A basketball.
A basketball match between Bulgaria and Turkey
Giannis Antetokoummpo throws a basketball

Basketball is a team sport where one team, usually consisting of five players (unless its a 1v1 2v2 3v3 4v4 were it is 1 player verse 1 player 2 players verse 2 players 3 players verse 3 players and 4 players verse 4 players) in each team, play against each other on a rectangular court. The objective is to get the ball through a hoop mounted high on a backboard on the opponent's side of the court, while preventing the opponent from shooting it into your team's hoop. It is a very popular sport worldwide, played with a round and usually orange(orange-brown) ball that bounces. Basketball players mainly use skills such as dribbling, shooting, running, and jumping. Each made basket is worth two points, while a basket made from beyond the three-point line is worth three points. If a player gets into too much physical contact, they may be given free throws which are worth one point each. The game typically lasts for four-quarters and the team with the most points at the end of the four-quarters win the game. If the score is tied at the end of the game, there will be additional play time, called overtime, to allow one team to win the match.

The game is played between men's teams or between women's teams. Basketball has been played in the Summer Olympic Games since 1936. The shot clock rule started in 1954 for professional basketball. The first basketball game took place in 1892, where the court was half the size of what it is today. In 1891 the game was invented by James Naismith.

The history of basketball

In early December 1891, James Naismith (1861–1939), a Canadian physical education teacher at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, invented an indoor game called basketball. He invented the sport to keep his students from becoming bored during the winter. Naismith wrote the basic rules and then nailed a peach basket onto a 20-foot tall pole. Unlike modern basketball hoops, the bottom of the peach-basket was still there, so after a point was scored, somebody had to get the ball out of the basket with a long stick. Over time, people made a hole at the bottom of the basket so the ball could go through more easily. The first game of basketball was played at the International Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Springfield, Massachusetts. The score of the first game of basketball ever played was 1-0. There is a sculpture in Springfield, outside where the first game was held. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is also in Springfield.

For that first game of basketball in 1891, Naismith used two half-bushel peach baskets as goals, which gave the sport its name. The students were enthusiastic. After much running and shooting, William R. Chase made a midcourt shot, which was the only score in that historic contest. Word spread about the newly invented game, and numerous associations wrote Naismith for a copy of the rules, which were published in the January 15, 1892, issue of the Triangle, the YMCA Training School's campus paper.

Since the rules had not been formally written, there was no maximum number of players then, unlike today. This also meant that there were no set rules to the game; Naismith only observed how it was played and changed the rules accordingly.


A Basketball arena in Malaysia.

The aim of basketball is to score more points than the other team, by making the ball in the basket. Players on one team try to stop players on the other team from scoring. Baskets can be worth 1, 2, or 3 points. Each normal score is worth two points; however, if a player throws the ball into the hoop from behind the large arched line on the court, called the "3-point line," the score is worth three points. You get points by "shooting" (throwing or dropping) the ball into the opponents' basket. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins. The ball is moved forward by shooting, passing (throwing or handing off) or dribbling it. The ball may not be carried by a player who is walking or running without dribbling it. If this rule is violated, it is called a travel.


The court, where the game is played, is a rectangle, and at both end lines there is a goal called a "hoop" in the shape of a circle basket with the bottom cut out.

In each game of basketball these things are required:

  • Basketball
  • Basketball court
  • Basketball hoop and backboard


Basketball is played with two teams, with 5 players from each team on the court at one time. The maximum number of players on the bench differs by the league. In international play, a maximum of 7 players is allowed on the bench, resulting in a roster of 12 players. The NBA has 13-player rosters; college and high school teams have 15-player rosters. When a player wants to substitute for another player on the court, they let the score bench know. The referees will signal for the player waiting to come into the court. The player that was in the game comes off the court and the player that was sitting on the bench goes inside the game. This is called a substitution. In regional matches, in some areas, a minimum of 3 players are required to be on the bench. In India, there might be leeway in the number depending on the category of the tournament you're playing in.

