The Basics of Basketball


Basketball is a team sport in which players compete to score points by throwing a ball through a basket attached to a net. The game is played on a rectangular floor called the court, which is equipped with a hoop at each end. The team with the most points at the end of a regulation game wins. The rules of basketball are designed to promote fair play while allowing for a high level of skill among players and speedy movement of the ball between teammates.

The game is played by two teams of five players each. Each player falls into one of five playing positions, generally based on their height. The tallest players are the center and power forwards, while the shortest are the small forwards and shooting guards. The point guard is the primary ball handler and implements the coach’s offensive and defensive game plan.

A basketball can only be legally moved between teammates by bouncing the ball while walking or running (dribbling). If a player moves his feet without dribbling or picks up the ball and then resumes dribbling, it’s a traveling foul. Likewise, you can’t dribble into a teammate or pass the ball over their head or back. It’s also a foul to touch a player while dribbling or knock their forearm, grab their arm or reach over them. A technical foul, or flagrant foul, gives the opposing team free throws.

When a team takes possession of the ball, it is placed on a 24-second shot clock. If the team doesn’t make a basket or attempt a field goal within 24 seconds, it must turn the ball over to the other team. It’s also a foul to stay in the opposition key for more than three seconds, or to move into a key without attempting a shot.

Players may also gain points by scoring a basket inside the paint, the area outlined by a rectangle on the ground. Making a basket in the paint is worth two points, while making one outside of the arc is worth three. Players can also earn a single point by successfully shooting free throws.

Defense is a critical component of the game. The defensive team tries to prevent its opponent from scoring by contesting shots, deflecting passes and garnering rebounds. A good defense normally uses man-to-man coverage, in which every member of the defensive team guards an individual player. However, zones are also commonly used.

Offensive plays are more complex and involve quick movements by players without the ball to create advantageous positions for their teammates. Typical offensive maneuvers include setting and running screens, or picking and rolling. A successful cut is a quick movement by an offensive player into a path for a teammate to run through, and this can help create the kind of open space that allows for the quick passing necessary for a successful basket.