Variations of basketball

Variations of basketball are games or activities based on, or similar in origin to, the game of basketball, in which the player utilizes common basketball skills. Some are essentially identical to basketball, with only minor rules changes, while others are more distant and arguably not simple variations but distinct games. Other variations include children's games, contests or activities intended to help the player practice or reinforce skills, which may or may not have a competitive aspect. Most of the variations are played in informal settings, without the presence of referees or other officials and sometimes without strict adherence to official game rules.

Different roster sizes

A competitive game of basketball can be played with as few as two people. The game may be referred to by the number of people on each team, for example a six-player game can be referred to as "three-on-three" or "3-v-3" (where 'v' stands for 'versus').

Each team's roster is typically the same size, but an odd number of players may force one team to play with one less player. Sometimes the odd player will be designated as a "switch" player, so that the offensive team always has the extra player. Roster sizes above five players per team are uncommon, even in informal games, as the court generally becomes too crowded to allow movement and space to develop between players.

Six-on-six basketball was a form of basketball played in the twentieth century mainly among high school girls.

Three-on-three basketball remains competitively played by amateurs. More recently, FIBA has created a formalized version of three-on-three, originally known as FIBA 33 and now called 3x3.

Other games using basketball skills and equipment


Half-court in Triangle Lake, Oregon

"Twenty-one" is a game that can be played with two or more players. Each player has their own score, with the winner being the first to reach 21 points. No player has any teammates at any time in the game. The player with the ball may shoot at any time, and may collect his own rebound and shoot again. Whenever a basket is scored, that player receives two points and goes to the free throw line, where each made free throw tacks on another one point to their score. The player is allowed to shoot free throws until he misses, or until he has made 3 in a row, at which point the ball is put back in play, and the sequence starts again. Twenty-one is nearly always played in a half court game.[1]

Spin-offs from basketball that are now separate sports include:


Ringball is a traditional South African sport that stems from basketball and has been played since 1907. The sport is now promoted in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, India, and Mauritius to establish Ringball as an international sport.


Korfball started in the Netherlands and is now played worldwide. Korfball (Dutch: Korfbal) is a mixed gender team ball game, similar to mixed netball and basketball.


Netball is a limited-contact team sport in which two teams of seven try to score points against one another by placing a ball through a high hoop. Netball was formerly called "women's basketball" but now includes men's teams as well.


Slamball is full-contact basketball, with trampolines. Points are scored by playing the ball through the net, as in basketball, though the point-scoring rules are modified. The main differences from the parent sport is the court; below the padded basketball rim and backboard are four trampolines set into the floor which serve to propel players to great heights for slam dunks. The rules also permit some physical contact between the members of the four-player teams.



The game H-O-R-S-‌‌E (pronounced "horse") 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.

The game can be played as "7 Horses" as a longer version of this game.

The game is also played as P-I-G ("pig") for a shorter version.[2]


This game can be played by as many players as needed. The first shooting line is the foul line.

Each player has an order for when it is their turn to shoot. The first shooter takes their shot from the foul line. If they miss the ring and backboard or Airball on the shot, then they are eliminated, and this is applied to any shot by any player during the game.

If they miss the shot but hit either the ring or backboard then the next player in line must retrieve the ball after it has bounced once but before it bounces twice, then take the shot from wherever they retrieved the ball. If the ball bounces twice, the player is eliminated.

If the shot is made, then the shooter must retrieve the ball before it bounces twice, they then take another shot, if they make 3 shots in a row, then they are able to eliminate another player by hitting them with the ball. The remaining players are able to run away from the shooter but must stop and remain frozen, when the shooter has retrieved the ball after the 3 shot and yelled "STOP". The shooter must then take 7 steps and throw the ball from wherever they have reached. Any player who is touched by the ball is then eliminated. The game is then restarted from the Free Throw line from the next player in line. The game is continued until there is only one player not eliminated.

Some special techniques used are to start running away from the ring once a shooter has made two shots to ensure that if a 3rd is made, it is more difficult to hit them with the ball. The shooter can negate this by purposefully missing the 3rd shot in the hope the next shooter is too far away to retrieve it. Another technique is to throw the ball very hard at the ring to enable a difficult return for the next shooter.


This game is played by 2 or more players. The shooting line is typically the top of the key, but can be moved to the foul line for younger players.

Before the game starts, select an order of play. All players (except the one shooting) should remain behind the shooting line, out of the line of play.

The first player shoots from the shooting line. If the shot is missed, the player must retrieve the rebound, and shoot from the spot that the rebound was retrieved. The other players are not permitted to interfere with either the ball or the player. The player continues to shoot until a basket is made, to a maximum of 5 shots. When the first player has made the shot, the next player begins shooting, again from the shooting line. This player must make the basket in the same number, or fewer shots than the preceding shooter. The next player then shoots, again from the shooting line and must make the basket in the same number, or fewer shots than the player that immediately preceded him\her in shooting.

