12 Ways to Decline an Invitation to be the Fifth Man in a Pick-Up Basketball Game

With warmer temperatures and increased sunshine demarcating the much anticipated arrival of Spring, you may have noticed pick-up basketball games starting to crop up in your area. 

This is an expected occurrence – for, as anyone who has seen even a single New York City-based romantic comedy can attest – pick-up basketball games pop up as frequently as tulips once springtime rolls around in the city. 

For some, this is a welcome occurrence. They’re excited to hang with their friends and maybe show off their “jump shot” or “free throw.” Perhaps even being so bold as to make a judgement call on the opposing team’s tendency to double-dribble. Some may even engage in the sexually-charged theatrics of an alley-oop. The excitement in the air is palpable. 

However, for others, this is a stressful time. 

Because, as those of us versed in the intricate subtleties of NYC romcoms know, the friend groups looking to start these pick-up basketball games are famously composed of only four people. 

Thus, they’re constantly harassing the passersby with their desperate solicitations for a fifth player. If you happen to be in the vicinity while all of this is going down, it can make for quite a stressful scenario. You don’t want to play, but you don’t want to decline the invitation and endure the sneers and ridicule of the other players – creating the perception to everyone within earshot that you can’t alley-oop with the best of them. 

Because you can oop. Oh, you can oop. You just don’t feel like it right now. 

In anticipation of this inevitable and highly-likely scenario that definitely happens to other people and not just me, one time, years ago, forever eternalized in my nightmares – here are 12 ways you can decline an invitation to be the fifth man in a pick-up basketball game while still maintaining your reputation as “could be good at basketball, I don’t really know.” 

1. “Sorry, fellas, can’t. I’m on call. As a medical doctor.” 

2. “Darn it, I wish I could! Unfortunately, I left my Adidas basketball shoes at home. They’re blue with white stripes and a little worn out from how often I wear them.” 

3. “It’s a no-go for me – my contract specifically says no amateur play. My trainer would wring my little neck if he found out. Maybe in the off-season.” 

4. “Thanks for the invite, but I am heading to a big date and I can’t be working up a sweat. My body odor gets absolutely rancid when I’m shooting hoops. Anyways, call me crazy, but I think I’m going to marry this girl!” 

5. “I just ate a disproportionately large bowl of fettuccine alfredo. You guys understand.” 

6. “I am a very successful businessman and I don’t want to wrinkle these expensive slacks.” 

7. “Basketball? Like, the NBA? I’m actually heavy into the NFL at the moment and I don’t want to make things awkward.” 

8. “Just by eyeballing that hoop I can tell that it’s about two inches too low and I only play on regulation height. This sucks so bad I wish the hoop was the right height so I could play.” 

9. “I am actually on my way to play in another pick-up game across town with four dear friends of mine. They play in a different pick-up circuit so you definitely don’t know them.” 

10. “For reasons I am unable to disclose, I am legally barred from playing basketball in the state of New York.” 

11. “I’m literally about to throw up and I don’t want to make a big, sloppy mess in the middle of your court. Ugh, I hate being so nauseous right now.” 

12. “There’s actually a 15% chance of rain in the forecast and I’m not taking any chances. Mother Nature…one day she’ll come for us all, that fickle mistress!”



McKayley is a Chicago-based writer and producer. Her writing has been featured in McSweeney’s, Points In Case, and Little Old Lady Comedy, among others. She has several unreturned library books and the heart of a lion.

Leave a Reply