alpha baller syndrome
I'm sorry, but not everybody gets to be Snake Plissken.

Alpha Baller Syndrome (al'-fuh bol'-ur sin'-drom') noun. A psychological disorder in which a pickup basketball player attempts to impose his will on other players, often with less-than-successful and possibly inflammatory results.

Usage example: That guy kept screaming at his teammates to crash the boards and play defense, but the only thing he did all night was chuck up threes. He must have Alpha Baller Syndrome.

Word trivia: According to the book Alpha Male Syndrome, alpha males are "take-charge types with a burning desire for victory" whose "high expectations lead to frustration and rage." Furthermore: "At their best, alphas are world-beaters. When they are not at their best -- when they are unaware, out of balance, or out of control -- they create problems that diminish the value of their productive energy. And when they are at their worst, they go down in flames and drag their co-workers, their families and their organizations with them. We call this complex set of characteristics the alpha male syndrome."

Typically, people who suffer from alpha male syndrome:

* Believe their value is defined by the results they achieve.

* Don't care about hurting feelings as long as they acheive their goals.

* Treat any disagreements as a challenge to their authority.

* Tend to think that other people are "the problem."

* Get annoyed when people suggest new ideas or behavior changes.

* Have strong opinions on most subjects, even those they don't know much about.

* Lose their temper when confronted.
Sound familiar? If you've played pickup ball for any length of time, you've probably run across several bums and knuckleheads who suffer from Alpha Baller Syndrome. In my experience, these so-called alpha ballers typically coach people on the finer points of defense while playing none themselves, implore their teammates to crash the boards while they stand around on the perimeter, and call for the ball on every play...because they expect to be the first, second and third option on every offensive possession. A little part of their soul dies every time someone else on their team shoots the ball. Unless, of course, the teammate scored off one of their brilliant assists.

Conversely, the alpha ballers often lose their temper when anyone disagrees with them or suggests that they follow their own advice. And they are incapable of seeing their own faults or inadequacies. Alpha ballers believe they're on fire even when they're ice cold, they think they're shutting down their man even when he's burning them alive, etc. In their minds, they are flawless basketball computers sent back in time to change the future of pickup ballers everywhere.

Furthermore, alpha ballers cannot co-exist, which is bad news, since on any given night there may be several alpha ballers on the court at the same time. When that happens, these idiots will try to out-alpha each other. That usually leads to regular stoppages of play so that they can scream at each other until someone backs down, which can take a while. In worst-case scenarios, there might be upwards of seven or eight alpha ballers in a given game. The result, more often than not, will be a 30-minute screaming match that will make you want to swear off of pickup basketball forever. Or at least until the next time you play.

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29 Comments:
Blogger Don Ebay Mølse said...
Been following this blog for a couple years now, and it is hands down my favorite i gotta say...

I got one question that popped up my mind after reading the last entry for some reason. Of all the pick-up baller types you've been describing until now which one do you think resembles you the most Bawful?

greetings from Euro-Denmark

Blogger BJ said...
True. And really, how many people have The B-Movie Gods on their side? A full-court shot made by a guy with one eye? I mean c'mon . . .

Anonymous TheOdenator said...
What's the most ironic thing about this post? That every single Alpha Baller will nod their heads, saying 'damn I hate that guy'...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I happened to come across www.ballerhouse.com and loved the definition they have for "baller". It is perfect for Basketbawful.

Blogger Cortez said...
"A full-court shot made by a guy with one eye?"

That was the sequel. This pic is from the original.

One other thing is certain though, I'll be watching Escape From New York tomorrow for sure.

Thanks for the prompt!

Blogger Nicolas said...
Hey this is off-topic, but I just found this blog and I have a question for Mr. Basketbawful. I read your entry about finding pickup games during your European vacation. I'll be living in Rome for the next few months and already am going through basketball withdrawal; did you manage to find a pickup game anywhere in the city?

Blogger Chris Helgeson said...
I would argue that there are actually two kinds of Alpha Males specific to pick-up basketball...

Without an effective leading scorer (or Alpha Male personality), pick up teams will struggle because there's no distinct game plan, whereas a team with a well-defined alpha-male immediately has the benefit (or curse as it is) that there is a defined pecking order when it comes to offensive touches.

