Basketball is a sport where two teams compete to score the most points, by shooting a ball into a hoop to gain points. The game is played on a rectangular court with a hoop on each end. Players move the ball up the court by passing or bouncing it while walking or running. They score two points for shooting the ball into the hoop, or three points if they shoot it from behind the three-point line. There are five players for each team on a basketball court at a time, with around seven substitutes per team on the bench.
Basketball was created by James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891. Naismith was a physical education teacher who wanted to create an indoor game that offered fewer injuries than football. He invented a game that involved shooting a ball into a peach basket. Basketball has evolved drastically over the years, adding new rules and implementing special equipment, such as a ball and hoop for shooting.
The game grew extremely rapidly through local schools and YMCAs. In 1896, the first-ever collegiate five-on-five game was played between Iowa and the University of Chicago. By 1898, professional leagues began forming, and basketball became one of the premier American sports.
The official basketball playing surface is a large rectangular court made of hardwood. However, the game can also be played on concrete or asphalt courts outdoors. A regulation basketball court measures 50 feet wide and 94 feet long. It is marked by boundary lines on each side, known as the baselines and sidelines. It has multiple other lines, including the mid-court line, free throw lines, and three-point lines.
Basketball requires comparatively little equipment to play, as opposed to other sports. Individually, you will need a basketball, shoes, and comfortable clothing. You can find baskets or hoops to use at most public parks and gyms. To play on a team, you will also need a uniform. The basketball uniform consists of a team’s jersey and shorts. The two teams wear different colors so the referee can differentiate the players and teams. Other optional equipment includes sweat bands, arm sleeves, mouth guards, and compression tights.
The objective of basketball is to get the ball through the hoop, scoring more points than the opposing team. Five athletes from each team play on the court at once. The three essential components of the game are dribbling, passing, and shooting. A made basket is worth two points unless the player is behind the three-point line, which would be worth three points. Typically, there are four quarters in a game (NCAA plays by halves), each lasting between 8-12 minutes, depending on the skill level. The team with the most points after the time expires will be the winner.
Positions and Roles
There are five positions in basketball, and each one is fit for a different type of player. These five positions work together to make a successful team.
Point Guard: This player is often shorter, very quick, and has great ball handling and communication skills. They are the key passer on a basketball team and play an important role in the team’s tempo and execution. This position requires a very high basketball IQ.
Shooting Guard: This player is also a skilled ball handler and passer. As their name suggests, the shooting guard is mostly known for shooting the basketball. This position is often reserved for the team’s best outside shooters.
Small Forward: Typically the most versatile athlete on the court, small forwards play on the wings and have a mixture of responsibilities. They are generally strong and scrappy enough to haul in rebounds; however, they must have the agility to avoid defenders and score points.
Power Forward: A larger and stronger player, power forwards are important for fighting for rebounds and scoring close to the basket. Many power forwards are also capable of shooting from outside.
Center: Usually the tallest player on the team, centers can always be found around the paint getting rebounds and blocking shots. Centers are extremely important to a team’s defense, as they are usually located near the basket.
Rules and Regulations
Some rules need to be followed in any basketball game, both for offense and defense. On the offensive side, players cannot move with the ball without dribbling. Once the player has stopped dribbling, they may not start another dribble before shooting, passing, or losing possession of the ball. The ball must always stay in bounds, and once the offensive team crosses half-court, the ball may not go back into the backcourt.
On the defensive side, the main rule is that the defensive player must not foul. Fouls include hitting, grabbing, or otherwise gaining an unfair advantage against an opponent through physical contact. These rules vary slightly depending on the level of play, but are pretty similar for the most part. In the NBA, players are removed from the game after they are called for a sixth foul. In the NCAA and high school basketball, the limit is five fouls per player.
There are three types of fouls in basketball. A personal foul is most common, as it is any type of physical contact that is not acceptable in the game. It can be divided into two categories, defensive and offensive. A flagrant foul is when the illegal physical contact becomes more violent, unnecessary, or excessive. Hitting, punching, or shoving a player can result in a flagrant foul. A technical foul is a foul that is an example of unsportsmanlike conduct from a player or coach. Releasing anger in a reckless matter, like throwing a ball or using inappropriate language, can result in a technical foul.
A basketball game will be stopped when a player commits a violation. Common violations include double dribbling, traveling, or a three-second paint violation. Committing a violation results in the other team being given the ball automatically.
Substitutions are done when play is stopped. Referees must allow the player to enter, and a player from their team must also exit the game. If a player tries to enter the game illegally, their team will be issued a technical foul. Basketball teams are allowed an unlimited number of substitutions in a game.
Referees and Officials
Basketball officials are in charge of making sure the game is played fairly. They enforce the rules by calling fouls and violations during the game and assess the appropriate penalties. Referees also oversee timeouts and substitutions. At the college level and higher, there are three refs required in a game. One of these three is assigned as the Crew Chief, meaning they have the final say in all calls. Refs wear a uniform consisting of black and white striped shirts.
