Basketball – Variants

There are many variants of basketball which are usually played when there are lesser number of players, sometimes in a half court and mostly without a referee. These games are popularly known as pick-up basketball games.

3-against-3 or 3-on-3

This is a popular game, usually played in a half court when six players have gathered in the court and are waiting for the other players to turn up. This game continues till one of the teams achieves a set score, usually 12 or 21. This game can be played with any even number of players. The rules of the game are mostly similar to the official sport, but the team that catches a rebound has to shoot the ball away from the three point line.

21 or Cut Throat

This is an individual sport and any number of players can play it. The first player making exactly 21 points wins the game. A goal carries 2 or 3 points, and is usually followed by a charity free throw worth one point or a charity free throw from three point line worth two points. A successful charity shot may be followed by another one till the player achieves 21 points. But, if the player achieves 22 points, the score goes back to 13 or 15 points. The game is less restrictive and more interesting as there are no fouls at all.


This game is similar to 21, but the main difference is that players take turns and stay out of the court. For example, when three players play the game if the first one scores a goal, the second leaves the court and the third one comes down to play, and if the third one scores, the first one has to leave the court for the second and the third player.


This is an interesting game where two players challenge each other’s shooting ability and the shots are not defended. Each alphabet of the word ‘HORSE’ is used to award a negative point.

A player challenges the next player by shooting the ball from any place he chooses, and if he makes a goal the next player has to make a goal from the same point, else he gets a negative ‘H’ tag and the first player again gets a chance to throw a new challenge again. However, if the first player challenging the other misses the goal, the next player gets a chance to shoot the ball from any point in the court and challenges the first one.

If a challenge is met, the player who took up the challenge gets a chance to shoot the ball from any preferable point in the court. The player who first starts the game and has five negative points on oneself is termed as “Horse” and is the loser of the game.

Shooting Contest

There are different forms of shooting contests, either on or outside the three point line. The players may choose rules whether the shots may be defended or undefended. There is an undefended shooting contest from the three point semi circle called around the world or around the key, where players advance from one end of the circle to the other as they successfully make goals. When a player misses a goal, the next player gets a chance. Sometimes, players have to start each chance afresh, and sometimes players agree to mark the spot they made the last successful goal.

Slam Ball

A slam ball court has four trampolines placed below the basket and players have to jump with the ball and make a dunk shot. The scoring rules may be a bit different.

Basketball – Tournaments

Coach Forrest C. (Phog) Allen led a movement to include basketball in the Olympics in 1936. Basketball is widely played across the world. About 215 various national basketball organizations are members of FIBA. Many of these federations organize basketball championships and the winners take part in international events.

Some of the popular international championships are listed below −

  • FIBA Basketball World Cup
  • FIBA women’s World Championship
  • NCAA women’s Championship
  • NCAA men’s Championship
  • WNBA Championship
  • NBA Championship
  • FIBA Asia Championship

*NCAA − National Collegiate Athletic Association

*WNBA − Women’s National Basketball Association