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How to play 21 in basketball (instructions and videos)

Each player has played the “21” basketball game before.

This is similar to the traditional 1-on-1, except that there are several defenders to shoot at.

This is not a game you would regularly see at an organized basketball practice. Rather, it is a basketball game that children will play for fun in the local park or after school.

In this blog post I will show you exactly how it works.

You will learn everything you need to know about setting it up, how 21 is played, the points system, how to choose who has the first possession, and various variations.

Let’s start …

How to play the 21 basketball game

Set up:

The list of things needed for ’21’ is short.

All you need is (1) a half court, (2) a basketball and (3) three players.

There are a few ways to determine who gets the first possession …

The most common is that one player fires a free throw. If the shooter catches it, he gets the ball. Otherwise, everyone who gets the setback will have the first possession.

Another way to determine who gets first possession is to take three points one by one. The first player to hit the shot gets the ball to start the game.

Or, just play a pair of scissors!

Counting system:

The points system used for 21 follows that of traditional basketball.

Shots from beyond the arc are worth three points, shots from inside the arc are worth two points and free throws are worth one point.

The first player to score 21 points is the winner.

Each player must keep his own score throughout the match.


The player with possession gets the ball at the top of the arc.

They will then try to score against several defenders who have to work together to make the attacks as difficult as possible.

On a miss, everyone crashes the boards and fights for the rebound.

If the offensive player gets it, they can shoot again immediately.

But if one of the defenders gets the setback, they have to drip the ball outside the three-point arc before they can attack the ring or shoot from outside.

When a player scores points, they go to the release line, while the other players enter a rebound position.

If the shooter makes the free throw, they can shoot another one (the maximum number of free shots that can be made is two).

After that, that shooter takes out the ball and starts a new possession at the top of the arc.

If the shooter misses their first or second free throw, the returning player must clear the ball before he can shoot.

The ball must also be cleaned after a change of possession for any other reason, e.g. Turnover, block, shot, etc.


Players must name their own mistakes.

If this happens, the ball is awarded to the offender at the top of the key.

If contamination becomes too frequent, add a rule that the offensive player must shoot a throw every time he is committed.


Basketball game 21 is a great way to score against multiple defenders, and it’s incredibly fun to play if you have three or four players.

There are many variations, making it suitable for all ages and skill levels.

Try it next time you’re in the gym!

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