Lingo and Terminology
Before you take the court for the first time, there are some terms that you should be aware of so you do not get confused on the court. They may sound a bit confusing at first, but as you continue to play in both practice and live games, you will learn more and be talking like a pro in no time!
- Air Ball: An inaccurate shot that misses the rim and backboard.
- Assist: A pass that leads to a teammate scoring.
- Bank Shot: A shot that goes off the backboard then into the hoop.
- Boxing Out: Positioning yourself in between the basket and an opposing player to get a rebound.
- Field Goal: A shot made during the game.
- Flopping: When a player exaggerates a foul to try and get the call in his or her favor.
- Free Throw: A “free” shot awarded to a player after being fouled. It is taken without defense and is worth one point.
- Paint: The shaded rectangular area around the basket. It runs from the endline to the free throw line.
- Screen (Pick): Position yourself in the way of an opposing player to limit their defense and give your teammate more room.
Every basketball team will have a coach, and some will have multiple assistant coaches. Even though they are not playing, they are the ones making decisions, so the team performs to its highest potential. Coaches design different plays, teach fundamental skills, and develop strategies to help their team win. Especially at the youth level, it can be one of the most impactful jobs in the world, as you are teaching habits that will stick with kids for the rest of their lives.
Skills and Techniques
There are five basic skills that any basketball player should possess: dribbling, shooting, running, passing, and jumping/rebounding. Listed below are some skills and techniques that you will need to develop to be a good basketball player:
- Dribbling requires proper ball-handling technique to be able to navigate the court and avoid defenders.
- A proper shot in basketball will require precise aiming, arm extension, and lift from the legs.
- The ability to pass a ball to an open teammate can sometimes be the difference between scoring and not scoring.
- Basketball is a fast-paced game, so players need to be able to run up and down the floor for extended periods. Athleticism and endurance can give you an advantage over opponents in basketball.
- Jumping is necessary to properly time rebounds or block shots.
Basketball requires a lot of strategy from both coaches and players to win games at higher levels. There are both defensive and offensive strategies that teams will use to find success. Zone defense is a strategy where each player will have a specific area of the court that they are responsible for defending. Man-to-man defense is when each player is assigned to cover a specific offensive player.
On the offensive side, strategies include designed plays for the team. The key to any good strategy on offense is passing, causing the team to move around and make more adjustments. Plays such as the pick-and-roll are vital for an offense to score points and hopefully win the game.
A basketball player will not find much success unless they are practicing the necessary skills to develop their game. Whether you want to improve your passing, shooting, dribbling, or rebounding, there is a drill for just about everything. Even the most talented basketball players perform drills every day, so every athlete needs to practice drills if they want to improve.
Basketball requires agility, lateral movement, and explosive power. Even the most talented players will struggle if they do not have those traits. Therefore, it is important to exercise and follow a strict workout routine. Exercises that promote lateral movement include lateral lunges and lateral bounds, both of which will drastically strengthen your legs as well. Squatting will also help with your explosive power, and there are many types of squats you can perform. Other workouts such as pull-ups, dumbbell presses, and sprints will help improve general athleticism on the court.
Basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936 and women’s basketball made its debut at the 1976 games in Montreal. The USA has dominated international basketball since its inception, winning every title up until 1972, finally losing to the Soviet Union. In 1992, NBA players were allowed to represent their countries for the first time. This led to the USA organizing the “Dream Team,” which is considered to this day to be the greatest basketball team ever formed.
Youth Sports Basketball
Youth basketball is a great way to get involved in the sport. There are programs all over the country that offer low-level and high-level basketball training, teams, and competitions. Children can start playing as young as six years old. The AAU level is an extremely popular youth club that organizes players by age. Any youth basketball league is a great way to meet new people as you develop your game. Many children join a basketball club or camp in the summer to stay active and spend their free time.
College basketball is one of the most popular levels of basketball in the United States, although it is not a professional league. The NCAA consists of over 350 Division I College Basketball teams. The college basketball season runs from November to early April each year.
College basketball players are not paid like NBA players, although certain college teams have higher attendance than professional teams! A lot of these players are on scholarships and are playing under world-class coaches. For some, it is a stepping stone for them to develop their skills as they prepare for the NBA. For others, it is just a source of education at a lower cost since they are on scholarships. Every March, the NCAA Basketball Tournament occurs, where millions of fans watch an exciting tournament featuring 68 of the best college teams in the country.
The basketball coach is in charge of leading the team. Coaches come up with drills and plays and decide when to play each player. They have an extremely important role and are vital to a team’s success.
Below are some of the all-time most successful coaches in the NBA or NCAA.
