Basketball is a team sport in which players attempt to score points by throwing (shooting) a ball into a basket attached to the top of a net. The game is played on a rectangular floor called a court and is contested by two teams of five players each, though official games can be played with as few as 10 people. The team with the ball is called the offense, while the defending team, called the defense, attempts to steal the ball from dribblers, deflect passes and block shots, and gather rebounds. The game is divided into four quarters of varying length depending on the level of play, and the team with the most points at the end wins.
The hoop (basket) is located at each end of the playing field. The ball may be passed or shot into the hoop by passing it to a teammate, by bouncing it while walking or running (dribbling) or by hurling it at the hoop over your head. The ball must not touch the ground while in play; if it does, the opposing team receives possession of the ball.
There are also rules that limit the time a player spends holding the ball without shooting (24 seconds in FIBA and NBA play, and in high school and NCAA play for both sexes), before shooting (five seconds in these two systems) and while in a restricted area around the basket known as the paint or the free-throw line (three seconds in all three). Players must shoot with both feet facing toward the basket and must extend their shooting arm fully, which is sometimes called “pushing” the basket. There are a number of techniques and drills that help players develop and improve their shooting skills, such as aiming the ball higher than their eye at the moment they make contact with the rim.
A game of basketball can be stopped at any point during a play by a whistle blown by the referee. This allows coaches to talk to their players, and can be used for injury or illness time-outs. In addition, a designated number of technical/flagrant fouls can be called by the referee for aggressive play and other serious infractions that are not considered to be a direct threat to another player or to the integrity of the game.
Players who wish to play competitively can join a local basketball association or league, where they will be taught the rules of the game and participate in regular practices and matches. If they are good enough, they can then compete in local or regional competitions. In addition, basketball can be a very social and enjoyable activity to enjoy with friends, or even on your own. Aside from the physical benefits of a game of basketball, it can also help develop mental skills, such as focus and concentration. It can also teach valuable life lessons, such as the importance of teamwork and perseverance. The best basketball players never stop improving their skills, and are always experimenting with new moves and tactics to better themselves and their teams.