How to Play Knockout

This classic basketball game can be played anywhere you have a hoop. Understand the quirks of the contest with this Knockout guide.

Free throw opportunities can be stressful. The clock may be stopped, but the pressure is definitely on. Whether you’re looking to sharpen your free throw abilities or to become a driveway court master, games like Knockout can bring some thrill to skill building. This basketball game has many names – Knockout, Bump Out, Lightning – but only one goal: outlast your competition. Learn to be a true knockout on the court with the help of this Pro Tips guide.


Gym, driveway or black top, you can play Knockout pretty much anywhere – here’s what you need in your line-up:

  • One hoop – All players in Knockout shoot at the same target, so only one hoop is necessary. This makes Knockout a neighborhood-friendly game and allows coaches to run multiple drills in the gym.
  • Two basketballs – Two players shoot at the same time in Knockout. Therefore, the game requires two basketballs. Check that your basketballs are court appropriate with the Pro Tips complete guide to basketballs.
  • Two or more players – Part of what makes Knockout stand out from other free throw practice drills is that it is a group activity. While the game only needs two players, having more participants allows for longer and more challenging play. You’ll never get a foul for having too many players on the court in this game.


Knockout begins with all participants gathering single file behind the foul line. If playing on a surface without court markings, choose a starting position and distance that resembles a free throw.

The first two players in line will each take a basketball at the start of play. However, the game is also known as ‘Lightning’ for a reason – it moves very fast. If you are not one of the first two players, be sure to pay attention and know when it’s your turn to shoot.

Play is officially in action once Player One takes a free throw. If they score on the initial shot, they are safe for the round. In the event there are only two participants, they will retrieve the ball and return to the starting position. If there are more than two participants, Player One will rebound and pass the ball to the next player in line.

However, if Player One misses their opening shot, they must rebound the ball and continue shooting from the court. This can be from wherever they rebound the ball. Players can also dribble the ball to a position of their choosing to shoot from.

Meanwhile, Player Two should take their foul shot from the starting line immediately after Player One. Player Two will follow the same procedure as Player One, but with a key difference. If they score before Player One does, they eliminate Player One from the game. This process continues until only one player remains.


Whether playing for fun or are looking for an intense practice drill, you can modify Knockout’s gameplay in various ways.

  • Add some knocking – You can add a provision to the game that allows players to use their basketball to block away their opponent’s shots.
  • Increase the difficulty – The quick nature of Knockout already poses a tough test. But you can add extra challenges by moving back the starting line after each round. You can also require all subsequent shots from the initial free throw to be layups.
  • Buzzer beater – Rather than having participants compete against each other, they can compete against the clock. In this version of the game, you will choose a set amount of time. Similar to dodgeball, players can reenter the competition once the person who knocked them out is eliminated.


Success in Knockout can help lead to success in big game moments. Having a strong free throw is key for both. Here are a few tips to help you improve:

  • Proper stance – Make sure to square your body to the basket with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes one to two inches behind the foul line. Generally, there is a small circle at the center of the free throw line. If you are left-handed, line up your left foot with the circle and vice versa for right-handed shooters.
  • Watch your elbows – Swinging elbows can not only lead to a foul in action, but they can hinder you at the line, too. Try to keep your elbows close to your body while making your shot in order to increase leverage and accuracy.
  • Grip – With your shooting hand, line your fingertips parallel to the seams of the ball. Spread your fingers so you can comfortably balance the ball on one hand. Your non-shooting hand should lightly rest on the side of the ball. Remember, when you are shooting, this hand should always come off the ball first.
  • Backspin – Having strong backspin off your shot can help the ball hit the backboard and fall into the basket. To increase backspin, make sure the ball is rolling off your fingers and not your palms while shooting.
  • Momentum is key – To help avoid air balls, be mindful of your body position when releasing the shot. As you bend your knees and push up, be sure to release the ball at your peak. Releasing the ball before or after can cause it to have less force.

Looking for more basketball games you can play at home? Check out our guide on how to play HORSE.