Top 11: Pickup Ballers We Love To Hate

*Editor’s note: Originally published in March, 2009, this article is one of the most popular in Seattle Sportsnet’s brief history. It was linked on a number of different pages and message boards, including SI.com, and helped bring in the first wave of national readers to the site. If you haven’t seen it before, check it out.

Many of us enjoy a good pickup game.  We head to gyms or parks to get our fix, and most of the time it’s all fun and games.  But occasionally, we run into one of these 11 dudes and things don’t go as planned. We all know these guys.  They have the ability to implode a team or destroy an entire game.  And chances are if you don’t recognize any of the ballers on our list, you may very well be one of them.  Uh oh.

Weight Room Guy.
Weight Room Guy.

11. Weight Room Guy.

Vital Signs: Wife-beater tank top; shorter than average shorts; disproportionate amount of muscle.

Player he most resembles: Dwight Howard, assuming Howard was a foot shorter and had been dropped on his head repeatedly as a child.

Reason we hate him: Weight Room Guy looks like he could be good at basketball.  He’s clearly in shape, resembles a shorter version of the Incredible Hulk, and appears to be passionate about athletics.  Of course, none of those attributes necessarily translate to the basketball court.

As soon as the game begins, you regret adding Weight Room Guy to your team.  Clearly he’s here for one reason and one reason only: it’s cardio day, and the track was full.  He’s willing to run up and down court, but that’s about it.  On the rare occasion that he manages to grab a rebound or haul in a loose ball (because no one is passing to him at this point), he either dribbles the ball off his foot or throws a laser beam line drive off the backboard; consider it a bonus if he hits rim.

For all his on-court deficiencies, Weight Room Guy isn’t lacking in the personality department.  Well, if you consider anger a personality trait, that is.  Thanks to all the hormones and pills he consumes, Weight Room Guy is rather surly and hard to get along with.  He screams four-letter obscenities after each missed shot, and gets in the face of the opponent when they call fouls on him.

Weight Room Guy’s one good quality is that he quickly loses interest in the game.  After one or two runs, at most, Weight Room Guy will leave the floor and head back to the one place he can truly call home, the weight room.

10. The Old Timer.

Vital Signs: Older than you; short shorts; headband; wristbands; sport goggles; jockstrap beneath short shorts.

Player he most resembles: Robert Parish, Larry Nance, or Kurt Rambis.

Reason we hate him: First of all, there are two types of old timer to be aware of.  There’s the “Young Old Timer,” for one, and the “Old Old Timer” for another.

The Young Old Timer is generally between the ages of 40 and 55.  He plays ball for exercise, and is in complete denial that the game has passed him by.  He can kind of keep up with the younger crowd that he plays with, but relies on dirty tricks and an arsenal of ball fakes to hold his own.  The Young Old Timer can be a danger to anyone younger than him, because there is no limit to the amount of physical abuse he’ll dish out to win a ballgame.  He’ll gouge your eyes, throw elbows at your face, or even yank your ballsack if it will give him an edge.

The Old Old Timer is 55 years of age or older.  He’s a bona fide senior citizen and is considerably tamer than the Young Old Timer.  The Old Old Timer is in good shape for his age, and is just happy to be able to still play basketball.  He’ll generally chat it up with whoever is guarding him, and provide almost no help to the other four members of his team.  Don’t fall asleep on the Old Old Timer, however.  He may not be quick, but he has a mean set shot, and as soon as you start sagging off him to clog the lane, he’ll knock down a fifteen-footer and embarrass you.  No one wants to get schooled by an old man.

9. Pants Guy.

Vital Signs: Wearing long pants of some sort, be it sweats, jeans, or khakis.

Player he most resembles: The scrub who never takes off his warmups.

Reason we hate him: Pants Guy is the walking definition of an enigma.  He’s either so good that he doesn’t feel the need to wear shorts when he plays, or so terrible that he doesn’t own any shorts to play in.  In general, we immediately assume the latter with Pants Guy.  However, when we’re wrong, we’re very, very wrong.

Good Pants Guy seemingly floats upcourt, catching an alley-oop pass before performing a triple axel and throwing down a between-the-legs reverse jam.  He lands with a curtsy, then floats to the other end of the court to block a shot.  He never sweats.  He makes the other nine guys on the court question their manhood.  He makes you rethink your dedication to basketball, and generally makes you hate life.  He’s also rarely on your team.

Bad Pants Guy usually is on your team, though.  And he’s really, really bad.  Bad Pants Guy has no business being on the court, no right to look at a basketball, and no reason to be living, in your opinion.  You and the rest of your team want to take Bad Pants Guy behind the woodshed and strangle him with those cargo pants of his, then come back and finish the game.  Bad Pants Guy has no athletic skill and possesses the power to single-handedly destroy a team.

