Courtesy, Respect, Change: Basketball etiquette by many names

Most everyone takes it after they make it, but what do we call it?

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

Friday afternoon, a bunch of us watched the NCAA Tournament together at SB Nation studios in midtown Manhattan. The studio guys affixed a little basketball hoop to a light stand, and we took turns shooting a mini basketball while we watched. Made baskets were rare, but on one such occasion, we agreed that the maker of the shot-- let's just say it was Mike Prada-- ought to receive the ball for another attempt. What we couldn't agree on was what to call the practice.

This is a near-universal bit of basketball etiquette: You're shooting with your friends-- not a game, just a casual shootaround. When you make a jumper, someone rebounds and passes the ball back to you. This continues until you miss. I've always known this practice as "courtesy" and used that word when giving the ball back to Pradamaster. Rodger Sherman called it "respect." Dan Rubenstein insisted it was "change," which I'd never heard before.

quick follow-up Twitter poll revealed the four most popular terms for returning the basketball on a made shot: Change, Respect, Courtesy, and Make It Take It, the last of which is typically synonymous with "Winners" in a game setting, but gets used in group shooting situations as well. But which is most popular? I posted a more formal survey online and found the following from 555 responses:


So, it's a relatively even breakdown with "change" as the clear leader, "respect" a bit behind, and "courtesy" and "make it, take it" occupying equivalent fringes of the sample.

Any number of demographics could explain those differences, but I most suspected it was a regional thing and asked those surveyed to report where they'd picked up their term of choice. Here are the results:

View BASKETMAP in a full screen map

First, a few caveats: Location was a write-in question and those responses were mapped using an automatic Geotagger. I cleaned up the data as best I could and eliminated responses like "SCHOOL" and "BOSTON BUT ALSO NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY AND CALIFORNIA AND," but some of the data is still a little vague or outright absent. The map collapses data points in the same location, so you have to click through some of the more popular locales to see all the responses therein. Also, most people saw this via my Twitter account, and I am a New York-located Knicks blogger, so the number of responses skews New York-ward.

So, this is an imperfect map. That given, I was pleasantly surprised to notice a few trends, albeit not ones tested for any statistical significance:

1. "Courtesy" is almost exclusively a New York-area thing. I am from North Jersey, which is a hotbed of "courtesy." I had no idea we were so alone. "Respect" is also most popular in New York (click through the New York City, Manhattan and Brooklyn points) and the northeast, though it's a bit more dispersed. And again, we have way more New York-area respondents than anywhere else, so it's tough to compare.

2. "Change" isn't just most popular, but most widespread ... although none of our few international respondents picked "change."

3. Though "change" is the most popular term, almost nobody in New York uses it. That was most striking to me. If you click through, there are only a couple in the whole region. This could use a more academic study, but we have the makings of a New York vs. everyone else trend here.

Some other notes:

- What is "change"? Nobody knows for sure, but the general feeling is that it's like paying the basketball and getting back your change. You know, like money.

- A corollary to "change" is "No range, no change," which means that you only get the ball back if you take a reasonably distant jumper. If you're shooting inside the key, you either chase your own rebound or forfeit the ball regardless of a miss or make.

- That said, most agree that if you make a few shots in a row, then miss, you get the ball back for one quick layup before someone else takes it out.  People agree upon these last two things regardless of which term they use. I've always followed those rules but never had a name for them.

- My coworker James Dator is from Australia, and he says "refund." Nice that Australians get full value back while we Americans get pennies on the dollar. Update: Here are two three more Australians speaking up for "refund," so I'm willing to call that a real thing.

- Some people said "check" or "winners," but I think they misunderstood the question and thought we were talking about a game.

- Several people said they always did this without calling it by any name. Several more said this rule was suburban bullshit and you have to fight for a rebound even after a made shot. These people are better prepared than the rest of us for the coming basketwars.

- One response from the Philippines: "Beck: Beck is shortened term for balik or return in English. Also, it's always customary in Philippine court to give the ball back whether a person makes the first shot or not during shootarounds."

- Update from a commenter:

"Growing up in Utah, If you made a shot you'd yell "money!" and so you'd get your change back. If you didn't say "money" you might not get the ball back, and you usually didn't get a second chance or layup. First time I played in the Philippines they expected their "beck" after a missed shot and I thought they were crazy. Interesting to see the regional differences."

I didn't quite get it as I read through the responses, but a few people said something to this effect. Basically, like the idea of "bank" or "and-one" in pick-up, you have to call something in advance to earn your "change." I'd never heard that before.

- Others that came up: "crip," "social security," "entitlement," "feed," and just "it's his ball."

And that's the upshot here. If you make a reasonably challenging shot, you should get the ball back. Call it whatever you please, but keep in mind that fellow players from other places might not know what you're talking about. Or just don't ever hit shots and you won't have to worry about this.

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