10 Ways Pick-up Basketball is Different in Senegal

Anybody who knows me knows I love to play Ball. I’ve literally played all my life, and at 50+, I still plan to play until the wheels totally come off the wagon!

I’ve always been good enough to play on almost any court, yet never good enough to ever believe I was capable of actually going anywhere with my abilities. Balance!

At this point in my life though, the people I play with are more important than the playing itself. It’s a fellowship, a release, my therapy. So, as much as I love to ball, I don’t go looking for new places to play. I like my regular court, my regular ball and my regular guys. Without that comfort, playing ball just isn’t the same, so moving to Senegal posed a special threat in my life. A threat nobody (except maybe my wife) would understand. A threat to my health and sanity!


Do they even play ball in Senegal? If so, are they any good? (remember I’m 50+ asking if anybody is any good. lol) They don’t speak much English so how do I say “I got next”? Do they even got next here?!?

Life problems. BIG life problems.

After a few conversations in my new friend circles, I got referred to a night-time pick-up game at a local high school. Lucky my kids happen to go to that school and I already have an ID badge to get on campus. It’s a short bike ride from home so I don’t even have to reserve the family car. Thursday is going to be a big day!

It’s been over 8 months since I last played and at 50+ that’s not good. And it’s outdoors. I stopped playing outdoors decades ago! I could literally be reserving a hospital visit right now but hey… it’s worth it!

It’s worth it right???

Thursday night came and went. I got to run four games! Two more that I probably should have but it felt great! (the pain won’t set in until tomorrow). The guys I played with were pretty cool too! Two of them used to be on the National team, about 6 or 7 of them played like they could’ve been on a team, and the rest were pretty decent. I could get used to playing here!

This wasn’t exactly the US BBall I know though. As I begin to notice the differences between Senegal and the US I can’t help but notice the basketball differences too. The overall energy of the game was much like the way Senegalese interact in life. It was relaxed. Guys were there to have fun, not necessary ‘win’. That part I had to learn to deal with but it made for an enjoyable welcoming experience. Teranga! Everybody got along like it was the basketball game at the family reunion or something. Everything was easy, until it got to the end, then it got serious. No more smiles and no more nice guys.

It was a unique experience though. I won’t bore you with how many points I scored (I conveniently declined to count them), but for you ballers in the US, here’s my list of the 10 ways pick-up basketball is different in Senegal.

1. Games are to 7. 1’s inside the arc, 2’s outside the arc – This isn’t too unusual. Counting points is pretty standard, games are short because guys are waiting. Or maybe it’s the heat…?

2. It’s 8:00pm but still 85 degrees. Breathing that warm air! Maybe THAT’S why games are to 7.

3. Guys grab any water bottle and start drinking – BLEW MY MIND! I saw guys grabbing just any bottle nearby. I guess it the whole sharing thing. They asked me if I wanted water and I was like “Nah, I’m good…”

4. We play at an international private school but they blast loud profane American rap music in the background – There’s not a lot of English spoken but they’ve GOT to know what those lyrics were. They definitely know our music culture.

5. Only 1 or two guys speak English but it doesn’t seem to matter much – It’s basketball, how much language do you really need?!?

6. Guys are big, and GOOD. Some are REAL big and REAL good – Ima need to get my WHOLE life together if I want to keep up here. I’m not gonna be the old guy they “let” play. Trust.

7. As big as they are, they surprisingly call a lot of touch fouls – They don’t like to be bodied. Probably too much Euro influence. They’ll smack your elbow on a jump shot like it’s nothing but bump them in the paint and its a foul.

8. When they shoot for the next game they shoot from the free throw line and not the top of the key – It’s outdoors though so this isn’t too bad a rule.

9. There’s ZERO arguing. ZERO Sh*t talking – It’s just not in their culture. Makes for a fast game too.

10. They take video selfies while waiting for the next game – This one is beyond me. I have no idea what this is all about. Old.

BONUS! Couple of interesting rules

11. Two hand dunks count as two points – This rule doesn’t really apply to me though.

12. When shooting free throws to make the team for the next game, you shoot an airball you’re out! DQ’d from the next game – They’re shooting from the free throw line so, airball?!? Yeah, that’s fair.

Other than that, it’s ball. Beautiful basketball. An if I can make some attitude adjustments and get back in shape I just might have found a new home!

About Ed Rosemond

Hey I'm Ed. I've spent the last 20 years of my life learning the unique issues of Black businesses in order to build them beautiful websites that tell their story, get them found and get them leads. Funny thing is, while doing that, I learned a LOT about our tendencies, habits and fears. Now I live in Dakar, Senegal and I'm learning the Senegalese people in much the same way. My new mission is to crack the communication code between African people and Black Americans in order to unite our peoples into long term relationships.

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