So, a team with a Jordan-esque alpha male will likely succeed at a higher rate than a team with a bunch of players of similar talents and personalities.

I guess, I'm taken back to the games where I played with 4 other 'complimentary' players. We passed, ran hard, and rebounded, but a lot of times felt like no one really wanted to take the shot. However, if you trade one of these guys for an alpha-male, then at least we can pattern our games accordingly, because we know that more often than not he'll be shooting...

What I'm getting at is-

In it's best form, i.e. Michael Jordan, an alpha-male can bring everyone else up a notch and make the game more competitive. In it's worst form, the alpha-male should be forced to make homemade Ustream videos about how they found Jesus in the shower...

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Nowadays, you can read this post and replace "Alpha Male" with "any person on any Internet forum ever".

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
AnacondaHL - Suggesting a new radical idea? Clearly you are a problem. I HATE PEOPLE WITH IDEAS.

But seriously, for that statement to hold you forgot to add that they like to say: "if you don't like it, you can go move to [insert country here]", "lol your retarted, learn some f***ing grammer, what a damn moran", and "everyone sucks but me!"

Blogger Big C said...
I think Jordan still holds the record for most Defensive Player of the Year awards.

I am one of those guys on the perimeter "encouraging" teammates to rebound and "crash the boards." I am on the perimeter because I am 5'8" and the stop gap for the ensuing fast break on a defensive rebound with the big guys out of position on a shot.

Just some perspective.

Blogger Japes said...
You forgot one thing about alpha male ballers. They will often drive and call fouls even though no one touched them. These guys will hog the ball and never get a clear layup because everyone on the court knows that they will hog the ball. And if someone has the "audacity" to challenge their call, it almost always results in a fight or at the very least a shoving match.

Blogger Cortez said...
"I think Jordan still holds the record for most Defensive Player of the Year awards."

Unreal.

Blogger laurance said...
What would happen if you keep shooting and keep making your shots in the presence of an Alpha Male Baller?

Also, if i sometimes talk trash, does that make me a bad person? And, if i tell someone to fill the lanes on a fast break (mostly bc i'm the pg...bc of my size), does that make me an alpha male?

and really...there's no more livin' large?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Don Ebay Mølse -- Huh. That's a good question. I'd better let BadDave or Evil Ted answer that one though.

BJ -- That really happened. True story.

Anonymous #1 -- The best part is, the first words in the definition are "Living large."

TheOdenator -- [Nods head] Yup. And I hate those guys.

Cortez -- Happy to help.

Nicolas -- Alas, no, I wasn't able to find any pickup ball in Italy. Sorry I can't help. Let me know if you find any, though.

Chris Helgeson -- For the most part, I agree. And I tried to use the term "alpha baller" instead of "alpha male" because, to me, those are two different things. An alpha baller is someone who is trying to be an alpha male but is actually just a pushy, inconsiderate and borderline delusional asshole.

AnacondaHL -- Good point.

Big C -- Well, first off, even 5'8" perimeter guys sometimes have to crash the boards, depending on the circumstances. But secondly, the inference is that the alpha baller is capable of crashing the boards and simply chooses not to because it requires more effort than he wants to put forth.

Also, Michael Jordan has ONE DPoY award, while Dikembe Mutumbo and Ben Wallace each have four. Also, Hakeem, Alonzo Mourning, Dennis Rodman and Mark Eaton all have DPoY awards each.

Japes -- Very good addition.

Cortez -- So unreal it isn't even remotely true.

laurance -- If you keep hitting your shots, the alpha baller will either give you some modest encouragement or he'll say nothing at all (because, after all, you're expected to hit all your shots because that's what he does...in his own mind). At best, it will earn you a one-game repreive from his tongue-lashing.

As for the trash talk question, it depends on the content and context of the trash talk. And communicating on the court is part of being a good teammate. The toxic alpha male baller screams at his teammates to do the things he won't do or doesn't want to do.

There will be one more Livin' Large post later this week. And then, alas, it is over.

Blogger Chris Helgeson said...
Unrelated topic but...

Does anyone get the feeling there's a growing sentiment to shut a guy down for the entire season, as opposed to say in earlier years where guys would recover in half a season or return for the playoffs?

