This is part of a series that I’m doing about pickup basketball in Beijing. You can go to the main page to check out reviews of popular courts, as well as other useful information.

Playing in Beijing is a little bit different than playing in the US, so hopefully the information below will prepare you for some of the “surprises” or differences that you may see on the courts.


For pickup, I’ve paid anywhere from 20 to 50 RMB. You can play for however long you want though, so it’s pretty cheap.


Pickup is usually half-court. And every outdoor court I’ve played on has lights. Most courts stay open until 9 or 10 PM during the summer months.


If the courts are full, games are 4 on 4 half court.

Generally, it’s best to go with some friends. There are a couple of reasons for this:

– You’ll typically have to get a full team before you can jump into the queue for next game. This is different from the US where you can call “next” and players from the losing team will have to vie for the remaining spots on your team. In China, if you don’t have a team of 4 ready, then the teams on the court won’t let you on. You can be the odd man out for awhile before enough stragglers come to form a team with you, since friends that already have full teams get into the queue before you do.

An exception to this rule is when people start leaving and a team that has been playing for awhile is short a few players. Since they were already playing, they can pick up players from the losing team.

– If you go by yourself and get picked up by a group of 3 friends, you won’t get the ball much, unless you can absolutely dominate the game. They’ll pass amongst each other, generally neglecting you. Be good, or else expect to not touch the ball much.

Calling Next

Continuing the above, you still have to call next, but there is a subtle difference. You’re actually asking the teams on the court if it’s OK to add a team. And believe it or not, they sometimes reject you. This is mostly because they think there are too many teams waiting for that court. But you can argue with them if all the courts are full and sometimes get in.

I’ve been on a half-court where there were 7 teams total. Wait time is at least half an hour, sometimes closer to an hour. But typically, there are 3 to 4 teams on a half court depending on time of day and location, and you’ll have no problem jumping in.


When there are people waiting, games are make it take it to 5 straight (no win by two), and every bucket is 1 point. When there are no other teams waiting, games are to 10, with the same rules as above.

As a side note, in the US, why is scoring so random? I’ve played scoring that was all 1s, 1s and 2s, and 2s and 3s. I’ve played games up to 7, 9, 10, 11, and 21. I think it’s much easier in China since every single court I’ve played on is up to 5.


Similar to the US, you call your own fouls.

But be warned, on some courts, you get called for the most ticky-tack fouls. It drove me nuts when I first got here, since I pride myself in playing good defense. You literally can’t touch some players, or else they call a foul. They initiate contact? Foul. You brush them while they’re driving? Foul. You block the shit out of them, all ball? Foul. It’s pretty fucking ridiculous sometimes.

But also to be honest, I’ve noticed it’s gotten better the past couple of years. If you play with people who know what they’re doing, they’re less likely to call those weak fouls.

Checking the Ball

Does not exist in China. You can do it, but they look at you weirdly unless they’ve played ball abroad.

However, you still need to pass the ball in before you can score.

Other Observations / Comments

This has also gotten better in recent years, but when I first came to Beijing, I would often run into teams that try to quickly inbound the ball after a made basket before your team’s defense is set up, and try to get an easy bucket.

It felt like a “cheap” way to score, but people did it so that they could win. No honor code with those guys.

But as I said, I’m seeing this less and less, especially in more competitive games where the players are decent.


This might be a Chinese thing, but if you do manage to go with some friends and are buying water, remember to buy it for everyone on your team. This is just kind of an unspoken rule. If you buy water for only yourself, your Chinese friends may judge you and view you as selfish.

Even when I’ve played with randoms, they typically buy the team water. I’ve also bought my team water when I was the odd man out. It will make you more likable and is an easy way to make new friends.

So don’t be cheap on the basketball court.


This is all the basic pickup basketball information I could think of for now. I’ll add more info if I think of anything else.

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Pickup Basketball Basics in Beijing
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