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Cultural Differences

March 12, 2019 AT 12:00 AM

How the game is played across the world

Basketball is often referred to as a ‘universal language’, transcending geographical boundaries and language barriers. Despite this, anyone who has had the opportunity to lace the high-tops up in a different country will likely have faced some surprising differences in playing styles. Even within the same country, we may experience some differences as well. By learning to adapt to different styles, these can constitute learning experiences for a young player on the path to self-improvement.

Physicality: Usually, the most obvious difference is in the nature of physical play. Basketball has largely moved on from its non-contact origins with Dr. James Naismith, but there are still stark differences in how people across the world prefer to play the game. Some cultures prioritize the importance of strength and force, while others prefer to rely on guile and cunning.

Foul-calling: On a related note, you will find that blacktop hoopers in many countries adhere strictly to the ‘no blood, no foul’ nature of streetball, forcing players to learn to play through contact. In others however, personal fouls are very much a part of the game, simulating a competitive environment through appropriate rewards and sanctions for violating the rules of the game.

Offensive focus: Besides physicality, the second most evident aspect is usually offensive focus. The game is strictly perimeter-oriented in some cultures, based around speed and sharpshooting, while others attack the paint almost exclusively, as big men battle down low and on the boards for supremacy.

Team play: Although teamwork is a crucial part of basketball, the extent to which it is manifested on blacktops differs from court to court. In some places, anything more than two dribbles earns you the reputation of a ball-hog, but there are also courts that emphasize individual skill, whereby a player who passes the ball up immediately is judged as someone without the requisite isolation skills or scoring threat to contribute on offense.

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