Obviously, a team would never willingly shut a guy down, but it seems like there's a quicker trigger finger in recent years to make sure "he's probably recovered." Speaking as a Blazer fan, we shut down Darius Miles and then didn't really make an effort to get him healthy, Greg Oden, Martell Webster, and now Jeff Pendergraph...

Is this a product of the economic climate? Are team's using the insurance money to help ease the burden of the bottom line? Or have the Blazers just had a run of bad luck?

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, your appearance combined with all this talk of alpha males made me again think of you in comparison to Neil Strauss. Sorry.

Question: why did everyone always think Snake Plissken was dead? If you played a drinking game while watching Escape From New York and had to take a sip every time someone said "Hey Snake! I thought you were dead?" you'd never make it to the end of the movie. Someone get John Carpenter on the phone, stat.

Big C - Well played. If you'd said Kobe instead of Jordan your trolling attempt would have been too obvious. You were trolling, right? :)

Blogger Cortez said...
"Does anyone get the feeling there's a growing sentiment to shut a guy down for the entire season..."

In the "old days" I think the sentiment to get back as soon as possible was driven by the player as much as the club.

Players simply didn't make enough money to allow someone else to establish themselves as a viable solution.

Plus, medical advances have given doctors more insight to the severity of some injuries and the standard mantra of "play through the pain" can be definitively shown to be worse than previously believed.

"If you'd said Kobe instead of Jordan..."

I doubt that he was kidding. The only way that makes sense in context with the post is if Jordan had been some sort of slacker on defense.

Anonymous Adrià said...
I just want to describe one fine day in the court:
- It's sunny, but not at 40ºC
- You're playing against a team with an alpha baller.
- You laugh at the suckness of the alpha baller with your teammmates, and you play even better.
- Your team wins and makes the alpha baller go crazier.
- You dunk in the face of the alpha baller.
- You see the INCREDIBLY HOT girlfriend of the alpha baller laughing at him during the game. And looking back to smile at you when they leave the court.
- And you find yourself singing something stupid for a while.

I hope you like it :D

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Bawful, in my pick up games I have recently come across the following type of player: he will only make no look passes! Oh my god does this drive me nuts. He will never bring the ball up, pass to the right or left wing and then cut or screen. Every pass has to thread a needle or zoom right past someone's head. There is no simple post pass or swinging of the ball. I can't stand this phenomena. Please tell me you have a term for this.

Blogger RuffnReady said...
Here in Oz, I find that there are basically two types of pickup players: those that have had some coaching at some stage and thus understand that basketball involves more than shooting, and those who haven't (usually tertiary students from overseas) and who have no concept of a bad shot. Most of the available courts here are at tertiary institutions, so that means the courts are full of the latter, and I don't bother to play with them because there's no point - most possession involve 0 or 1 passes followed by a terrible shot. I play regular pickup ball with a bunch of older guys who pass, screen, cut, play D, and generally play the game as it should be played.

As for myself - I'm an alpha male who understand the negative tendencies of alphas and has pretty successfully counteracted most of them when they arise in my life. I don't think I'm an alpha baller because when I played seriously I always took on a defensive role, and playing pickup I enjoy a fine defensive play, assist, block, rebound or setting a tough screen as much as a score.

I have a question for you guys though. I'm 6'7", 230lbs, have been playing ball for nearly 20 years, and have an extremely polished low post game - basically, I can score at will against single coverage in the pickup game I play in (I'm usually covered by a guy who is 6'3" and stronger than me, but he can't stop my drop-steps and hooks to both hands). Is it then unreasonable for me to call for a fair bit of ball in the post?

What generally happens is I'll call for the ball or run pick'n'rolls a fair bit early on for easy scores, get my team a nice lead, then just go to the boards for the rest of the game. They still pass me the ball in there, so I guess the other players don't mind.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I have a word for those guys who throw only no-look passes. Dickhead.
I hate those guys. You'll be on the right block posting or cutting and the ball will go three feet past you, heading away from the basket, and they expect you to get it AND do something with it. I usually walk up to them and say "LOOK before you pass the ball, dickhead." If it doesn't help their passing it often makes them sit out the next game, which is good too.
Def a candidate for next Pickup Word.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Actually, there must be a word coming up for the guy who learned to dribble and pass while playing XBox, right? I HATE those guys.