- Phil Jackson: Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers
- Greg Popovich: San Antonio Spurs
- Doc Rivers: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers
- Bob Knight: Army University, Indiana University, Texas Tech University
- Mike Krzyzewski: Duke University
Basketball players are some of the most athletically gifted humans on the planet. A successful basketball player is tall, strong, and agile. The average player height in 2022 was 6 feet, 6 inches. For comparison, the average American male is 5 feet, 9.5 inches. These players also weigh in at around 215 pounds and have very low body fat percentages. Point guards are typically the smallest and most athletic players, as they are known for their ball handling and passing ability. The center is normally the tallest and strongest player, known for scoring in the paint and out-muscling opponents for rebounds.
Below are some players who are or were well-known for their skill and playing ability.
- LeBron James: Los Angeles Lakers
- Michael Jordan: Chicago Bulls
- Kobe Bryant: Los Angeles Lakers
- Larry Bird: Boston Celtics
- Magic Johnson: Los Angeles Lakers
- Shaquille O’Neal: Los Angeles Lakers
- Tim Duncan: San Antonio Spurs
- Steph Curry: Golden State Warriors
A basketball league is an organized group of teams who play each other throughout a specific time frame. There are amateur, collegiate, and professional leagues. The highest league is the NBA, where the best players in the world face off against each other. The NCAA is for college players and is nationally televised quite often as it showcases some of the greatest young players in the country. Below is a list of some professional basketball leagues that are extremely popular.
|National Basketball Association||USA/Canada||Pro|
|Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)||United States||Pro|
|Chinese Basketball Association (CBA)||China||Pro|
An NBA basketball team has 15 players. Along with the players, professional teams also have an owner, general manager, coaches, trainers, and physicians. The NBA consists of 30 teams all over North America. Below is a chart showing the teams in their respective conferences.
|Boston Celtics||Chicago Bulls||Atlanta Hawks||Denver Nuggets||Golden State Warriors||Dallas Mavericks|
|New York Knicks||Cleveland Cavaliers||Charlotte Hornets||Minnesota Timberwolves||Los Angeles Clippers||Houston Rockets|
|Brooklyn Nets||Detroit Pistons||Miami Heat||Oklahoma City Thunder||Los Angeles Lakers||Memphis Grizzlies|
|Philadelphia 76ers||Indiana Pacers||Orlando Magic||Portland Trail Blazers||Phoenix Suns||New Orleans Pelicans|
|Toronto Raptors||Milwaukee Bucks||Washington Wizards||Utah Jazz||Sacramento Kings||San Antonio Spurs|
A basketball game is an event where fans will gather in an arena or gym to watch the two teams face off against each other. There will be snacks, drinks, and sometimes merchandise (depending on the level of play). A high school basketball game will often have a few hundred fans watching the games. A college game for a strong Division I program will have around 8,000 fans in attendance and can sometimes be upwards of 20,000, depending on the venue. NBA games are the largest-scale events for basketball. They are held in large, extravagant arenas and hold around 20,000 fans.
A basketball tournament is an organized series of games where teams play against one another, and the winning teams advance to the next round to play a different opponent. At the end of the tournament, one team emerges victorious. There are a few different formats that are used in basketball tournaments.
Perhaps the most popular is single elimination. The simplicity is what makes the single elimination appealing, as losers are eliminated and winners advance to the next round. Double elimination is a format in which a team is not eliminated until they lose twice. Another popular format is round robin, in which every team plays one another for an equal amount of time. This is a great format when there are not a lot of teams.
The most famous tournament in basketball is the NCAA Tournament, also known as March Madness. Every year, 68 college basketball teams compete for the title of National Champion. Millions of people watch this tournament and bet on matches like Fantasy Football, and it often results in some of the most exciting sports moments of the year.
Brands such as Nike, Jordan, and Adidas are all among the most popular sports brands in the world. These brands are also well known for their great basketball products and make signature shoes for a wide range of professional basketball players. Wilson is responsible for creating official NBA game balls, as they are the official supplier.
If you’re a basketball fan, you should spend some time reading books that are related to the sport. Numerous books talk about some of the specific moments in basketball history. One thing that fans love is reading books that were co-written by a player or coach. Below are some popular basketball-related books.
- Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson
- Tales From The Kentucky Wildcats Locker Room by Denny Trease
- Bleeding Orange by Jim Boeheim, Jack McCallum
- Wooden: A Coach’s Life by Seth Davis
- Fab Five by Mitch Albon
- The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons
There are a ton of different websites all over the internet where you can find great basketball content. If you want to look at stats, then basketballreference.com is a great tool to explore the stats of just about any player. ESPN.com and NBA.com are also great websites that will have scores and articles to keep you updated on what is going on in the basketball world.
- ESPN.com: Basketball News
- NBA.com: Professional Basketball League
- Bleacherreport.com: Basketball News
- Basketballreference.com: Basketball Statistics