Why Do Basketball Players Slap Each Other’s Butts?

If you’re a basketball player, butt slaps may be a normal thing to see. But for those that don’t know the sport, it may come across as weird.

So, why exactly do they do this?

Basketball players slap each other’s butts as a sign of respect, to tell a person that he did a good job, to motivate or as a playful taunt. It has become a tradition now, but there are unwritten rules surrounding it.

Dive into the colorful world of butt slaps below, so you won’t find it weird the next time you see it.

What is a Butt Slap?

A butt slap is the act of lightly tapping another player’s behind as a sign of respect. It’s usually done to convey motivation or to say that a player did a ‘good job.

There’s no recorded story of when the butt slap was first used or who did it. But it became a tradition in basketball and other sports like American football, football, volleyball, and baseball.

Why do Basketball Players Slap Each Other’s Butts?

In basketball, you’ll see player slapping each other’s butts as often as they dribble. But why exactly are they doing it? What are they trying to say?

Depending on the context and relationship of the two people, they could have different meanings such as:

1. As a sign of respect

The most neutral reason for a butt slap is as a sign of respect. Coaches can do it to players, or players do it to their teammates.

Whatever the case, you can interpret it as a sign of respect. Athletes usually do this as they enter a game or as they go back into a game after a timeout.

2. To convey the words “good job”

Another popular reason why basketball players slap butts is to say that a player did a good job.

For instance, a player may score a tough and one layup, and he falls to the ground. As he’s helped by his teammates back up, they give him a slight slap to the butt to say that he did great.

A coach can also do this as a player returns to the bench for a substitution. It’s his way of saying that the player has done a great job so far, but he needs to rest now.

3. To motivate

When a player slaps the butt of a teammate after a motivating speech from a coach, it’s meant as motivation.

Sometimes, players don’t just need words to be motivated. A butt slap is perfect as it conveys someone’s feelings strongly without the need for words. A gentle but firm slap on the butt can tell someone that he needs to just “go at it.”

It’s also done sometimes when a player gets frustrated with a teammate or misses a game-winning shot. It’s to motivate the player to do better next time.

4. As a playful taunt

We’ve covered the reasons for butt slaps between teammates, but how about when they do it to their opponents?

Usually, players can also butt slap opponents after a play or a game as a sign of respect and sportsmanship. But when the game is not over and the tension is high, a butt slap to an opponent can be a taunt.

Coaches sometimes also butt slaps referees as if to sarcastically say “good job”. In reality, they’re not happy with the call that the referee made.

In the end, the meaning all depends on the time, place and relationship between people who do the butt slap.

The Implicit Rules on Butt Slaps

Butt slaps are a simple tradition that has been done for decades in many sports. But even as a tradition, there are unwritten rules that surround it. If these aren’t followed, all hell may break loose.

So, if you don’t want to witness an awkward butt slap, here are the rules:

1. No squeezing

A butt slap should be an equivalent of a handshake or a head slap but on the butt. So, if you’re squeezing it, you’re doing it wrong.

Not to mention, the recipient of the slap may find it extremely weird and sexual. Unless you don’t want to be accused of sexual harassment, don’t squeeze.

2. No butt slapping to the opposite sex

As much as we like to do it with everyone, don’t do it with the opposite sex. This is especially true for men.

No matter how much you rack your brain thinking about it, there’s no way you’ll come out of this unscathed.

Instead, you can do a high five or a gentle head or back slap.

3. Don’t look at the butt

If you noticed, butt slaps are done without looking at the butt for a reason. This is to ensure that there are no weird feelings attached to it.

You can peek for a slight second to ensure you’re targeting the correct area. But don’t stare at it while you’re slapping someone’s behind.

4. There’s a time and place for it

Butt slaps are generally done in a game. But there’s a correct time and place for it as well.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to do it in the showers where everyone is naked. Or you don’t want to be the last one to do it after others have done it a thousand times already.

5. Don’t go too hard too often

There’s a Key and Peele sketch titled “Slap-Ass” which pokes fun at this tradition. It features a slap-ass-addict Peele as a member of the baseball team who does it too hard too often. In short, it’s everything you don’t want to do in a butt slap.

Just a slight tap to the butt is fine, and don’t do it too much. Try to switch it up occasionally to avoid suspicions that you might be addicted to it (just kidding).

Alternatives to Butt Slaps

Sometimes you don’t want to do butt slaps such as to the opposite sex. Or when you just want to switch it up.

During these times, you can use these instead:

  • Head taps/patting heads
  • Back slaps
  • High fives
  • Handshakes
  • Fist bumps
  • Chest bumps
  • Just say good job

Final Thoughts

There are many ways basketball players show respect and sportsmanship to one another and butt slaps are just one of them. It can mean different things depending on the context and relationship of the two people.

But as a tradition, it will likely remain for a long time, not just in basketball but in many sports.

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