The Basics of Basketball


Basketball is a team sport, and the game requires considerable skill from each member of the team. Players advance the ball by bouncing it while walking or running (dribbling); may shoot a basket (free throw) from behind the three-point line; and must guard other teams’ dribblers, intercept passes, and block shots. The game can be played by as few as two people, but official games require 10 players, and organized competition is available at many local levels.

The game of basketball was developed in 1891 at Springfield College by James Naismith, who also invented the rules for the game. The sport was introduced in Canada in 1894, then in France and England, Australia, China, and India in the early 1900s. It is one of the world’s most popular sports, and it has a wide following in Africa and Latin America as well.

A team is composed of five players on each side, and players fall into specific playing positions. The tallest and strongest player is the center; the second-tallest and strongest player is the power forward; the shortest and most agile players are the small forward and shooting guard; and the point guard implements the coach’s offensive plan while seeking out rebounds and steals.

When a player does not hold or control the ball properly, he or she commits a foul. Typical personal fouls include illegal physical contact with an opposing player, or a violation such as lifting or dragging a pivot foot without dribbling, carrying the ball, or holding it with both hands and then resuming dribbling. Some violations are not related to player contact, but rather to the’manners’ of the game; such as foul language, obscenity, or inappropriate gestures during play.

If a player is fouled while attempting a shot and makes the basket, that is called an “and one,” since the free throw is worth two points in addition to the regular score. A technical foul, however, is awarded for a more serious infraction, such as arguing with a referee or other team officials.

Generally, the game is divided into four eight-minute quarters, with a gap of several minutes between halves. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, then overtime periods of various lengths are played until a winner is determined.

A game of basketball begins when a referee tosses the ball in the air at center court. A player deflects the ball into a teammate, and the game continues until either a team scores a basket or the other team commits a foul. A game is won by the team that has scored the most points at the end of overtime, or if the score is tied after regulation and a period of extra time. A victory is considered an upset if the winning team was not expected to win. This is often the result of a strong defensive strategy. An excellent way to prepare for a game of basketball is to practice at game speed, by pretending that defensive players are guarding you as you try to dribble and shoot at the same pace as a full-size game.