nugatory: ˈnugəˌtori, adj.
1. of no real value; trifling; worthless. 2. of no force or effect; ineffective; futile; vain. 3. not valid.

Ever played pick-up ball with someone so bad that they might as well not even be there at all? Like, empty air would be a more effective teammate? Well I have, and that sack of crap is the inspiration for today's pick-up ball Word Of The Day: Nugatory. I like this word because it's a real word (according to, anyway)...and even though it hints at nougat - a sugary confectionary in many tasty treats - there is nothing tasty about what a nugatory player brings to the table (why do I feel like Dane Cook when I write that?).

Now Bawful may have already created a word for this yutz, but fortunately I'm too lazy to do even the most rudimentary of research to check. I am also taking submissions for a better word, since a term meaning "worthless" is not necessarily appropriate for this guy, since he's probably less than worthless..."Negative Man" is a possibility, but doesn't dance off the vocal chords like "nugatory"...

If you wish to duplicate the feeling of playing with Nugatory Guy on your team, go to an oft-used public bathroom stall, arrange a perfect oval of toilet paper on the seat to protect your bottom from germs, and poop out something of such length and diameter as to generate a geyser-like splash of toilet water straight up to your bunghole.

Nugatory Guy is awful for so many reasons:

He comes late to pick-up ball, so after you've established teams and a rhythm, he's pops in to ruin the mix. Inevitably, he will be the ninth to arrive (thereby screwing up a game of 4-on-4), the eleventh to arrive (thereby ruining a game of 5-on-5), or the thirteenth to arrive (thereby destroying a perfectly sound game of 5-on-5 with one sub per team, usually necessitating the need to create a third team, with losers shooting for the next game). And even on the rarest of days when he's the 8th or 10th guy, people are only moderately happy with his arrival, because he will be...

...a detriment of such enormous proportions to the team on which he plays that no matter how many giant, athletic dudes you put on his team, he will drag it into failure by not playing defense, nor help defense, nor offense, nor rebounding, nor setting picks, nor boxing out. He also makes a habit of yelling loud, distracting things when opposing players shoot in an effort to "scream defense" a miss.

In my league with Basketbawful, we have a Nugatory Guy - a dude of such singular awfulness that he makes even the bad players look pretty darned good. Having overcome a near-death illness, this plodding, still-debilitated fellow now tries to play in our league. His efforts, I suppose, are inspirational - for a movie at least, but not for the guys who must play with him. Bawful and I have both become so frustrated by playing with this guy that we are trying to come up with strategies to make his awfulness less of a problem:

1.) Switch him from one team to the other throughout the night, thereby spreading his awfulness around.

2.) Tell him not to return to the court even when he is supposed to be subbing back into a game (I've done this - telling him to just "keep sitting there" - that's Evil Ted at his best).

3.) Beat one of the mediocre players half to death at the beginning of the night, and have them match up with him.

4.) Play 4-on-3 or 5-on-4 and just let him guard air, and thusly allow air to guard him.

5.) Go to his house beforehand and cut wires in his car's engine to ensure he doesn't make it to ball that night.

6.) Perform an intervention, confronting Nugatory about why he still comes and torments us with his presence.

A rare photo of a basketball intervention

If you have any further suggestions about what else Bawful and I might do, or even have any upgrades to the word "nugatory," go for it. This post will grow and change with good suggestions.

UPDATE: Yams comes through big time with the term "Minus Man." I love this almost as much as RHL's "Anti-player," which makes me think of anti-matter or the anti-Christ, and we all know how funny the anti-Christ is. Both are strong contenders to Supplant "Nugatory," which I felt was really just a place holder until the devoted came through. So far, well done.

UPDATE 2: Wormboy has suggested "Neutron" and "Captain Entropy / Entropic player." Not bad...a little science lab, but not bad. Also from the beaker and test tube crowd comes "E" or "Electron," (the player "exhibits a negative charge on whatever they come into contact with"). Bravo. Caseta brings "The main attraction"...perhaps, if you want to get your popcorn and be amused from the sideline, then this one makes sense. Tony sports "anti-game" which is close enough to anti-player to damage both entries in the Oscar voting.

If anyone knows of some sort of blog-friendly macro we can use to vote for the best name, let me know. That would be wicked.

