May 16, 2008 1:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for information about a basketball game we used to play at summer camp a hundred years ago called Taps.

Here's how we used to play: one person would take foul shots. He'd get a point if he scored a basket. The other person would stand under the basket. If the shooter missed, he'd try to jump and -- while in the air -- "tap" the ball in. He had three tries to score a basket this way; if he tapped the ball in he'd get two points. If the shooter missed three shots in a row or the other guy tapped the ball in, they'd switch places. We played either to 11 or to 21, and, to win, the shooter, after scoring the required number of points, had to hit a final shot from the top of the key.

Until recently, when I saw some kids playing it in Brooklyn, I thought it was unique to the camp. They were playing it a little differently, so I'm curious if the game's regional and, if the rules vary, I'm interested to hear about the game's different forms. (Note: it's not this game, but it's similar, sort of. Also, these kids are great.)
posted by buriedpaul to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I played this in southern Texas in the mid-to-early 90s. We called it simply "21" and had the exact same rules as you stated.
posted by nitsuj at 1:41 PM on May 16, 2008

21 is something totally different where I come from. 21 is used to play basketball when you have an odd number of people, has no out of bounds and everytime you score you get three free throw shots. It is like the go-to pick-up game.

Taps is a more kid-friendly and rarer game. I played taps a lot in South Carolina in the 90's. Same rules as you described. Super-fun game. Keeps you running around a lot.
posted by ND¢ at 1:50 PM on May 16, 2008

We sometimes played 21 with a tip-in(tap?) rule, if player A tips in player B's missed shot, player B goes back to 0. Great for offensive rebounding work.
posted by neilkod at 2:14 PM on May 16, 2008

upstate new york, early 90's here... as you described. I loved that game.
posted by pjenks at 2:15 PM on May 16, 2008

I played Taps as a kid in the 70s in DC suburbs. Also called it 21. Generally, there wouldn't just be two players, though....there was one shooter and all the other kids (2 or 3) would try for taps.
posted by danOstuporStar at 2:54 PM on May 16, 2008

Thinking back...there was no "three tries to score a basket this way". You could try an tap until the ball hit the ground at which point it became like regular one-on-one(-on-one-etc) basketball. Whoever scored a basket first went to the free throw line. I think it was 3 points for a tap, 2 for one-on-one and 1 for a free throw.

If you were at the line and had 20 points and missed, there was a major penalty...like losing all your points or something. (There wasn't a top of the key shot.)
posted by danOstuporStar at 3:07 PM on May 16, 2008

I played taps as described at a summer camp in the Adirondacks in the late 60's early 70's. I also played it with 4 players. THe two shooters would be on the elbow of the foul lane and one "tapper" on each side of the basket.

I also played roof ball with a tennis ball. Throw the ball in the air off the roof. Opponent would try to catch it. A clean catch is an out. One bounce a single, two a double etc.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:42 PM on May 16, 2008

We played this in the early 90's in North Carolina with very different rules. After the missed freethrow, the 2nd player doesn't have to literally tap the ball in - he just has to catch with both feet off the ground and shoot before he lands. If you can catch the ball straight off the rim and put it back, you get 3 points. If you let it bounce first, you get only 2. If you let it bounce more than twice, or if you touch the ball with either of your feet on the ground, or if you don't at least hit the rim, the next player shoots freethrows. If you don't commit any violations, but you miss the shot, it becomes the next player's turn, just like after a missed freethrow.

Also, if you jumped up, caught the ball, started to shot, but your feet came down just before the ball left your hands, everyone would yell, "Whiteboy!"

The black kids never played this game.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 4:07 PM on May 16, 2008

We played a similar game with a similar name. Middle school, eastern NC, early 90's. We called it Tips. There was no basketball goal involved, just 20 or so people standing in a circle. One person would toss the ball to another and that person would jump up and while in the air tip it to someone else. If you flubbed, you were out. Game went on till there was only one person left.
posted by deepscene at 4:13 PM on May 16, 2008

They play weird games down east.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 4:15 PM on May 16, 2008

Also played this exact game, called it "taps", suburban Philadelphia late '70s/early '80s. The other one was "horse", but I'm guessing everybody played/plays that.
posted by zoinks at 6:47 PM on May 16, 2008

we played taps in the pool (NC, mid-90s) the same way deepscene played on land. you had anywhere between 2 and 10 people, and any kind of ball. you'd toss the ball to someone who would have to jump to catch it and throw it to the next person before landing. of course playing in the pool made it harder to jump but easier to stay up, and made for some very dramatic splashes once you let go.
posted by kidsleepy at 7:45 PM on May 16, 2008

If you were at the line and had 20 points and missed, there was a major penalty...like losing all your points or something.

You go back to 15, which then allows you to get 21 without having to make any free throws.
posted by ND¢ at 7:47 PM on May 16, 2008

At my summer camp, we had a completely different game called taps. You would throw a basketball up onto the slanted roof of the bunk, and once it came down, the next guy would have to jump, catch it, and throw it back up before he hit the ground. The ultimate move was to throw it up in such a way that it would only just clip the roof and go down without bouncing back up. No way to catch that one. Ah, summer camp.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:35 PM on May 16, 2008

We called it "tips" in southern Oregon in the late '90s. It's like a nationwide game of telephone.
posted by nnevvinn at 1:28 AM on May 17, 2008

We played Taps and 21 in suburban Maryland in the 70s. We played 21 (or Rough House) when there were more than 2 people. We played Taps when we only had two people.
posted by terrapin at 5:16 PM on May 18, 2008

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