Poser.
Poser.

8. The Poser.

Vital Signs: Brand new Jordans; baller bands; strategically-placed headband.

Player he most resembles: Wayne Chism.

Reason we hate him: The Poser is an optical illusion.  To the naked eye, he resembles a basketball player.  To the basketball player, he resembles a fool.

The Poser passes the look test with flying colors, but fails miserably when it comes to game time.  The actual ability of The Poser varies; some Posers are flat-out horrible, others have their bright moments from time to time.  Either way, The Poser isn’t nearly as good as he looks, and is often much worse than he thinks is.

In his own mind, The Poser is Kobe Bryant.  In reality, The Poser is an out of control Steve Scheffler with identity issues.

7. Super Quick Asian.

Vital Signs: Asian; super quick; short in stature; completely out of control; appears to be on a combination of crack and Red Bull.

Player he most resembles: Yuta Tabuse.

Reason we hate him: Nobody can keep up with Super Quick Asian.  His energy is relentless, and his game tiring.  God forbid you ever get stuck guarding Super Quick Asian, because you’ll spend the entire time chasing him around the court.  Luckily, Super Quick Asian rarely ever makes a basket, instead opting to run the fast break at a ridiculous pace before overshooting the backboard on a layup attempt, or throwing the ball out of bounds.

Where Super Quick Asian does excel is on defense.  If you even try to put the ball on the floor, he’ll take it from you and pull down your pants, leaving you standing there empty-handed and in your boxers.

Inevitably, Super Quick Asian usually doesn’t show up until you’re down to your last game or two.  At this point, you’d have a tough time guarding a mule, let alone a human being who possesses track star speed.  While he’s just getting started, you’re contemplating suicide, making for a horrible combination of two evils.

6. The Untalented Big Man.

Vital Signs: Abnormally tall; abnormally slow; abnormally uncoordinated.

Player he most resembles: Mouhamed Sene.

Reason we hate him: In the world of pickup, if you can land someone on your team bigger than 6’6″, you’re almost guaranteed a W.  Not so, with The Untalented Big Man.

TUBM is a liability.  You keep feeding him the ball inside thinking he’ll do something with it, only to watch him dribble it out of bounds, travel, or airball a five-footer.  He’s been blessed with a God-given gift that most of us can only dream of — extreme height — and he’s wasted it by sitting on the couch, eating pizza, and generally being a detriment to society.

On defense, TUBM is just as useless.  When he isn’t fouling the Super Quick Asian driving the lane for what would have been an overshot layup anyways, TUBM is either out of position or still trying to make his way upcourt.  Even the Old Old Timer is gassing TUBM, and you are forced to watch your chance at a win slip away thanks to the guy who should be your ticket to victory.

5. Foul Bitch.

Vital Signs: Calls everything a foul; takes the ball inside on every possession; argumentative and whiny.

Player he most resembles: Manu Ginobili.

Reason we hate him: Unless there’s blood, unconsciousness, or a very blatant obstruction of what would have been a sure bucket, there is no such thing as a foul in pickup ball.  Not true in the case of the Foul Bitch, however.  The Foul Bitch calls a game tighter than Dave Libbey and has a future as a pompous jayvee referee, should he choose to go that route.  The Foul Bitch loves to drive the lane, simply so he can call his fouls after each miss and get the ball right back.  Often times, the Foul Bitch will throw up a shot, wait to see if it goes in, then call a foul after the shot fails to drop.

The worst part about the Foul Bitch are his bitchy excuses for making each and every call.  By the fourth or fifth questionable foul, you start requiring an explanation for the phantom hack.  “On the wrist,” he says, or, “Body contact.”  By calls six and seven, even the Foul Bitch’s own teammates are interrogating him, and it’s a foregone conclusion that before the game is done, someone will send him flying to the deck with a foul worthy of the nine or so bitchy calls he made prior to that.

4. Carlton Banks.

Vital Signs: African-American; uncoordinated; not athletic at all; talks like Tony Gwynn.

Player he most resembles: None whatsoever.

Reason we hate him: Let’s face facts.  No matter what ethnic race you affiliate with, we all know one thing: more often than not, it seems like black guys are good at basketball.  So when you’re playing ball and you happen to take the court with a black guy who sucks, it’s a little awkward.  By nature, the black guy who sucks gets dubbed Carlton Banks, who, for those of you that don’t know, is a former character on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that displayed tendencies uncharacteristic of your typical black male (or typical male of any race, for that matter).

