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Streetballers at the Venice Beach basketball courts in Los Angeles, 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.[1] It is particularly popular and important in New York City and Los Angeles, though its popularity has spread across the United States due to the game's adaptability.[2]

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. Holocombe Rucker had a big impact on streetball when he created a league in New York City, and it was later dedicated to him and named Rucker Park.[3] 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). In France, Quai 54 takes place every summer. It is one of the biggest streetball tournaments in the world, showcasing the best of talent in Paris.[4]

Rules and features

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 usually awarded in street ball), usually after a period of discussion of the existence of the foul.

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

Main article: 3x3 basketball

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

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.

The streetball game can be played at different team formats such as 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 for a half court play while 4-on-4 or 5-on-5 for a full court play. In most instances, the winning team gets first possession and usually choose which direction (which basket) they get to use.

In a 3-on-3 or higher, the first game often plays up to 15 points. Second game then goes to 12, then every game after is 15.

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.

One-on-one play

Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo playing street basketball at a local court in Sepolia, Athens, in 2015

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



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:

Common additional rules include:

"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.


Main article: H-O-R-S-E

The game of H-O-R-S-E is played by two or more players. The order of turns is established before the game starts. The player whose turn is first is given control, which means they must attempt to make a basket in a particular way of their choosing, explaining to the other players beforehand what the requirements of the shot are. If that player is successful, every subsequent player must attempt that same shot according to its requirements. If a player fails to duplicate the shot, they acquire a letter, starting with H and moving rightward through the word "Horse". After all players have made an attempt, control moves to the next player, and the game continues on in this fashion. If a player who has control misses their shot, there is no letter penalty and control moves to the next player. Whenever any player has all of the letters, they are eliminated from the game. The last person in the game is declared the winner.

Other variations of basketball

Main article: Variations of basketball § Activities

Notable streetballers

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Streetball in popular media

See also: Rucker Park

Films and TV programs

Video games

See also

Similar variations of other sports in the US


  1. ^ "Streetball -". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  2. ^ "A Complete Guide to Crushing It at NYC Streetball". Complex. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  3. ^ "Holcombe Rucker Park". Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  4. ^ Bobb, Maurice (2014-07-10). "French, Fly: Inside Quai 54, the World's Baddest Streetball Tournament". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  5. ^ "This man is a pickup basketball god". The Atlantic. The Atlantic.
  6. ^ "Adam Sandler keeps getting spotted hooping around Philly". NBC Sports. NBC Sports.