Basketball Basics

Basketball is my first love, and the first sport I ever played. But if you didn’t grow up playing on an elementary, co-ed church team like I did, here are 6 basic things you need to know about the game of Basketball.

1. The Court

Basketball Court, Basic

Basketball is played on the Court (also known as the Hardwood). The Court is a rectangle with a Basketball Goal on each end. The Goal (also known as a basket or hoop) is supported by a backboard and has a net for the ball to travel down. (“Nothing but net” refers to a shot that doesn’t use the backboard but slides right into the hoop and down the net.)

Now, there are a lot of lines on the court. The court is outlined by the boundary.  The half-court line splits the court into 2 halves.  The center ring is used for Tip-off.  The outside arc in the 3-point line. Any shot made with the player outside this line counts for 3 points. If the player is inside this line, the goal is worth 2 points.  In front of the goal is an area known as “the paint” or “lane.”  The short lines  around the paint mark the space for players to stand during free throw shots. The line at the top of the paint parallel with base line is the foul line. The player shooting a free through must stand behind the foul line.

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2. The Players

basketball players

There are 5 players from each team on the court. The 5 players must play both offense and defense. Remember, offense has possession of the ball and is trying to score. Defense is defending or guarding the goal, trying to keep the offense from scoring and also trying to steal possession of the ball.  More on the 5 player positions HERE.

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3. The Ball – Dribble, Pass, Shoot

dribble pass shoot

A player can DRIBBLE the ball around the court, PASS the ball to another player, or SHOOT the ball into the goal.

When a player has possession of the ball, the ball must be in motion. Dribbling the ball is the motion of continual bouncing the basketball off the court. If a player picks up the dribble he has only 5 seconds to pass or shoot the ball. Once a player picks up the dribble, he cannot walk or restart the dribble.  If he does, the other team gets possession of the ball. More on penalties HERE.

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4. Scoring

The only way to score points in basketball is to shoot the ball through the hoop.

During regular play: 3 points for shots made outside the 3-point line. 2 points for shots made inside the 3-point line.

During penalty play: If a player is fouled, a penalty shot may take place. A FREE THROW is worth 1 point each. It’s called a free throw because it is an unguarded “free” shot. This shot is taken at the free-throw line. Players line up on either side of the goal in hopes of retrieving the rebound if the shot is missed. Depending on the type of foul, a player may be given 1 shot, 2 shots, or 1-1 shot. A 1-1 shot requires the 1st shot to be made in order to attempt the 2nd. More on penalties HERE.

Free Throw Shot

Free Throw Shot

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5. Time


In basketball there is a Game Clock and a Shot Clock.

The Game Clock manages the time of the game. The NCAA has  TWO 20-minute periods. The NBA has FOUR 12-minute periods (High schools vary based on state).

Shot Clock A team has a limited amount of time to attempt a shot once the team has possession of the ball. The shot clock time varies between NBA, WNBA, and NCAA Men’s and Women’s.  The clock is usually visible on or near the basketball goal. The point of a shot clock is to keep the game moving along instead of a team passing the ball around the court for prolonged periods of time.

There are also time elements measured by the officials. For example: Players have 10 seconds to get out the ball of the backcourt, or 5 seconds to in-bound the ball. You will see the official keep time by swinging an arm like a pendulum. More on these time penalties HERE.

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6. Tip Off

Tip Off Basketball

It’s Game Time! To begin the game, each team sends one player to the center circle for tip off (usually the tallest player). The ref throw the ball straight up into the air, and one of the players in the center will tip the ball to teammate to begin play. This is the first possession of the game.

The offense will run plays and try to find an open shot. The defense will guard the ball handlers, try to intercept a pass, or rebound a missed a shot. If the defense gains the ball, the possession changes immediately, and the teams will race to the other end of the court as the new team in possession of the ball will be attempting to shoot the ball.

Once a shot is made, the possession changes to the other team. However, instead of this posession change being immediate, a player must take the ball out of bounds, and throw the ball to a teammate inbounds to restart play.

The game continues to move at a fast pace with possession of the ball changing very quickly. Learn more about basic basketball strategy HERE.

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If you understand these 6 easy things about Basketball, be sure to keep learning with our our other Basketball Basics posts!

Category: Basketball Popular