The Carlton Banks is a lot like The Untalented Big Man in that you have high expectations for him, and he immediately lets you down.  Instead of being one of your impact players, he’s clearly the worst member of your team and probably shouldn’t be on the court.  He lacks proper coordination and is repeatedly abused by the man he’s supposed to be guarding.

Much like TUBM, you keep giving Carlton Banks the ball in hopes that he’s miraculously changed since the last possession.  Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case, and results in just another turnover.

On a positive note, at least Carlton Banks is blessed with great dance moves.

Nice pick.
Nice pick.

3. The Pick Artist.

Vital Signs: Bigger in stature; usually slow; lacking in all aspects of the game, except when it comes to setting picks.

Player he most resembles: Mark Madsen.

Reason we hate him: The Pick Artist would be a useful role player on a team full of All-Stars, but unfortunately there are few times in the world of pickup where you have more than two or three capable athletes on your team at any given time.  Hence, The Pick Artist is rendered useless under most circumstances.  Which is really too bad, because when it comes to setting screens, he is the Michelangelo of his craft.

The problem you run into with The Pick Artist is that he cannot be relied upon to provide anything other than the occasional pick.  Sure, he has his bright moments.  He’ll lay a guy out here or there with the Berlin Wall of screens, or maybe even free you up for an uncontested game-winning shot now and again.  But if you need anything more from The Pick Artist, you won’t get it.  You pass him the ball and it bounces off his chest.  You need him to play defense and he stands there with his hands raised as his man slowly dribbles around him.  You need him to grab a rebound and somehow he’s always boxed out.  He may as well not have limbs.  The Pick Artist was fortunate enough to sprout a massive torso, and that’s it.  We should all be so lucky.

2. The Mouth.

Vital Signs: Never shuts up; talks trash; rarely does anything well, but when he does, you’ll hear about it.

Player he most resembles: Gary Payton.

Reason we hate him: We go to the gym or the park to play.  We don’t want to talk.  We talk all day — to coworkers, to our significant others, to friends. Basketball is our solace.  Until The Mouth arrives.  That’s when our dream becomes a nightmare.

The Mouth is a single guy who lives by himself and has no friends.  The only time he ever interacts with people in a semi-social environment is on a basketball court.  Often, he suffers from Little Man Complex and tries to mask his insecurities by talking smack.  He has an opinion on everything that goes down during the game, from the fruity picks being set on him, to the credit card hops you have, to your retarded shooting style, to the fact that his wheelchair-bound great-grandmother could get around your sorry D.

The Mouth’s biggest weakness is his physical ability.  Simply put, he’s just not that good at basketball.  But he knows this, and resolves to keep talking despite the turnovers and missed shots.  He’s aiming for a fight, but as soon as you confront him in an attempt to shut his piehole, he all of a sudden morphs into an innocent bystander.  His act lasts until the threat of an ass-whooping disappears, at which point he begins yapping again.  Nobody appreciates The Mouth.

1. The Gunner.

Vital Signs: Unbridled cockiness; unwillingness to pass; desire to be touching the ball at all times; lackluster defensive effort.

Player he most resembles: Kobe Bryant.

Reason we hate him: The Gunner ruins the game.  Part of the fun of pickup basketball is that no matter your talent level, you can get involved and have a good time.  Unless The Gunner is around.

The Gunner is pretty good, but thinks he’s NBA-worthy.  He doesn’t trust any of his teammates and is absolutely sure that he’s better than everyone on the court.  He’ll score all your team’s points, but also take all your team’s shots.  On the rare occasion that he passes, it comes with the expectation that you’ll pass the ball right back to him.  If you don’t do as he expects, The Gunner gets angry.  You won’t like The Gunner when he’s angry.

The Gunner struggles on the defensive end, and often lingers near midcourt waiting to cherry pick on the ensuing offensive possession.  He reserves his energy for scoring and scoring only, while his teammates play a box-and-none in his absence.

The Gunner is completely unfazed by the criticism he receives, and would be a playground legend were he not a total douchebag.

On a positive note, it’s highly unlikely that The Gunner has any real purpose in life besides thwarting pickup games, and chances are he’ll one day become an angry old man that can only cling to the memory of pickup games gone by to keep him warm at night.

40 thoughts on “Top 11: Pickup Ballers We Love To Hate”

  1. I’m glad you placed the gunner at #1. While most of the others are not enjoyable to play with at least you can still get the ball and shoot a bit. The gunner is usually the point guard so that no one else ever touches the ball. Not fun.