Blogger Drake said...
I think I've mentioned this player before. I haven't played with him in just about forever, but the memory will always be in the back of my mind.

He's not really the alpha-baller that you described in the post. He doesn't yell to listen to him, nor does he have a verbal opinion of anything, really. All he does...is play "point guard". By "point guard", I mean that he's always there to receive the ball as you inbound it, and he dribbles it up the court. He has decent quickness, athleticism, and ball-handling abilities. And because he's a shorter player, it only seems natural for him to play "point guard".

But....the ball only leaves his hands during the whole possession when he shoots. Worse: he's an absolutely abysmal shooter and finisher. He can't shoot jump shots consistently to save his life. His finishing abilities are positively Ben-Wallace-esque, except Ben Wallace is tall enough to make a dunk or lay in every now and then. But whatever he chooses to do during the possession, you can be assured that no passing will be involved.

If you're his teammate, you can only hope that your team plays good enough defense to allow for his low-percentage shots to eventually add up to a win. Too bad the "point guard" is also an abysmal defender. You'd have a better chance at the state lottery than with his gambles on D, because it seems like his man is doing most of the other team's scoring.

So how do I sum up how exasperated the "point guard"'s teammates eventually become? I was once on his team, and we were both part of a 3-on-1 or 3-on-2 fast break. The "point guard" was streaking towards the hoop with the ball from the right, I was setting up in the right corner, and a trailer was coming in from behind. What does the "point guard" decide to do? He jumps into the much-taller defender and throws up a twisting no-look layup (literally - I think he was looking at me in the corner when he threw that shot up). The ball hits nothing but backboard...hard.

I'm not a talkative man, so I said nothing (although I might have given a WTF look to one of my teammates). But for the trailer, this was the last straw. Nobody likes to call another player out because you have to back it up with your own play (which is usually pretty mediocre to average). But when a play so ridiculously bad happens just like that, and when that player has been playing so ludicrously selfishly and awfully for the whole game (and several games before), there comes a time when someone has to just let it all out.



Basically, what I'm saying is that these last few paragraphs wouldn't exist if the "point guard" made close to 50% of his shots.

Blogger Michapalooza said...
I think BigC meant Jordan made more All Defensive (1st) Teams than any other player, if so, he would be correct.

Anonymous Mauweezie said...
Chris Helgeson- As a life long Blazer fan myself, your talkin' about Jeff Pendergraph..Jeff..Pendergraph! I don't think dude was gonna make the team. Blazers should be fine. As much as I wanna see them win the championship, a 1st round win will be fine with me! Im seeing 2011, as the year.

Blogger BadDave said...
Pendergraph is still getting better treatment than Dino Radja ever did.

Blogger BJ said...
Part of the gag, Mr. Yams. Like speculating on what really happened in Kansas City, Four Years Ago.
-BJ

Blogger AztecSkin said...
Reminds me of the other day at the Rec center. I hit my first two jumpers but missed the next one (rimmed out). My teammate whom I dubbed 'coach' began huffing and puffing, completely exasperated that I would dare to miss a shot.

He screamed at us "C'mon guys, just give me ONE stop, that's all I ask."

It was funny/sad/annoying. We all had a better time when he left.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I seem to be playing with a lot of guys who are a combo of A: growing up in the jordan era think that basketball involves a single star per team, and B: not good enough to know they arent the shit. I call these guys "centerpiece" players for lack of a better word (Bawfull?). Here seem to be the rules:

1) Best outcome: CP scores.
2) 2nd Best outcome: direct super flashy assist. The kind of high risk assist that either leads to an easy and IMMEDIATE score or a turnover, but nothing else.
3) 24234,3233th best outcome: easy pass to an open teamate.

You can easily recognize this players as he will be stopping the ball dead on the perimiter while yelling MOVE! MOVE! to his teamates, who are of course already open as the defenders have sagged like crazy in anticipation of the predictable drive.

the usual suspects are of course also there (driving head down into traffic and calling touch fouls no ref would call in a million years, not playing hard, or at all, unless the ball is in their hands, various sighs and complaints etc). But its the "MOVE! MOVE!" that kills me... where do these guys learn that... MOVE THE F#$#KING BALL!!!!

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