner.


There are several more basketball shooting games than the 5 I have discussed here but these are some of the most popular ones. They require little more than an ability to shoot basketballs. Some games, like Fives and H-O-R-S-E, are allowed to proceed at a pace chosen by the players. As a result, they are very popular activities for those who like the sport of basketball but don’t want the pressure of a time clock or the requirement of having to score quickly. They allow players of varying levels of athletic ability to be competitive with each other. The games also act as basketball shooting drills while masquerading as just plain fun activities. For that reason, they are favorite practice tools of coaches. There are several more games to cover and I hope to do so in (an) upcoming article(s). In the meantime, why not play one on a court near you!


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