    Good list. Unfortunately I now fall into the young old guy category as I turned 40 last year. I rely on a well placed elbow or hip to play defense. It is not fun to lose a step for every 5 years after 30.

  2. 11 is not enough. You left off a few players :

    long bomber guy – THe guy old or young who floats to the three point line all day — every play. 3 on 1 fast break when you expect him to fill the lane – he stops at the 3. That is all he can do is shoot threes and not well. Miss 9 in a row but swears he will make the 10th.

    Horseback rider – The guy who should bring a saddle every time he steps on the court. Hand checks – riding your side all the way to the basket. touching you regardless of where you are on the court or what you are doing – saddle guy is HANDS ON.

    Ridiculous move guy — the dude that always spins or takes 4 steps when he shoots his jumper off the dribble.– but he does it so often and it is such a part of his game you can’t even call it. some might just prefer to call him “steps”

  3. In tallahassee, we have these guys, but they are variants

    for instance: old guy: old guy is a cousin of antonio cromartie, and motherfucker hits half court shots like i hit lay ups. and he’s effin huge, so he has a post game as well.

    im the long pants guy, and i dont fall into either categorey, but i use that to my advantage (i have to wear pants due to skin grafts i had on my legs following a motorcycle accident). because most people assume i suck, im usually able to drop 4-5 buckets before they figure out i dont, but im not that good either.

    and you totally left out “fight guy”. the guy that looks for the smallest amount of disrespect to get into a fight. every time he goes out. so universally hated, that people disrespect him on purpose, just they can take a swing at him

    or my favorite: the “take a charge/set a backside pick/foul you like lambier white guy who never can make a shot unless it’s the game winner”

    this person….damn i hate this person. we had one but he moved, and the moment he moved, i celebrated like i was getting laid by gabrielle union. this little mf’er would set the elbowiest pick, take charges, whether he’s right under the hoop or 20 feet away(who the hell takes charges in pick up games? well, this guy for one), is truly skilled at the hard foul, and say shit like “hey, no easy baskets, you know my rep”. and then he’ll shoot brick after brick, miss bunnies, but somehow he’ll get the ball with the game on the line, and make himself the hero

  4. Awesome list…

    I’ve been playing pick-up for 25 yrs and I have slowly morphed into #10 & #3.
    As for setting picks, someone’s gotta do it for Christ’s sake!!

  5. Nice list. The Gunner is much more AI than Kobe. I have been playing for years and have seen all these guys. The ones I hate the most 5 and 6. If your over 6’4″ in pick up get the the post dont hang out at the 3 pt line all day. And not all contact is a foul… man up if you miss a shot. I don’t even call fouls unless the game is on the line or unless everyone on the court knows it was a foul

  6. One guy I left off that really bugs me is the guy who always gets hurt every game because he’s either a) out of shape, and thus needs an excuse to quit playing b) just a bitch in general and has a very low tolerance for pain or c) is an attention whore.

    Check out Seth’s list a couple comments up, he calls this guy “The Vag” and I couldn’t agree more, though in fairness to women everywhere, this guy disgraces the otherwise good nature of the vagina.

    The guy who always gets hurt is right up there with the Foul Bitch in his ability to slow down the flow of the game. If you see a tough guy go down or take a nasty spill, you always have some sympathy for what they’re going through. But when the guy who always gets hurt is whining and crying over a jammed finger or a sore ankle, nobody respects that. If you can’t play through the pain, then don’t get off the couch.

  7. You left out my least favorite, a variation on Seth’s And1 guy. The guy who will try and attempt ridiculous and unnecessary street ball moves and even if successful will then fail to hit a wide open layup or airball the jumper. But, despite that will act as if he’s accomplished something great, other than wasting everyone’s time.

    JRod – http://www.twobigboobs.wordpress.com

  8. You missed a couple.

    The 13 year-old kid. He’s somebody’s little brother or he’s just ALWAYS there. He tends to be mouthy but the most annoying thing about him is that he’s better than you. The 13 year old kid can be substituted for a chick of any age.

    The dribbler. This guy is #1 on my list. He thinks he has a crossover move, and he thinks everyone came out to see it. He often has a “rivalry” with the other team’s dribbler, and the 2 of them will “battle” at the top of the key for what seems like hours while everybody else stands around with their hands on their hips.

  9. Great list and good comments. One guy or rather “girl” is missing. You know the chick that wants to run and played a little DII ball so she thinks she can step on the court and play with guys. Then she fouls every play knowing you won’t elbow her across her face, back her down or play hard on the defensive end against her. There is nothing worse than a chic in the game!