If a player takes more shots than the player that immediately preceded him\her, a point is added to that player's score. Additionally, if a player is unable to make a basket in 5 shots or less, another point is added to that player's score.

When a player reaches 5 points, he\she is eliminated from the game. When a player is eliminated from the game, the player immediately following that player has up to 5 shots on his\her turn.

The game continues until all but 1 player has been eliminated.

Notes: - Some players become quite creative with the "shoot from where the ball was retrieved" rule, using one foot as a pivot foot, allowing them to adjust their shot. - If the ball is retrieved quite far from the basket, a player may play a "lob shot", advancing the ball closer to the basket, but this counts as a shot taken.

Around the World

Around the World (sometimes called Around the Key) is a basketball variant played by two or more players, who have all agreed upon a turn order. The game requires a sequence of shooting positions to be decided upon. The object is to be the first player to make a shot from all positions. When a player makes a successful shot from the final position, the game enters the final stage. Some play such that this player is declared the winner. Others play such that those players who have yet to act on the turn get a chance to tie, which cancels any advantage of going first.

In theory, the shooting positions are arbitrary; in practice, they are most commonly ordered along the 3-point line in equal intervals starting from one of the sides of the basket and including the straight-on center shot (e.g., 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, and 180 degrees along the 3-point line with 90 being the center). This 180-degree semi-circular path is the inspiration for the game's name. Other common positions are around the key or even under the basket.

Making a shot from a position allows a player to advance to the next position. The rules are very flexible but usually a player keeps advancing until a missed shot. The consequences of missing a shot may vary. Sometimes the game is played such that a missed shot requires the player to start over at the first position. Under this rule, the game may also include another rule that allows a player to "save" their position, and pass the ball to the next player. It is probably most common, however, to play such that each player continues until a missed shot. At this point a player may save his position or elect to take another "chance" shot. If the chance shot is made, the player advances as normal. If it misses, the player's turn ends and they suffer some penalty, perhaps regressing a position or even starting over.

There are a multitude of ways the game can be modified. Other variations include: shooting with the off arm, shooting with alternating arms, or using the backboard on every shot (except those directly to the side of the basket).

This game can also be played alone as shooting training.


Knockout, sometimes called Lightning, Bump, Bumpout, Tornado, Gotcha or Killer is played by 2 or more players and requires 2 basketballs. All players line up behind the selected shooting point, typically the center of the free throw line or the top of the key. The first player in line shoots. If he misses, he rebounds the ball and continues shooting until he makes a goal. Once the first player throws the ball for his first attempt, the second player may make his first attempt. The goal of the first player is to make a basket before the second player does. If so, the first player recovers the ball and passes it to the next player in line. The goal of the second player is to make a basket before the first player does. If so, the first player is out and play stops until both balls have been returned to the players in line. Once the new first and second players each have a ball, play resumes. This pattern follows until all players have been eliminated except one, who is declared the winner. Typically a new game then starts with everyone lining up at the same shooting point according to the order they were eliminated, with the winner in the front of the line and the first person eliminated in the back of the line.

Double dribbling and out-of-bounds are not enforced. Players are required to dribble, though traveling is not heavily monitored. It is common for players to bump an opponent's ball further away from the basket, but some players discourage this behavior or place limits on it. It is also common for a player to throw his ball up through the bottom of the hoop to knock the opponent's ball out and away. Again, some players consider this to be poor sportsmanship. Soft-tossing the ball so a player can pick it up and shoot closer to the basket is also considered cheating. Whenever someone is guilty of poor sportsmanship or cheats, it is said that they have to shoot a second time.

Common variations

  • The winner is allowed to pick where the new shooting point is.
  • The winner of the previous game must go 1st or 2nd in the next game, thus putting him/her at risk for the former or in safety for the latter.
  • When a player is eliminated, any other players that player previously eliminated return to play at the end of the line. For example: Alice, Bob, Cami, Dan and Edgar are playing. Dan eliminates Cami and Bob. Later, Edgar eliminates Dan so Cami and Bob return to play at the end of the line. This variant is called Revenge. The logic for this version is that the winner must eliminate all other players in order to win. A game of revenge can take a long time to finish since any player can be eliminated and return to play any number of times. Some versions of revenge put a limit on how many times a player can return to play; i.e., once a player has been eliminated 5 times (for example), that player cannot return to play.
  • Optional variation is forcing the second shooter to wait for the shot from the first shooter to touch or pass the rim or backboard before taking a first shot.
  • When a player is eliminated, there is a variation not to wait until both balls return to the line. As soon as the first ball is returned, the next player may shoot.


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