What is a Ball Hog?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

There are a number of team sports, such as basketball or football, which rely heavily on true team play, as opposed to a few players working as individual scorers. A player who routinely seeks out sole possession of the game ball, even to the exclusion of other teammates, is known in the sports world as a ball hog, and it is not unusual for coaches or other players to use that description whenever it applies.

A football player who actively seeks to get sole possession of the ball might be considered a ball hog.
A football player who actively seeks to get sole possession of the ball might be considered a ball hog.

A ball hog may be an exceptionally talented player, but when playing team sports the emphasis tends to be on the execution of a carefully planned play, not the glorification of a single player. An ambitious player may choose to be a ball hog because he or she doesn't trust other teammates to execute their part of the play, or else believe the best way to score is to take control and work independently.

Ball hogs can be common in basketball if one player refuses to pass to the other players on the team.
Ball hogs can be common in basketball if one player refuses to pass to the other players on the team.

Many coaches and trainers work diligently during practice to break a ball hog of the habit, but some players may not even be aware of their ball hogging tendencies. A ball hog tends to prefer offensive positions with more opportunities to score points, so he or she may feel entitled to maintain control over the ball even when a passing opportunity presents itself. It can be very difficult for a ball hog to give up possession of the ball unless there are few other options.

There are times when being a ball hog can hurt the entire team's ability to defend itself or get into a scoring position. The opposing team often targets the players who seem to handle the ball most often, so a ball hog essentially draws a target on his or her uniform while selfishly holding onto the ball. A ball hog during a basketball game, for instance, might miss an opportunity to pass to an open player for an easy score. Instead, he or she may find themselves trapped between two defenders with no opportunity to shoot.

Being an unrepentant ball hog can also hurt the team's overall morale, as other players soon learn it is futile to expect an aggressive player to ever pass the ball or allow other teammates to make a scoring play. A ball hog may rack up impressive individual scoring numbers during a season, but this type of personal success does not always sit well with coaches, teammates and fans.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


I think one of the main reasons college basketball is more popular in the U.S. than professional basketball is because pro ball is filled with ball hogs. I don't want to see one player doing all the shooting and his teammates just standing around. Pro basketball sets a bad example for kids, and doesn't teach them the real meaning of teamwork.


@Drentel - I agree that professional players who play in the NBA are playing by a different set of rules, so they are often forced to hog the ball. NBA players have a shot clock that forces them to shoot the ball quickly, so there is not as much time for passing around the ball and making sure every player gets a chance to touch it on every possession.


The term ball hog should be reserved for playground games or amateur basketball games. The NBA is built on the principle that the best players get the ball so they can score. You may call it being a ball hog when a guy shoots a lot and scores most of his team's points, but that is the way the team is set up.

If you are an NBA fan then you know that certain players are going to shoot the ball because that's what they are paid to do. Everybody has a role, and the role of the star player is to handle and shoot the ball. You can call it being a ball hog if you want, but I prefer to call it a player doing his job and helping his team win.

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