  10. Don’t forget “BPT” Blue Parking Tag. The one who lost an appendage, or has a major disability. You can pick his pocket anytime you want, but don’t because you would get the same rep as Ty Cobb. Having this guy on the floor ruins the flow and sucks the intensity out of a game.

  11. Yeah man… this shit is dead on.

    I can relate to 9/10 of these characters…hahaha

    Let’s just say that i’ve never been one of ’em ;)

    ~The Danimal

  12. There are several more that that seemed to stalk me personally before Old Guy years set in. But they were always on the other team. “The Sweater” who lost two gallons of the stuff, all on you or the ball. “The Sweater” often brought along his counterpart, “The Reaking Chain-Smoker”. I invariably guarded one or the other. “The Sweater” never failed tp provide the liquid that hosted “TRC-S”‘s cultures all the way back home.

    The really, really short guy was a different animal altogether…

  13. I came from a world where if someone called a foul and you didn’t feel it was right you could immediatley object to the call with a “false call”. This would actually override the initial foul call. Don’t ask me how, but this actually took place. I have never seen it anywhere else. Does anyone else out there know what I’m talking about??

    Great list. I have played against, with and probably played the part of some of these.

  14. “I came from a world where if someone called a foul and you didn’t feel it was right you could immediatley object to the call with a “false call”. This would actually override the initial foul call. Don’t ask me how, but this actually took place. I have never seen it anywhere else. Does anyone else out there know what I’m talking about??”

    In my experiences, a questionable foul call usually results in shooting for it. You shoot a three for the call, ball don’t lie.

  15. Please dont forget the former “all state” player trying to relive the dream, but is too old and sucks but makes up for it by calling a foul every time he misses and then when someone is physical on the other end he tries to pick a fight.

  16. I loved the list, but I want to insert that I am one of the chics that play ball with the boys. i do my best not to foul, but I’ve gotten elbows, bloody lips, scraped knees… you name it, I got it. Though… a REAL player doesn’t need to use elbows, and bust open a few lips, because they ahve the grace to actually move with fluid movements kind of like good pants guy.

    Just saying.

    Other than that… the list was smart on… it was a good laugh between the crew and I. Thanks

  17. Great list. One guy that kind of go’s right along with pants guy is “Hat Guy.” Everyone knows one of these guys. He warms up with it on and you are thinking to yourself, when we start to play he will take it off…but he never does. Most of the time “hat guy” doesn’t even have long hair, so it’s like why in the hell are you wearing a hat on the basketball court? Hat guy is usually nothing special but plays very smart. Hat guy never takes errant shots but when he does shoot that one time a game, he hits it.

  18. Hey, as an old old timer, I definitely use chat to disarm my defender. I try to get the guy to think of me as the Dad he never had. Then when I launch my deadly 20 footer, he not only doesn’t guard me, he’s happy I scored.

  19. Don’t forget the ‘Two Guys Bitching Over a Call for Minutes at a Time’ guys. These are the absolute worst. They are so into the game, which is great, but also destroy the game taking several minutes several times to bitch about different calls. Their ‘why we hate them’ level just multiplies when there are several guys waiting for next game. They’re typically pretty decent players, in the 35+ category, but also give you the notion that something in their personal life is disappointing them as they’ve realized life has hit them in the face, basketball is what they once dominated but now just won’t pay the bills, and they’re pissed they’re working a mediocre job.

  20. The list had me falling out of my seat. Just a few more…

    “Jailbird.” You know, the guy with the neck tattoo and the tether? He never wares a shirt. You’re afraid to guard him because if you call a foul he may pull a shank from his gym bag. He’s like “The Mouth,” but armed. Sometimes the police roll by on the lookout for “Jailbird.” Distinguishing characteristics include missing/gold teeth and jewelry.

    “Hippie Guy.” Tye dyes, short shorts, old shoes, and long hair distinguish this awkward pick-up menace. Frequenter of the YMCA or anywhere else with hatha yoga classes and a steam room,”Hippie Guy” usually smells like a mix of cat urine and onions. He can’t dribble, shoot, or pass, and often forgets who is on his team (or which basket is his). Nobody knows what motivates “Hippie Guy” to continue to show up on the court, or why he can’t seem to wrap his mind around the simplest of rules, but at least he’s usually friendly and always smiling.

    “Gym Rat.” The guy who’s ALWAYS there. Before the game starts, he’s there. When everyone is trying to leave, he’s still trying to scrounge a few to play three’s. He’s usually fairly young and pretty good, but socially awkward due to his incessant basketball playing. Whenever you go to check out the run at another gym or park, even if it’s on the other side of town, he’s there too…ALWAYS!

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