Rumble box: Full on or just a half?

Rumble box: Full on or just a half?

In this week's Rumble Box, Leon Lee and Wong Yat-hei are engaged in an argument about a sport they both love: basketball. Leon enjoys the freestyle three-on-three show down in the half court, while Yat-hei prefers the five-on-five, full-court game

Five on Five

Official basketball tournaments around the world - at the Olympics, in professional leagues and even high school competitions - all play by five-on-five rules. The five-on-five format is the way how basketball should be played by pros.

The three-on-three format is more of a show-off type of game with little defence. Players usually go one-on-one to score as the other four players stand by and watch. It does not bring out team spirit, which is a key element of basketball.

In five-on-five games, on the other hand, all 10 players are engaged all the time with plenty of attack, defence and teamwork. Players must know how to co-operate well and read the intentions of the opposing team if they are to score and win during full-court games. Passing the ball well is the ultimate skill you need to master in basketball. Three-on-three games feature some great individual skills, but team players rule the full-court game.

Full-court games are also played at a fast-and-furious pace. Make a mistake in passing the ball, allowing the opposition to intercept, and there goes your chance. Meanwhile, the other side gets its own chance on a breakaway basket. In three-on-three games, even after a player makes a steal, he needs to get back to half court for his own offence. Way too slow!

Moreover, three-on-three games give big and tall players an unfair advantage. They can just push their way to below the basket, and as there is no three-seconds-tops rule, they can stay there as long as they want until they totally pin down the defender and score.

Basketball is a physical game with a lot of contact, but the best players use a mix of strength, agility and smart timing to place themselves in the right position to score. Without the three-seconds violation rule, the game's just about guys bulldozing their way around the basket. That's not how basketball should be played.

Wong Yat-hei

Three on three

Half the court, half the trouble. That's what three-on-three games are all about.

A half-court game is exactly as it sounds - a basketball game that's played on just one half of a regulation court. But that half court makes for double the fun.

Since the game is played on a smaller area, it involves fewer players, which increases their involvement. You won't have people just standing around as on a full-court game since they can't hide or a take a break from the action. They could run sets of organised plays to help score baskets, which involves actual teamwork.

As a game plays out only on half the court, another game can take place at the same time on the other half. That, too, is a bonus both to players and to spectators.

Yes, the full-court game does give the impression of being more professional, as in the NBA. But almost every full-court game that I've played in has usually ended in utter chaos.

People just tend to run around wherever they feel like it since they have so much space. Others with poorer stamina or less training tend to stay behind to catch their breath as more energetic players whiz about the court.

With all the running back and forth that's required in a full-court game, not everyone is playing to the best of their ability. That makes for less-attractive games on a non-professional level.

I realised that I wouldn't be playing in the NBA when I was eight. So let me suggest to you, Hei, to save your breath and work on your half-court game.

Leon Lee

We hope you enjoyed the rumble. If you have an idea for a fun topic, e-mail us at with "Rumble Box" in the subject line and we could be wrangling your topic idea next week


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