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Basketball PE Games: 6 Versatile Lead Up Games to Boost Physical Education Engagement

When teaching basketball to students, it is important to keep them active and engaged. One way to do this is by using lead-up games. These games are a fun way to get the class excited about playing basketball and help them learn and practice the skills needed for the sport. Lead-up games for basketball help to break up the monotony of traditional PE class practice-style or station-style activities and get the students moving and thinking in game situations.

In this blog post, you will learn about the importance of incorporating lead-up games when teaching basketball lessons in a PE setting. I'll go through the advantages of employing them in PE classes, and I will present six different basketball games that may be readily incorporated into your PE classes.

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Need some basketball activity stations for your PE class? Cap'n Pete's PE Basketball Stations- 20 Fast Break Zones are ideal for a physical education teacher to teach manipulative skills such as dribbling, passing, rebounding and shooting and developing movement skills such as dodging and running without a ball? You can find the 20 activity set here on Cap'n Pete's website or on TPT


Why incorporate basketball lead-up games?

A good approach to teaching fundamental basketball skills is to use a practice-style format or stations to work on basketball skills. However, at some point, the students must apply what they've learned in a fun basketball game-like situation. Traditional basketball games are usually limited to small groups of players, but by implementing lead-up games, you may increase the number of participants in a single game or split your students into smaller groups to play at the same time.

Basketball lead-up games are designed to help players improve their basketball skills. Pics from from Stephanie Newcomb @ILoveMyLabs4

They are usually played in larger groups and typically involve specific skills and strategies necessary for basketball. These activities can be engaging, active, and fun.

Games that work on dribbling, ball control, passing, and shooting are all great basketball lead-up games.

These games are valuable for physical education classes because they get students active and engaged in a basketball-specific activity. Not only this, but basketball lead-up games for PE are essential for developing positive personal and social traits such as teamwork, communication, and cooperation. By playing these games, students will also be better prepared for traditional basketball games.

In addition, the highlighted PE games in this blog article directly correlate with SHAPE America Standard 2 which states: Applies knowledge related to movement and fitness concepts.

SHAPE America Standard 2- Applies Knowledge of Concepts and Strategies

National Physical Education Standards are used under license from SHAPE America.

Tips for incorporating basketball lead-up games into your classes

  • Before beginning the game, make sure everyone understands the rules, regulations and boundaries for the game

  • Have select students demonstrate before you begin

  • Encourage students to be active, play fair, and have fun

  • Discuss basketball terms early in the basketball unit

Basketball Terms

  • Make sure students have enough room to maneuver safely in their playing area

  • Stop the game from time to time to redirect behavior or provide resting periods

  • Have an ending discussion to highlight successes and discuss things to work on for next class

  • Discuss and practice basketball skills earlier in the unit

Basketball Skills


Need some basketball games for your PE class? Cap'n Pete's PE Basketball Games- 25 “Slam Dunk” Basketball Activities are perfect for bringing your class to the next level? You can find the set here on Cap'n Pete's website or on TPT


Basketball Lead-Up Games

Now that we understand how important basketball lead-up games are and have some tips on incorporating them, let's look at six different games you can use in your basketball units.


1. Basketball Flag Tag


  • Students dribble a basketball inside of a court, using the proper techniques and control. The objective is to try and steal other students' flags while avoiding having their flags stolen. Skill Focus: Dribbling


  • One basketball or playground ball per student playing

  • One flag belt & 2 flags per student playing (juggling scarves in pockets works as an alternative)

  • gym lines for boundaries

  • multiple basketball goals

Game Instructions and Rules

Students put on belts and flags and start inside a designated playing area.

  • On a signal (preferably music), students dribble the basketball in various directions inside the boundaries of the playing area (a basketball court or other gym lines)

  • While players are dribbling, they are to look up and attempt to ‘pull” any of the other player’s flags They can pull it from either hip. When the flag is pulled, they throw it on the gym floor at the spot that they stole it

Basketball Games- Basketball Flag Tag

  • If a dribbler’s flag is pulled, he/she must pick up their flag and go outside the boundaries and perform an exercise (i.e., push-ups, curl-ups, jumping jacks) or a ball handling skill (i.e., figure 8’s, around the back, toss and catch, etc.) and then they must make a successful shot at any basket in the gym

