I was just wondering what kind of rule changes court layout etc would happen to have a 'basketball' game in a zero-g arena? I'm assuming the most likely thing to stay is a ball and 2 opposing baskets.

I was wondering what kinds of recreation and entertainment would happen if people had lots of easy access to zero-g. Mostly I was thinking about any sport with a ball. Soccer would have been just as good a sport to select. I was just thinking about the logistics and what considerations would be needed to 'convert' the game.

  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting question...the more I think of it, the more I come to see that whatever resulting game comes from 'zero-g basketball', it'll be unique enough to be it's own sport separate from basketball. Somehow, it seems like it would loose the fast pace nature of basketball for something more precise, yet far slower. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Oct 3, 2014 at 17:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ yep, most likely it would not really resemble basketball $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Oct 3, 2014 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question but how is this related to world-building? Can you elaborate? $\endgroup$
    – James
    Oct 3, 2014 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ @James I was thinking about recreation and entertainment in a society that is living in space, what kind of sports would they have etc. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Oct 3, 2014 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Kinda sounds like Blitzball from Final Fantasy X $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Mindor
    Oct 3, 2014 at 22:40

4 Answers 4


There are a number of problems with zero-gravity basketball, so I will break down the problems and look at each one.

The Court

You would need a three-dimensional court, there are a number of shapes it could take but some form of cylinder or spheroid with goals at each end seems most likely. Viewing would be a problem but that could be solved by making the court out of a transparent medium and having the audience surrounding the court in all three dimensions.


Dribbling would essentially be impossible. Any attempt to bounce the ball would send you flying away from it and "one step" could be a very long distance. A lot of alternative rules could be put in place though, such as requiring players to pass after each time they touch a wall.


Passing would be made more complicated by three dimensions but essentially would work as it does now. The main thing to remember is conservation of momentum which means that both throwing and catching the ball would change your path - something that could be used tactically.


Blocking would be tricky as team members have limited maneuvering ability once they push off the sides (unless you give them jetpacks!) and it would be very easy for them to collide. In fact, padded armour might well be standard.


The baskets themselves would need to change, but something similar to their current function could be kept. For example, requiring shots to be made from a minimum distance away, you could also place a box and a hoop inside the box, requiring people to bounce the ball into it at the correct angle.

  • $\begingroup$ "throwing and catching the ball would change your path" -- and probably also your rotation. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2014 at 18:57

I would say it would evolve into soccer (football, for non-Americans).


The reason it is difficult to defend the goal in basketball is "it's way up there". It's impossible to simply plant yourself in front of the goal. Soccer goalies plant themselves in front of the goal, but their difficulty is that the goal is big. In 3d, zero-gravity, a basketball player can easily plant herself in front of the goal, so the game would have to have a larger goal to make it continue to be interesting.

As someone else pointed out, you can't dribble in zero-gravity, and you can't measure steps the same way you can in basketball. The most obvious way to keep the ball in play would be to rule out holding the ball at all. Hence, kicking. Ergo: soccer.

As others pointed out, you'd make the walls of the arena out of transparent aluminum and the audience would watch from all around, outside. You'd need some sort of technology to allow the players to anchor their hands/feet to the walls and probably also to attract them back to walls.

I'd recommend a spherical arena as that would lead to interesting bank shots. Maybe ovoid, to stretch out the play area. Prolate obloid would also lead to better bank shots than a sphere. Maybe even attenuate the ends of the ovoid so the goals are close to the foci of the ovoid.

I think this sounds like it would be an awesome sport to watch. Players doing spinning kicks that send their bodies recoiling back would look awesome.

Assuming they don't kill each other. Keeping track of other people in 3d is a lot harder than in 2d, and if neither player is touching a wall, it would be difficult to avoid a collision once you were both launched. Maybe players would wear belts/suits that would automatically detect/mitigate collisions.

Some sort of flight suit would allow for more interesting play. Having players stranded out in the middle of the arena, trying to swim through the air would be silly, but ultimately boring. You'd want the players to focus on pushing off walls (each other?) to get speed, but some ability to correct path/avoid serious injury would be good.

  • $\begingroup$ Another good answer! $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Oct 6, 2014 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ It's a team game. If someone gets stranded a team mate can rescue them, in fact working together to launch people around could be a big part of the sport... $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Oct 6, 2014 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ If anyone played FFX, Blitzball was a mini-game. Essentially it was soccer mixed with water polo played in a sphere of water. Remove the water, add zero-g and you've got a game. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Oct 6, 2014 at 17:53

Firstly there would be no floor/walls as there's no down. Instead players would be able to bounce off all six surfaces, as noted by a reader running along a wall would be very difficult (as there's nothing to push against). Typically players would bounce from one side of the court to the other.

Second I suspect there would be no hoops (because there's no gravity to pull the ball down through them), shooting would become very difficult. I suspect the "hoops" would be changed to be targets which players would aim at. As defenders could float in front of these targets the ease of shooting would be roughly countered by the ease of defence.

Bouncing the ball may be a little more involved as there's no gravity to pull the ball downwards. However I don't believe there would be as many changes as we may think, a Basket Ball player already needs to apply force to the ball to force it to rebound to their hand. I suspect simply changing the elasticity of the ball would overcome this problem. Obviously bouncing off the walls and ceiling would be allowed!

Spectators would be seated outside the court behind glass walls/floors (or perhaps the court itself is a glass box?).

I suspect the court and perhaps team sizes would be slightly smaller. As the game would be played in three dimensions there will a lot more space to cover, making the court smaller would concentrate the action (and leave less time watching helplessly drifting players).

Tickets to view games would include travel and would be more expensive!


Only because it is an alternative to Liath's good answer:

You could make a game which looks more like basket ball by having the "ground" be covered in velcro like material as well as one's shoes. The walls and ceiling could be hard so as to not dampen bouncing off them if one does not want an "out of bounds". A basket ball can still bounce off velcro on a hard surface but it does dampen it a little (and current velcro would wear out). This is a good thing as you want the player to actively dribble it.

The hoop would be alot harder to get the ball through from the ground. Either the players can jump to the wall and ceiling (but not stay there), the ball can bounce off the ceiling (and probably the walls), or you can score by putting the ball from another angle.

While the space ball game with no "down" would be very fun (moreso than basketball or the game I am proposing) this would look more like basketball.


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