Streetball is a less formal variant of basketball, played on playgrounds and in gymnasiums across the world. Often only one half of the court is used, but otherwise the rules of the game are very similar to those of basketball. The number of participants in a game, or a run, may range from one defender and one attacker (known as one on one) to two full teams of five each.
Streetball is a very popular game worldwide, and some cities in the United States have organized streetball programs, such as midnight basketball, as a way for young people to keep out of trouble and avoid problems such as juvenile crime and drugs. Many cities also host their own weekend-long streetball tournaments. Hoop-It-Up and the Houston Rockets' Blacktop Battle are two of the most popular. In recent years, streetball has seen an increase in media exposure through television shows such as ESPN's "Streetball" and "City Slam", as well as traveling exhibitions such as the AND1 Mixtape Tour and Ball4Real.
While the rules of Streetball are generally the same as normal basketball, Streetball places a higher emphasis on one-on-one matchups between the offense and defender. Often the attacker will perform numerous flashy moves while attempting to drive to the basket, including crossovers, jab steps, and other fake-out tricks. Streetball often features spectacular dunks and alley oops, impressiveball handling, and trash talking.
Rules vary widely from court to court. 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!" or "And 1!", and play will be stopped, with the ball awarded to the fouled player's team. If a foul has been called during or after a shot has been taken the call will be ignored and the shot will be counted if the player makes the basket. 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.
A common feature to Streetball is the 'pick up game'. To participate in most streetball games across the world one simply goes to an outdoor court where people are playing, indicate a wish to participate, and once all the players who were at the court before you have played you will get to pick your team out of the players available and play a game. Many games play up to 7, 11, 15 or 21 points with all baskets counting as one point (sometimes shots beyond the 3 point arc count as 2 points). Players often play 'win by 2' which, as in tennis, means that the team has to win by a margin of at least 2 points. Sometimes a local "dead end" limit applies; for instance a game may be played to 7, win by 2, with a 9 point dead end, which would mean scores of 7-5, 8-6, 9-7, or 9-8, would all be final; while with scores of 7-6 or 8-7, play would continue. The most common streetball game is 3 on 3 played half court though often 5 on 5 full court can be found.
Sometimes in a half-court game, a "make it, take it" rule is followed. This means that if a team scores, they get the ball again on offense. So one team could end up never getting the ball on offense if the "winners" never miss a shot. Full court basketball is not played with these rules. But in most instances, the winning team gets to choose which basketball and usually which direction (which basket) they get to use.
An unusual 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.
A popular variation of street basketball is 21, also known as "Hustle," "American," "St. Mary's," or "Crunch." 21 is played most often with 3-5 players on a half court, typically when not enough players have arrived at the playground to "run 3's" (play 3-on-3). However it is possible to play "21" with only two players, or more than 5. 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 themself" 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:
Common additional rules include:
"21" is considered a very challenging game, especially because the offensive player must 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 back to 13).
"21" is popular because it allows an odd number of people to play, unlike regular basketball or other variants.
Another less common streetball variant, often referred to as "Boston," results in essentially a one-on-one (or sometimes two-on-two) tournament between any number of players. Each match is played following 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 7 or 11) wins the game.
Streetball is often generalized as a "pick-up game", where players may or may not know one another, and is for the most part recreational. But recent years has seen the rise of organized streetball crews, such as AND1. With AND1 setting the precedent, many crews train as a team specifically for streetball and often play in exhibitions. Some crews present slickly produced videos and DVDs for sale or available online displaying highlights, dunks, and tricks. Streetball teams like Ruff Ryders, Terror Squad, and others which compete in summer leagues, such as EBC, tend to play a more "serious" game with less tricks, as the games are not exhibitions.