They’re impossible to escape. When you walk up to the park, they’re waiting for you on every black top, clay court, or whatever synthetic rubber court you might have. These men were sent to either wreak havoc on the structure of every pickup basketball game or give us some of the most hilarious unscripted moments while playing a game. Whether these guys are trying (and undoubtedly failing) to model themselves after professional NBA players or not, they’ve become a caricature of themselves over time. Let’s take a look at some of the most typical pickup players and their NBA representative.
The Guy with Every Excuse
For some reason, this guy always thinks he has something to prove. You know, because there’s a lot to prove to other short, out-of-shape ballers that can just barely graze the net with their fingertips. He’s the guy that misses a layup and shuffles around the excuses in his head instead of getting back on defense. He has got plenty of explanations in his repertoire in order to explain why he’s not playing like the main event at Rucker Park. By the time he drudges back down to the other end, he’s already drumming up the next excuse as to why he didn’t get back on defense. The Excuses Guy will never win you a game.
- NBA representative: Dwight Howard
When has Nash clashed with a teammate in such a fashion? Probably never. Must have been the constant whining.
The Freak Athlete with No Ball Skills
Picture this play: A shot clanks off the double rim at your local park and careens high into the sky. A guy, chiseled chest leading the way, barrels through the paint and skies for the ball to reach it at its apex. He snags the ball with one hand and gives the ball a patented smack with the other, all before both of his feet delicately float down to the concrete. In one motion, his gazelle-like strides allow him to reach half court in just three steps, all while flicking the ball out in front of him with his fingertips. It’s at this point that every other chest-clenching guy on the court raises the white flag and decides not to stop the ball. The running stops. Literally. Everyone stops to see what this freight train is going to do with the ball. As he gathers the ball for an acrobatic play at the rim, you anticipate some type of wild finish. Maybe a reverse layup flying from one side of the rim to the other, casually putting some type of freakish gyro spin on the ball so that it taps the back rim and falls in ever so elegantly. Instead, he drifts up into the air and forgets all motor skills. Limbs flail so wildly that no one even pays attention to the ball that’s now rolling down the hill. A quick glance to the guy next to you expresses a sigh of relief. At the end of the play, he’s just like the rest of us. There’s always something gratifying about seeing a far superior athlete barf all over his sneakers like everyone else.
- NBA representative: JaVale McGee
The False Arrogance Guy
This is pickup basketball’s version of The Irrational Confidence Guy. Except the Irrational Confidence Guy is actually playing basketball for a living and most likely used that brashness to carve out a career. Your typical pickup player just collects scowls after he ends each possession with a layup that winds up over the backboard. Every time the ball lands in his hands, you quietly chuckle to yourself because you know what’s coming next. It’s like clockwork. Until the last possession. This is when he snags the ball off of a teammate’s deflection, or grabs an offensive rebound in transition. Predictably, the False Arrogance guy starts pounding his chest and screams a la Carlos Boozer. These infrequent game winners are the types of plays that keep the False Arrogance Guy alive.
- NBA Representatives: Dion Waiters, Nick Young
The Foul Guy
This is most definitely the least popular pickup player that anyone encounters. The Foul Guy will take the ball back even if your girlfriend sneezes on him from the bleachers. He’s the guy that breaks the unwritten rule of calling loose ball fouls during pickup. Foul on a box out? Game stops. Foul coming off a screen? Game stops. Do you know what happens when there are frequent stops during pickup? Arguments happen. Each person starts yelling over the next person until you have seven guys defining foul calls like they’re reciting from the NBA’s official rule book. By the time someone checks the ball, no one can remember the score. So just remember, it’s always the Foul Guy’s fault.
NBA Representatives: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin