21 Basketball: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Play

21 Basketball is a game that any number of players can play anywhere with a basketball and is a pretty easy game to master.

This game was invented by street basketball players who demolished the original rules of the traditional basketball game to create this fun alternative. 21 Basketball can help players improve their dribbling, shooting, rebound, and evasion skills.

Unlike your run-of-the-mill basketball match, 21 is not a team sport but an individual sport. This means that everyone is their own team. Similarly, there is no time limit to 21 Basketball. The first player to reach exactly 21 points wins, and you must score exactly 21 points.

However, if your score exceeds 21, your overall score is reduced as a penalty. This rule makes the game especially exciting towards the end! 

This comprehensive guide will tell you more about this popular game. Read on to find out how to play 21 basketball.  

How to Play 21 Basketball

What You’ll Need:

  1. Any number of players (usually three or more) 

  2. Basketball (Hint: Check out the best outdoor basketballs here)

  3. A single basketball hoop 

The Basic Game Strategy 

To start, a player takes a shot from the three-point line (the large semi-circle lying just outside the free-throw line). If the player misses, the other players will go after the ball and try to score. However, if the ball goes in the hoop, the player can shoot free throws until they miss. 

There are two common ways to determine which player gets the ball first. Players can take turns taking 3 point shots until someone gets the ball through the hoop, or someone can shoot a free throw.

If the player scores, they start the game, but if not, the player who gets the rebound score will start the game. 

21 basketball

Once the player has possession of the ball, he has to score against the other players to win. This way, multiple people defend the hoop, and it is more difficult to score.

If a player successfully makes a 3-point or 2-point shot, they can take free throws from the free-throw line, a horizontal line about 15 ft away from the hoop. The player shoots free throws until they miss or earn 3 points, and the game resumes. 

Moreover, fouls also work like in a regular basketball game. The fouled player gets the basketball and a check in the court; if the player misses any free throws before scoring 3 points, the other players start competing for rebounds.

Also, if a player can make all three free throws, he gets the ball again and can start over from the three-point line. 

After a player gets possession of the ball after a rebound, they first must clear the ball past the three-point line before attempting a shot. A player must also clear the ball in case of a change of possession for any other reason.  

Winning the Game 

The player who is the first to score 21 points is the winner of the game. The tricky part of the game is that the player needs precisely 21 points to be the winner.

If you score over 21 points or miss a free throw when your score is 20, your score drops back down to 11! 

Always keep in mind that the rivals will also be competing tactically. They will try their best to lessen your score, usually by causing you to take a shot, putting you over 21.

Two different players may have entirely different strategies planned to win. Consequently, to win at 21 Basketball, you must always think ahead and be aware of other players’ scores. 

Additional Tips for 21 Basketball 

  • Try to lead in points early on to take the pressure off near the end of the game.

  • To make the game more challenging and fun, you can replace free throws with three-point shots.

  • To make the game last longer or shorter, you can change how many points each shot is worth. For example, players can agree at the beginning of the game to make a free throw shot worth 2 points, and a regular shot worth just a single point.  

  • If a player has made three successful free throws, instead of giving the ball back to him, another player can deceive him into making a fourth shot which is risky and can be missed. 

Wrapping It Up : 21 Basketball

21 Basketball is a common version of street basketball with pretty straightforward rules. The first player to reach 21 points wins the game. It is so popular that just about any basketball player you might meet has played 21 at least once before. 

This may not be the classic, formal basketball game, but it is undoubtedly one of the most fun and exciting versions of basketball to play.  

It’s great to help develop one-on-one skills in players of every skill level. Playing 21 basketball can improve dribbling, shooting, and rebounding skills, as well as your defensive positioning.

Once you’ve learned the rules well, you can play 21 basketball with variations of your own. Most importantly, 21 is really fun to play with friends and make up new rules as you go along. Best of luck! 

Related: How to Play HORSE Basketball

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast