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Basketball Games For Two Players

Basketball Games For Two Players

While a game of basketball is traditionally played by two teams of five players, there are multiple variations of the game which allow for individual play, play by two players, or play by a few players. And while the format and rules of these games will differ from the traditional game, they can still be loads of fun and provide a great way to get out on the basketball court and practice your basketball skills.

Below, we are going to look at the best basketball games for two players which can be played in indoor or outdoor courts. All you need is another willing player, a basketball, and a basketball hoop to get started!

Basketball Games For Two Players

Benefits of Playing a Two Player Basketball Game

The history of the game of basketball was always intended to be played as a full-court game between two teams of five players. However, one of the beauties of the game of basketball is its ability to be manipulated, modified, and customized for play with less, or more, players.

And while a game of basketball between two player won’t utilize the entirety of the court, there are still many benefits which can be gained by playing a two person basketball game. Below, we are going to review some of these benefits.

  • Forces a player to adapt on both offensive and defense – in a game of 1×1, an individual player is forced to adapt to both offensive and defensive schemes. As the player cannot rely on a teammate or another player, they will need to play both offense and defense well to win the game.
  • Allows for different variations of the game – similarly, playing a two person game of basketball allows an individual basketball player to play multiple different versions of the game of basketball. From 1×1 to HORSE to around the world, these game variations may otherwise have remained unknown had the player not played with a smaller group.
  • More fun – while a personal opinion, many two player basketball games are simply more fun then the traditional game. With a wide variety of game types and strategies, players will need to utilize different skillsets to win and overcome their opponent.

Best Basketball Games For Two Players

While there are plenty of two person basketball games out there, not all of them are recommended for basketball skills and testing your basketball abilities. Rather, below, we are going to focus on the best basketball games for two players that will test your basketball skills while still remaining fun.


Playing one-on-one requires you to lead both offensive and defensive charges.  You will not be able to look to a teammate for assistance on either the offensive or defensive end and will need to find the expertise within you to play efficient on both ends.

A major reason why so many players opt to play one-on-one games is that playing one-on-one is typically a good determinant of your own basketball skills. 

Due to the fact that you will be unable to utilize a teammate for either offensive or defensive assistance, you will need to summon the strength to compete on both ends.

Another reason so many players choose to play the one-on-one game is due to the fact, that many times, it is difficult to find the full number of players needed to start a game. 

If you go to a basketball court and see that there is only one other person there, it may be more worthwhile to engage in a friendly one-on-one than to not play at all.

Lastly, so many players choose to play a one-on-one game for the glory of the game and the reputation as the best player on the court. 

A one-on-one game challenges an individual players own strengths and weaknesses and can fully show which player is better than the other.

To play 1×1, you will first have to determine which player will get the ball first, how many points are needed to win, and whether you have to score +2 points over your opponent to win the game. The +2 points rule is one unique to the 1×1 game and maintains that for a player to win the game, they must have a point differential of at least 2 points at the end of the game to be considered the victor.

Once it has been determined which player will begin with the ball, the ball will be “checked-in” to start.  Checking in the ball ensures that both players are ready to start the offensive and defensive scheme and ensures that no player takes advantage of the other players distraction.

After the basketball has been checked in, players will attempt to score baskets, with points translating to 1 point for a two-pointer and 2 points for a three-pointer. A player who scores will be awarded possession of the ball once more until they lose possession.


H-O-R-S-E is another popular basketball game that can be played with two, three, four, or five total players. Relatively simple to understand, the game can become intense quickly and often leads to more intricate and difficult shot attempts as the game progresses.

H-O-R-S-E, as a basketball game, is a simple matching game. That means that the player or players proceeding the initial player who shot the ball must attempt a shot in the exact same manner. So, for example, if the first player takes a bank shot from the free throw line, then the following player must attempt and make a bank shot from the free throw line.

Missing the proceeding shot will result in an H being assessed to the player, with each subsequent miss for that player resulting in an O, R, S, E until the player has been knocked out of the game.

However, dunking is not allowed in a game of H-O-R-S-E and if the initial player misses their shot attempt then they will not be assessed with a letter penalty and possession of the basketball will move onto the next player.

Around the World

Around the world is one of the funnest two player basketball games and tests your basketball shooting abilities. To play, players will mark five or seven spots across the court from which shots should be take. Moving in numerical order, players will attempt to shoot and score from each spot until the first player hits all available shots.

Some notes, a player who misses a shot shall give up their turn to the next player. However, if a player scores on a shot opportunity, then they will maintain possession of the basketball and attempt a shot at the next spot.

King of the Court

King of the Court is a sub-variant of a 1×1 game. However, in this variation, the first player to score a single point wins the game. While it can be played with only two players, it is more fun with additional players on the sidelines waiting to join.

Ideally, two players will play 1×1, with the first player to score remaining on the court as their next opponent comes to challenge them from off the sidelines. The first player to win a total of 7 games is considered the winner and the king of the court.