- Evil Ted

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Blogger Clifton said...
I'm sure Mr. Nugatory also complains -- loudly, and on the verge of tears -- when you don't get him the ball. See, to be "nugatory," in my opinion you not only have to be terrible, but you also have to think that you're Jordan. Someone who is awful but knows they're awful is fairly harmless... sort of like someone who's stupid but is conscious of the fact that they're stupid, so they leave all the important decisions up to everyone else.

Blogger Drake said...
If another guy comes by when we're playing 5-on-5, he's got 'next'. Maybe you're used to two teams playing each other only for hours on end, but not me.

Most of the time, there would be a ton of people waiting around the courts - if you got to play, you played to win because it's gonna be a long time before you get to play again if you lose.

And if that extra guy was 'nugatory', you would make sure your team wins so you don't have to play with that guy.

Blogger Lord Kerrance said...
MMM. Pickup basketball posts. High in goodness.

I think a distinction needs to be made between the nougatory jerkfaces (i.e. those that play scream defense) and good guys who, for whatever reason, just can't play the game. We have guy with only one hand who's super nice and hustles, but is obviously limited in what he can do. he never complains and always tries, so it's cool.

We also have a guy who yells, screams, never plays D, and shoots more than McHale (with a stroke that looks like a dead snake sliding downhill on ice). He is nougatory.

Blogger XForce23 said...
Having a guy like that on your team hurts way more on defense, at least from my experience. It is rare to have a full team of capable scorers in a pick-up game so you are used to having people that just take up space and are there to pass to in case you get into trouble. Unless they are the type that just manages to cough up the ball every time they touch it; then it becomes a real issue.

Having a guy like that on the opposite team though is an interesting situation. Sometimes if I happen to be guarding him, I just completely leave him and just drift around helping on-ball defense. I am explicitly implying that he blows and that he's not a threat, but so many times they put up an ugly looking shot that doesn't look like it has a prayer and it goes in.

Blogger Trev said...
Invite a girl/woman player and have them guard each other, the nugatory will be embarrassed by being out played by a girl and cease coming to pickup games. Hopefully.

If that fails every time the nugatory gets the ball and attempts to drive the lane pull the old McHale/Rambis clothesline move on him. Hell forget driving the lane pull the McHale/Rambis move on him as soon as he gets out of his car, goes to sub in/out, and/or as he goes to the water fountain for a drink. I think he may get the point after that.

Bonus points if you wear an authentic McHale jersey or hideous sweater while doing this and yelling things like "I drafted Rasho Nesterovič!!" or "I traded away Ray Allen, Brandon Roy, Kevin Garnett and OJ Mayo and still have a job!!"

Blogger Unknown said...
We play basketball games at work on wednesdays. There are a couple of guys there who could qualify as nugatory. They even have the nerve to call you out on supposedly bad plays when they themselves have been craptastic throughout the game.

At one time, I had two of those guys on my team. Other team shoots, I rebound, push the ball upcourt with a couple of dribbles. Then I see one nuggy running the left lane, he looks at me and in a reflex I pick up the dribble and pass the ball to him for the easy layup ( which he could not really make but I always pretend that he will, just for mental sanity ).
However, as I pass, he looks away and sprints cross-court ( thereby making himself unavailable ) and so the ball goes out.
He has made the crucial mistake of taking your eyes off the ball when on offense. And even if you do make this mistake sometimes, you wouldn't dare doing this in a fast-break.
So, I say to myself 'always watch the ball, always watch the ball' ( in english because we have an international crowd ).
The other nuggy overhears me, and says to me 'ah no, you should be paying attention.'

Trying and succeeding to keep calm in such a situation is the one quality you learn from playing with a nugatory teammate.

Blogger Wild Yams said...

Blogger RHL said...
We play Pickup Ultimate Frisbee.. (7 on 7) and the guy just like you describe we just called "Anti-player". You could take the 6 BY FAR best players, and put them with him.. and it didn't matter.. you lost every game. It made no sense that one person could suck that much.. but he did.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the Belgium Waffle once again. Guess what? Luke Walton starts for the Lakers and so do I with my team.
Now about the nugatory player: I have one in my team and like you said, he makes me look good!! And especially because we have the same position so at trainings coach is proud of me because I have good defense and OK-offense(better than Klahma City Thunder) but like I told you, once in a game (and against beter players) I suck!

One thing I tried with him once was when he was on my team, I tried motivating him and one way or another he started boxing out(not that it was good but at least he tried...) so I guess that could help, try to motivate him.

