The emergence of freestyle basketball

Friday, 9 october 2020

Like many sports disciplines, basketball has a freestyle variation, i.e. a discipline that combines basketball techniques with moves of a more ‘artistic’ nature.

An old story

There are disciplines that set out as ‘freestyle’ before adopting codified standards, staging competitions, setting up federations and becoming traditional sporting disciplines… until, eventually, they acquire the status of an Olympic sport. This is the case for many sliding sports, starting with skiing and, most recently, surfing. And then there are conventional sports that have gone in the opposite direction, historic sports that have now developed a freestyle version. This is the case of basketball but, unlike freestyle soccer, freestyle basketball is part of the history of basketball itself. Indeed, it largely owes its very existence to a team that has marked the history of the game: the Harlem Globetrotters. 
Contrary to what their name suggests, the Harlem Globetrotters was a Chicago-based team made up of black players unable to play in the major leagues of the United States. The team started out by playing standard basketball matches but very soon the players started to embellish their game with tricks, antics, and some highly spectacular technical feats. The owner, Abe Saperstein, let his players do as they liked, provided they kept scoring. This is how the ‘Globetrotters’ in their matches quickly got ahead in the score to give them time to indulge in highly spectacular actions… to the immense delight of the public! So much so that these whimsical gestures became their trademark and they developed a show, first in the United States and then around the world, based on these freestyle techniques. 

Great success on YouTube

At the same time, street basketball was developing in the United States and, subsequently, around the world. This discipline allows greater latitude for technical moves possessing an artistic dimension. Some players would demonstrate a high degree of skill as they handled the ball. And this discipline would gradually become independent with freestyle specialists forming street teams along the same lines as the Harlem Globetrotters, including the renowned ‘AND1 Mixtape’ team.
From that moment on, the freestyle champions would stage hugely popular shows. Their videos on the Internet draw hundreds of thousands of views. The videos posted online by the French champion Brisco, for example, attract as many as 350,000 views. 
The moves, known as ‘tricks,’ involve different degrees of difficulty. There’s dribbling, the celebrated ‘spinning,’ which consists in spinning the ball on one finger. And ‘rolling,’ the discipline’s archetypal move where the ‘freestyler’ makes the ball roll over his body, his arms etc…. Mastering each trick requires hours and hours of practice and calls for a range of physical qualities such as coordination, flexibility but also creativity. The games are performed to music, and some moves may be borrowed from breakdancing, a discipline recently adopted by the Olympic Games. When will it be the turn for freestyle basketball?

Enhance your basketball culture with the Caisse d’Epargne 

Since April 2019, the Caisse d’Epargne has been the partner of 3×3 basketball in association with the French Basketball Federation (FFBB). The bank puts its strong territorial roots at the service of this discipline throughout France.