Inspired by our original piece on pick-up basketball, we present a recurring series. In Adventures in Pick-Up Basketball, we take a look at the hastily-organized game and the incompetent people who play it.
My favorite pick-up game is 21, because it sheds the element of team play (which I am terrible at) and emphasizes free throws and tips (the only two things I am any good at). Tipping is great, because at its best, it puts the every-man-for-himself anarchy of 21 on hold for a moment so that players can work together to screw over another player.
There is a caveat, however: one player doesn't understand what tips are or how they work, and no matter how many times you try to explain the concept to him, he will continue to gum up the works. Please see the diagrams below.
Let me back up a moment to elaborate on the beauty of tipping. There is a fascinating political system at work. Suppose there are four players in a game of 21. If a player is about to win, the other three band together to tip him. But if the player trying to tip the leader is close to the lead himself, and if you're far behind, you might try to box him out and go for the tip yourself.
As I said, though, one guy never, ever, ever understands any of this.
(NOTE: the gentlemen in this photo were wearing team jerseys with numbers, which of course is inappropriate since I'm trying to illustrate a game of 21. This image has been expertly manipulated to replace the jerseys with fashionable shirt designs of today.)
You wonder whether this guy even understands what a tip is. You stare at him. He's scored a few points, so he knows how to shoot and everything. He isn't awful. He's clearly played a little. So how has he never learned how to tip?
That wouldn't be a big deal. The problem is, he's such a dope that he gets in your way when you try to tip, even if that tip would be advantageous for him.
So the leader escapes disaster. Instead of being knocked back to zero points, he's close to winning. Perhaps it was just an honest, one-off mistake. The leader makes a shot and steps to the free-throw line, and as he does, you reiterate the consequences at hand.
Everyone's got it, right? Everyone understands? If someone has a clear look at a tip, don't get in the way.
Of course, the ball clanks off the rim and floats right into the hands of the guy who doesn't understand tipping. You know what happens next.
He rebounds the ball, lands flat-footed, and nonchalantly takes it up top. Upon being called out, he lets out a "d'awww sorry, I forgot," and keeps on going. Did he think it was weird that everyone got out of his way? Did he think we were just being nice? This guy should forever be forbidding from doing everything drunks are forbidden from doing. No cars. No garbage compactors. No toll bridges. Nothing.