  • Once they have finished their exercise or ball handling skill, and successfully made a shot, they may return to the court and attempt to pull other’s flag

  • Players must maintain control of the ball at all times and use a legal dribbling form

Dribble Tag and Basketball Relays Video from Stephanie Newcomb @ILoveMyLabs4


2. Pac-Man Dribble


  • Students dribble their own basketball on gym lines attempting to keep control of the ball and avoid getting trapped (or tagged) by a dribbling “Pac man” or “Ms. Pac Man” Skill Focus: Dribbling


  • One color basketball or playground ball for 80% of the students (players)

  • A different color basketball or playground ball for 20% of the students (Pac-Men)

  • Scrimmage vests can be used as an alternative

  • Gym Lines

Game Instructions and Rules

Regular players and Pac-Men and Ms. Pac-Men start the game on any gym line.

  • On a signal (preferably music), students dribble the ball in various directions but must stay on a line (80% of students have a certain color B-ball- others are Pac-Men and Ms. Pac-Men)

  • Pac-Men and Ms. Pac-Men are also dribbling, and they attempt to capture or trap the regular dribblers as they dribble the lines

  • The dribblers move around the lines continuously dribbling and trying to avoid the Pac Men. The dribblers may not hold, catch, or stop dribbling their ball

Basketball Games- Pac-Man Dribble

  • Players must maintain control of their ball at all times while they are dribbling

  • If a dribbler gets trapped by the Pac men, they must exit the playing area and perform a teacher-designated exercise such as push-ups, jumping jacks or curl-ups before they return

  • Change Pac Men and Ms. Pac-Men for the next game


3. Basketball Golf


  • Players attempt to shoot the “lowest scores” in rounds (holes) of golf-style basketball games Skill Focus: Shooting


  • One basketball per group

  • One basketball hoop per 2 groups of students (2 - 5 in each group)

  • Free throw line set at an age-appropriate distance

Game Instructions and Rules

Students break out into groups of 2 to 5 players at various basketball goals and decide upon a shooting order.

  • The line starts at the free-throw line. Player #1 starts by shooting from the free-throw line. If they make the shot, 1 point is awarded, and they go to the back of the line. If they miss, they get the rebound and must shoot from exactly where they picked up the ball (no rolling the ball closer to the hoop)

  • The shooter keeps shooting and rebounding until the shot is made and his score for that round is the number of shots it took him to score... so if it took them four shots, their score is 4. Important- Limit the number of shots... i.e., 5 - if a player misses 5 times, he/she gets a score of 6 and is finished for that round

Basketball Games- Basketball Golf

  • If the ball bounces out-of-bounds, behind the basket, or somewhere where it's impossible to score, the player can either shoot it there or take an additional "penalty shot" and shoot from the free-throw line

  • The next person in line repeats the process

  • Each player takes his turn and records their score. A game ends after 9 or 18 holes as in golf with the lowest score being the winner


Check out my other PE basketball article that looks at skill stations for physical education: 


4. Spaceship Passing


  • Players (Astronauts) attempt to pass around a basketball from mat to mat, trying to avoid having the ball stolen from an alien player. Skill Focus: Passing


  • 1 or 2 basketballs per group (full or half court)

  • 3 or 4 mats per group

  • 4 cones can make a square as an alternative if there no mats are available)

Game Instructions and Rules

Students break out into groups of 2 to 5 players at various basketball goals and decide upon a shooting order.

  • Each Mat (or 4 coned area) is a “spaceship” and has two astronauts aboard it. Each spaceship will be facing another spaceship

  • The astronauts/players must pass two secret NASA files (basketballs) from ship to ship without having the files stolen by aliens

  • Players (Astronauts) use fakes, chest passes, bounce passes, and overhead passes to pass the NASA files

Basketball Games- Spaceship Passing

  • Three students will stand in the middle of the spaceships (in outer space- gym floor) to act as “aliens” and they attempt to steal the “data files” before they can make it to another spaceship

  • If an alien can steal the basketball (files), they quickly switch spots with the astronaut on the spaceship who made the pass

  • The Astronauts may pass to any of the other spaceships during the game

Spaceship Passing Video from Coach Kem @TheCoach_K


5. Knock it Off


Small teams (two teams of 4 to 6 players) work together to dribble and pass just a basketball down the court, aiming to eventually knock a small ball off a cone using either a bounce or chest pass.

