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Twenty-one, also called play21basketball,cutthroat, hustle, tip-it, noyceball, roughhouse, scutter, rough, or rebound[1] is a popular variation of street basketball. The game is played with any number of players on a half court, but typically when not enough players are available to at least play three-on-three. Twenty-one is an individual game that does not utilize team play.


The rules and game play may vary regionally, locally, and even by specific court.

Basic rules are as follows:[2]

Typically play begins with one player shooting the ball from a significant distance. This shot must hit the rim, but cannot go through the basket. If either of these violations occur, the ball must be re-shot. Once the ball is legally shot, all players then fight over the rebound. This is meant to mimic the "tip-off" of a standard game. Once the ball is in play, there are technically no rules, but due to peer pressure most players abide by all rules with the exception of out of bounds violations and personal fouls.

Shots made after the ball is live count two points for a player's score (or three points if a 3-pointer is made). After each made field goal, the player making the field goal shoots up to three free throws in a row, until he misses. All free throws count as one point towards a player's count. If three free throws are made in a row, the free throw shooter is handed the ball back at the top of the key and play is live again.

The game is won by the player who accumulates exactly 21 points. If a player goes over 21 points, his score is reduced to 11 points.[citation needed] To avoid going over 21, players may choose to miss a free throw intentionally. In this instance, a free throw must hit the rim to be legal. If it does not, the player must shoot again. Sometimes this results in the player accidentally making the shot.


Common additional rules include:

Formal use

Twenty-one is frequently used in physical education classes and by basketball team coaches as skill development.[3][4] Because only one player is on offense at any given time against several defenders, quickness and shooting skills are essential to successful play.

See also


  1. ^ Eric Shanburn (2008), Basketball and Baseball Games: For the Driveway, Field Or the Alleyway, AuthorHouse, ISBN 978-1-4343-8912-1, retrieved 2010-06-29
  2. ^ Phelps, Richard; John Walters; Tim Bourret (2000). Basketball For Dummies 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Hungry Minds, Inc. p. 206. ISBN 0-7645-5248-1.
  3. ^ How to Coach and Play Basketball[clarification needed]
  4. ^ Journal of Physical Education and Recreation[clarification needed]