Wow I sound like Opera or Dr Phil or whatever show your female counterparts watch!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Term we use in oz for slang such as this is 'Nonj'

As in he/that/its a Nonja.. Non Factor.. not even worth saying Not worth anything, not worthy.. no good.. Nonj

Blogger Dunpizzle said...
Perfectly describes the playoff version of Luther Head.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
Clifton - Nugatory's horrible influence on the dynamics and respective talent levels on the opposing teams is what makes him a problem...yes, confidence would make him even worse, but it is his ability to offset talent in general that makes him Minus-Man-Anti-player.

...Still thinking about Nonja anonymous...

Kevin: the nugatory usually makes clutch shots aka "poison" shot...he would take only one shot the entire game but will beat you with it and kinda ruin your whole night.

The problem is that they always come back no matter how many times they get yelled at, slapped, kicked or punch (it has happened several times at my pick up league).

The nugatory is pretty awesome on fast break defense. He would be the closest to the opponent with the ball but will see his own man somewhere on the wing and will leave the man with the ball to cover his own man.

The nugatory also love to clog the lanes and on numerous occasion will crash into a cutter or a teammate going full speed with the ball to the hoop.

Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Captain Entropy" (or some variant on entropy, which is an increase in disorder). "Entropic player?" There was a dude I played ultimate with back when whom we referred to as "ultimate entropy," because he pure and simply made his team suck worse than playing a man down.

Lord Kerrance said... "I think a distinction needs to be made between the nougatory jerkfaces (i.e. those that play scream defense) and good guys who, for whatever reason, just can't play the game. We have guy with only one hand who's super nice and hustles, but is obviously limited in what he can do. he never complains and always tries, so it's cool.

We also have a guy who yells, screams, never plays D, and shoots more than McHale (with a stroke that looks like a dead snake sliding downhill on ice). He is nougatory."

I totally agree with that. It all depends on the dude's attitude. Crappy players have showed up for PUGs in all sports I have played. If they are doing their best and have some understanding of their position in the food chain, then it's cool. In fact, I think sportsmanship demand that those dudes be given a chance, unless your PUG has some special agenda. Me, I like it to be inclusive, but I understand wanting consistently intense competition.

Fact is, some might consider me nugatory at hoops (not my first sport). My shot sucks, though obviously I can lay it in well. I can rebound, pass, dribble, defend, but I can't shoot. Never have been able to, even though I'm a very good athlete. But I hustle and I know my place. Now somebody could harsh on me I suppose, but that wouldn't be cool.

Gotta keep the sportsmanship, right?

PS I f you have a nugatory dick, then I like Trev's idea of bringing in a woman to guard him all the time. In my experience, many dicks are also sexist, and it would drive him crazy to be in that situation.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I am well familiar with this type of player. It's like they radiate a zone of suckiness around them that infects their teammates, poisons the game, and generally makes you curse how cruel life can be. OK, maybe it's not *that* bad, but having a nugatory around is definitely not any fun either.

Blogger chris said...
OT: Ruh roh, I wonder if Bill Simmons is reading this here blog, judging from the lead text for today's BS Report webcast at

"Bill and Sal preview Week 16 of the NFL, plus we're introduced to Club Trillion."

Anonymous Anonymous said...
at one time there was a guy that nobody wanted to play with. we ended up shooting free throws to see who gets stuck with him. we called him "the main attraction". seemed about right since we were willing to shoot free throws just so we avoid playing with him, as usually you shoot free throws to have the ball or pick a player.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
as Louis CK would put it the nugatory is a non-contributing zero

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I had a good friend in college who had this uncanny ability to ruin every chance he ever had with a woman. He knew what to say, or how to act, to kill the mood - no matter what. We called him "Antigame."

This is a good name, because it works in two ways.

1) For the baller (pronounced "anti-game"): an individual skilled in ruining game.

2) For the nerd in us all (pronounced "antig-a-me"): with pronounciation like the Greek tragedy, "Antigone," we see this person as a tragic hero - doomed somehow to ruin everything he touches.

Blogger Clifton said...
@ Chris: Scanned through that podcast and found the 'Club Trillion' conversation. Did the people here at 'Bawful invent the trillion for sure? ...'cause this guy claims he and his friends invented it:

The BS Report -- trillion talk starts around the 41:00-minute mark.

Blogger Mintz... said...
if we're going with Wormboys scientific route... might wanna call him the Electron. Since electrons (like the nugatory) exhibit a negative charge on whatever they come into contact with such as protons (the better players on the team..?)
E- for short.