Skill Focus: Dribbling and Passing


  • One basketball/playground ball per group

  • Scrimmage vests for each team

  • Two large cones (behind each teams line)

  • Two hula hoops

  • Two whiffle/foam tennis balls

  • Cones or court line boundaries

Game Instructions and Rules

Students break out into groups of 4 to 6 players and play in segmented playing areas inside the gym or outside on a blacktop area.

  • After rock, paper, scissors the ball goes to one team to begin the game in their own end zone.

  • The first team begins by dribbling and passing the ball up the court attempting to get to the other team's side of the court

  • Regular basketball rules apply however, defenders may not steal/swipe the ball out of an opponent’s hand. They raise their arms to block passes and trap the players so that they have to make a pass or shot within 3 seconds. You can use student referees to make a 3-second count

Basketball Games- Knock it Off

  • There is no contact in the game

  • Players score by using basketball-type passes (i.e., chest, bounce, baseball, or overhead) to knock a small ball off the top of a large cone (on their opponent's end of the court). The cone is inside a hula hoop and no one can step inside the hoop

  • 3 passes must be made by a shooting team before they can attempt to throw it at the cone


6. Five Alive


The objective of the game is for teams to dribble and pass a basketball around a designated court, making 5 consecutive passes before either having the other team intercept the ball or losing possession. Skill Focus: Dribbling and Passing


  • Four cones or lines to mark off a playing area

  • One basketball per small group (own ball)

  • Scrimmage vests to designate teams

Game Instructions and Rules

Students break out into groups of 4 to 6 players and play in small courts in the gym or outside on a blacktop area. A court should be approximately 30 feet by 30 feet to 50 by 50 feet and marked using cones or lines. Multiple games are taking place around the gym/blacktop at one time.

  • One team begins with the ball and attempts to dribble and move around the court and make 5 consecutive, connecting passes (that are not dropped or intercepted)

  • The other team plays defense and attempts to intercept or bat the ball down when it is in the air. There is no contact in the game

  • If 5 consecutive passes and “complete” catches are made by the offensive team, they score 1 point, and the ball then goes to the other team and their roles reverse- Offense becomes defense and defense becomes offense

Basketball Games- Five Alive

  • If the ball is dropped, knocked down, or intercepted, the defensive team becomes the offense and the game resumes from that point

  • Games go for a set time or until a team scores “10 points” first


Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve read about six fun basketball lead-up games, it’s time to get your class active and engaged. These games are not only fun, but they also help improve students' ball control, dribbling, passing, and shooting skills. Make sure students have the proper equipment and know the rules before starting each game. As you monitor each group, encourage collaboration and sportsmanship while providing corrective and encouraging comments.

Be sure to mix up the games every once in a while so that students don’t get bored. And, most importantly, have fun! With a little bit of planning, you can easily incorporate these games into your physical education class and provide your students with an enjoyable basketball experience.


Need some volleyball information, stations, and games for physical education classes? Click the links below for 2 articles that will help you plan your PE lessons: 



Need some FREE physical education games?

Do you need some FUN games for your physical education program that include detailed instructions and play diagrams? Cap'n Pete's Power PE has you covered!

Fill in the form below to download the FREE Physical Education Games Packet- 18 Game Set to use in your PE program! Inside this package are 18 fun and exciting PE games for students, designed for a wide range of ages.

This set is a PDF digital download that includes selected games (3 from each) from the following sets from Cap’n Pete’s PE Games Super Bundle.

1. PE Base Games, 2. PE Basketball Games, 3. PE Soccer Games, 4. PE Volleyball/Net Games, 5. PE Disc Games, and 6. PE Small Group Multi-skill Games


150 PE Games

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PE Games: Super Bundle- Basketball, Soccer, Net, Disc, Base & Small Group Games.

This Super Bundle includes 150 games from 6 PE game sets that originate from the following resources: PE Base Games, PE Basketball Games, PE Soccer Games, PE Volleyball and Net Games, PE Disc Games, and PE Small Group Multi-Skill Games. Each set has 25 top-rated games that can be used by PE and classroom teachers to teach skills and keep students HAPPY and ACTIVE!!!

You can download them from either of the following platforms: Cap'n Pete's Power PE Website or Teachers Pay Teachers- Cap'n Pete's TPT Store




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