Small-Sided Games aka “Mr. Big”

BETTER Basketball More FUN

First game: Most “Basketball-like”, half court with two goals, or half court with one goal. 6 minute games with two 3 minute halves and a one minute break, etc.

Remaining games: change something each game, “solve a basketball problem”, play with the elements.

Last game: walking backwards, cool down, dribble ball over endline (or arc or centre line) for a point then shoot a free throw for validation.

Tally points scored for the team plus 10 points for a team win, 5 points for a tie. At the end, reward  “Mr. Big.”


Playing With the Elements Adjusting the game
Problems: 1. own team in possession 2. losing possession, 3. opponents in possession and regaining possession: 1. defence, 2. build up, and 3. the attack

Players: 1v1, 2v2 … 5v5v5

Goals: line scoring, area scoring, dribble into an area, pass into an area, free throw scoring, extra points for specific types of shots

The court: must run through certain areas/gates/cones, example: only play on the left side, only play within or outside the arc

Rules: only one dribble, no back pass, only back passes

The ball: flat ball, two balls, play with a dodge ball or volleyball


Small sided game basic rules

  • 3-6 minute periods, switch teams every 2 periods.
  • count 1s, 2s, and 3s.
  • winning team gets 10 more points.
  • ties – each teams adds 5 more points
  • free throw validation (must score a free throw for the bucket to count)
  • all non shooting fouls and and ones shoot 1 free throw
  • shooting fouls shoot two or three


Small sided game variations

Limited dribbling:

  • only left hand dribbling
  • one dribble
  • only dribble below or above free throw lines
  • no dribble
  • no dribble in back court
  • only dribble in back court

Ball screen:

  • each possession starts with a pick and roll
    • from “left back”
    • between the circles
  • defense can or can’t switch
  • Around cones
    • ball carrier goes around a cone
    • other players go around other cones in transition


  • one player stays in offensive circle
  • one player stays on left wing
  • one player stays on right wing

Man Advantage:

  • one defender must always stay behind in front court
  • two defenders must stay behind
  • three defenders must stay behind

Don’t miss your free throws:

  • after every two or three, must shoot a single free throw
  • if free throw missed minus 5 points.

Bad Blood:

  • ball carrier starts from own end line
  • all other players in the middle cirlce
  • when ball carrier crosses centre line, one defender can defend.

Ball Drop:

  • every time coach blows a whistle, the ball must be dropped and team hustles back on defense
  • everyone except ball dropper goes back on defense
  • blow whistle every three possessions
  • ball must be placed on the floor where it is dropped.

Skip Pass:

  • offensive team must throw a skip pass bellow free throw line, wing to wing
  • the receiver of skip pass must shoot or drive
  • reset with a skip pass

Corner recovery:

  • after every change possession – missed shot, score etc
    player last to touch ball must run around a cone in the corner.

And One:

  • every made bucket includes a free throw
  • missed free throw = minus three points

Flat Ball:

  • play with a deflated ball

Medicine ball:

  • play with a medicine ball

Post Play:

  • Score from a post play
    • up and under, drop step, hook/jump shot

No Pass in Back Court:

  • Player with ball after rebound, inbound, change possession must dribble accross centre.

More Free Throw Validation:

  • each period ends with the team ahead shooting one free throw
  • a made free throw counts 1
  • a missed free throw minus 3 or minus 5

Out of the Strings:

  • defense can take the ball out of the strings and advance up the court immediately
  • no inbound play
  • quick transitions

Relentless Transition:

  • 5v5
  • play 3v3 with two players in defensive corners
  • on a defensive change in possession the corners lead outlet,
  • player with ball must pass to an outlet and join the new 2 for 3v3

Shot Clock:

  • set shot clock to 14, 10, 6
  • really speed things along

Inbound advantage:

  • after every inbounds play, the defender guarding the player who catches the ball, must sprint back to the endline, cone, corner, before rejoining his team on defense.
  • no dribbling allowed.
  • defender sprints to half line instead on endline.

Triple Split:

  • 3 v 3 but in 3 pairs of 1v1
  • 1v1 in one arch, 1v1 in other arch, 1v1 between the archs,
  • take turns in each arch(switch each period).
  • all 1v1 matchups, no 1v2

Three Stops in a Row:

  • count only stops
  • three stops in a row = 5 points


  • 3v3 to 6v6
  • number each player 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • coach yells out a number, or pair, or 3: “1,4,5”
  • those players play till a basket scored.

Home Run:

  • any score within 5 seconds of inbound from the defensive endline counts 5 points

Press Virginia to Carolina:

  • everyone marks 1v1 in full court press on any inbound and bucket
  • whoever receives the pass -their defender “chases rabbits” and the others continue with man advantage
  • on a turnover, get the ball down to the one for the quick score.

Score and Keep:

  • When you score, you keep the ball

Pass out of the Post:

  • each team has a player unmarked on the post that must be passed to to start the offense, but he can only score on a rebound.
  • the post passes out to a team mate then steps off the court
  • change post position: low, mid, high, elbow, “Spain”, between circles

Grab a towel

  • player last to touch the ball or score or whole team must defend holding a towel with both hands behind the back.

The Whole Shebang:

  • Score a buzzer beater, plus the free throw – if behind forces the tie.

The Walking Dead

  • Players without ball walk backwards


  • players with or without ball must pass through a “gate”
    • before joining offense
    • before joining defense

Pass for Points:

  • score a point for executing a pass
    • pass into paint,
    • pass to weak-side inside
    • pass to weak-side three
    • pass to Carolina

Back Your Man Down:

  • pass to a man with his back to the glass
  • he then must “back his man down” into the paint.

White Rectangle:

  • only 2 point shots off the backboard/white rectangle count

Change the goal:

  • use a big bin
  • hit a pylon
  • complete a pass or dribble over the endline/center line
  • hit the rectangle from inside/outside the key/arc
  • two hands on ball jump and hit the backboard while still holding the ball.

Download Excel Workbook: Small Sided Games