Maybe one game you should just give the ball to the nugatory every single play to show him how bad he is... and if he tries to pass it back to you... just send it right on back to him. I mean... if he gets the ball every play and keeps screwing up... he's GOTTA see that he sucks right? although... it might ruin your pick up night...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
here's a paradox for you...

what do you call it when you're playing with an entire LEAGUE of nugatory players, or minus men, and when you finally complain about their constant bricking of touch-and-shoots and "hump your leg" defense YOU'RE made out to be the minus man?

I used to play 3 on 3 with 5 other somewhat close friends who, even though we get along in any other situation, have no sense of basketball fundamentals. I put up with it for a while but eventually grew tired of getting grabbed whenever i passed someone or hacked to death on every shot attempt. I'm not calling myself NBA worthy or even 3rd string middle school worthy by any means, but these guys weren't even aware of the two step rule. they'd call a travel whenever someone took one step towards the basket and actually argued me into a corner about it until i found video footage of lebron taking his infamous 3 steps. I actually had my finger broken because someone on my own team felt the need to block a layup over my back with a tremendous display of flailing arms and scream defense.

Anyway, one day recently during a particularly frustrating game, everyone was standing outside the paint waiting for a pass, nobody was setting picks as usual, every time someone touched the ball it was in the air .003 seconds later and most times would go over the backboard before even touching it, and the guy i usually matched up with would hack my forearms and almost literally hump my leg on every possession. Eventually I blew up at him for it, after which they started treating me like a nugatory and soon stopped inviting me to play all together.

again, I'm not calling myself a good player, but i've been playing for a while and know fundamental basketball when i see it. I'm also aware of basic rules of the game which were constantly questioned when i brought them up with these guys. Don't get me wrong, I'm not upset about not playing with these guys anymore. It's just a little demoralizing to be outcast for promoting fundamental basketball.

Blogger Drake said...
Bawful didn't invent trillion - he only popularized it, at least around here (although I suspect elsewhere as well).

It was a Word of the Day once - I believe it was some broadcaster who coined it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...;_ylt=ApdUxs1RD.Pl9Dj9TWJm.FGQvLYF?slug=028eb898d5964c17808f7729269107db.kings_trail_blazers_basketball_pda107&

please give me credit.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Club Trillion is a Ohio State blog by some guys made a few months back. I was originally made aware of it from a Simmons article anyways. They're not the 2nd place that has used the term, and are definately not the creators of the trillion.

Hell, here's a Jan 2007 Toronto Star article that uses the term, linked right off the Wikipedia page. And's hoopedia has it too. Maybe they're claiming the term "Club Trillion" not "trillion". But for some reason, they've gotten a dumpload of press coverage, possibly from the everything-OSU-media-circle-jerk.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Real quick: As Drake said, I didn't invent it, I just spread it like butter across the blogosphere. The term has been around for years. The first time I remember hearing it was back in the early 90s, and I believe it was regarding Scott Hastings. Anyway, those guys hardly "devised" the trillion. What a joke.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
We just call this guy a "Lame".

But when he is the 11th guy ,and the first game ends everyone kinda mumbles "Run it back, run it back" under their breath. Then after a couple more buckets when he asks what the score is it's always a firm "2-1!"

Blogger chris said...
Bawful: In a sense, it's only logical they claim they "invented" it, because they need something to hang their hats on - ANYONE on this planet can dress up in a basketball jersey and come up with a trillionating performance. Not everyone has shown the ability to milk a pro contract with it though, which is what makes NBA trillionaires so special: in keeping with their moniker, they have found THE most efficient way to make money in sports.

A trillion in college, unless you are getting the typical under-the-table payments/gifts/academic "assistance," doesn't equate to any amount of cashmoney.

CAPTCHA: "proutne" (poutine? pouting? somehow, both seem appropriate for this.)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Of course I like the sciency ones, I'm a scientist. I chose that career path mainly so I could say "back off, man, I'm a scientist!" and hit on cute blonde chicks like Bill Murray in Ghostbusters.

Blogger Mintz... said...
science rules. no argument here.
In fact... im not taking chemistry this year and i miss it

For the voting part: try

Google also has it's own survey thingy part of the google documents package

Anonymous Anonymous said...
How about The Boat Anchor?

Blogger Austen said...
How about "vaporware," another tech term that's pretty easy to understand. Generally, it refers to a product that on paper looks decent (maybe even exciting), but it turns on in the end that it doesn't actually exist.