Informant KS is a 19 year-old USC freshman from San Jose, California.


Knockout is a game in which there is a line of people and players try to knock other players out until there is only one player remaining, the winner. All players line up single file behind the free throw line, and the first two players in the line each receive a basketball. The first person in line will make a shot attempt to initiate the game, and it is the goal of the second person in line to knock the first person out by making a shot before the first person does. The first person must make a shot before the second player in order to remain safe. Upon doing so, the first person passes the ball to the person behind the second player in line, and thus the second player is now in danger of being knocked out. The player who makes a shot moves to the back of the line. The process continues until only two players remain, and in some variations, the line moves further to the three-point line where each player must make a shot. In some variations of the game, after the initial shot by the first player from the three-point line, each player must make two consecutive shots, rather than one, in order to be crowned the winner. A typical technique in knockout is for one player to hit the other player’s ball far away from the net in order to allow themself more time to score a basket. In some variations, if your ball is knocked away far enough, you are automatically eliminated.


KS: “I’ve played it in a variety of contexts. Generally, when there’s people and basketballs you’ll find people playing it. I’ve played it in middle school, in high school, and at various summer camps. When I played basketball in middle school, we sometimes did that at practice as a fun game to end the practice. It’s very versatile. It’s good at bringing people together. It’s definitely a common thing that people know about, and unlike the actual game of basketball which has very clearly defined rules, knockout can really be what you make of it.”


The game of knockout benefits from its simplicity in that it is a shared practice that unites teenagers and youth from different places. As a relatively simple game, knockout is a simple and effective way to help children stay in shape and have fun during structured and unstructured play time, as KS revealed. The nature of the game is hyper-competitive and fast-paced, as two players quickly attempt to secure their own safety or knock the other person out. For a country with a capitalist, individualist, and competitive culture such as the United States, this game presumably remains popular due to its alignment with cultural values such as individual achievement and ruthless competition. The element of knocking away one’s ball while playing adds on to the practice of ruthless competition, allowing children to rehearse concepts such as competition and individualism in a social setting which will likely remain with them as they transition into competitive academic and professional environments.