Playing regulations

A game of basketball is made up of four different quarters, each ten (or in the National Basketball Association, 12) minutes long. In the NCAA, or National Collegiate Athletic Association, there are 2 20 minute halves. At the start of every game the referee throws the basketball up in the air, and one player from each team tries to hit it to their teammates, that is called a "jump ball."

At the start of each quarter the team who has the possession arrow pointing towards their hoop gets the ball. Then the arrow is switched, and the next team gets the ball next quarter.

After four-quarters, the team who scores the most points wins. If the two teams score the same number of points, there is a five-minute "overtime" to see who can score more points. "Overtime" can be played over and over until one team finally scores more points.

If a player does something illegal in the game, it is called a "foul." If a player fouls someone on the other team who is shooting the basketball, the player who was fouled gets to shoot "free throws" from the "foul line." A free throw is a shot that no one is allowed to try to block. A free throw is shot from the straight line in front of the hoop. Each successful free throw is worth one point.

If a player fouls an opponent who is not shooting, the other team gets the ball, and can throw it in bounds from the sideline. Players can do three things with the ball: "dribble" (bounce) the ball, "pass" the ball to a teammate, or "shoot" the ball at the hoop. The player with the ball tries to keep the ball and not let the other team get it.

The ball can't be kicked or hit with the fist. If this is violated, the other team gets possession of the ball and gets to throw it in from the nearest out of bounds area.

Once a player commits five fouls, he is no longer allowed to play in the game, and a player on the bench must go in the game immediately. If a team commits four fouls, the opposing team gets to shoot a free throw on any next foul that doesn't involve shooting. (Depending on the league).


In a game of basketball, there are a number of officials who are not from either team, who are there to help. Officials are important to the game, and help it run efficiently. Here is a list of some of these people:

  • Umpire: There are either one, two, three, four or five umpires in a game of basketball. It is the umpires' job to make the game more fair by enforcing the rules of the game. The umpires take into consideration the spirit and intent of the player before making any call. In the NBA and WNBA, the term "umpire" is not used; the person who has this role is called the referee.
  • Referee: The use of this word varies between rule sets.
    • Under the rules of FIBA (the worldwide governing body for the sport), the NCAA (U.S. college basketball), and NFHS (U.S. high schools), there is one referee in a game of basketball. He is the "head" umpire. The referee has all the jobs of the umpires along with a couple more responsibilities. He is also the one that makes the final decision for most problems and is the one who throws the ball up for the tip off at the start of the match.
    • The first ever recorded female referee is Isabelle Johnson from Melbourne.
    • The first ever recorded male referee is Campbell Grech from Melbourne.
  • Timekeeper: There is one timekeeper whose job is to keep track of the time and to tell the umpires when time for each quarter has run out.
  • Scorekeeper: There is one scorekeeper whose job is to keep track of and record all points scored, shots attempted, fouls made and timeouts called.
  • Assistant Scorekeeper: There is one assistant scorekeeper. His job is to assist the scorekeeper, by telling him the players who score points, and to hold up a number for each foul called, showing everyone the number of fouls the specified player has for the game.
  • Shot Clock Operator: There is one shot clock operator and his job is to keep resetting and holding the device when needed or told to by an umpire. This person needs to have good reflexes and quickness, as he has to quickly reset the timer when the game resumes.

Fans and media in North America will often use "referee" to describe all on-court officials, whether their formal titles are "referee", "umpire", or "crew chief".

Basketball terms/fouls

There are some basketball terms that players have to understand when playing the game. Here are some terms:

  • Draft pick is an eligible player selected to play for one of thirty teams in the NBA
  • Free throw is a basketball throw from the free-throw line from either personal, technical, unsportsmanlike or disqualifying fouls. Each free-throw made is worth one point. The amount of free-throws attempted are determined by the following:
    • missed field goal and a drawn foul will result in 2 free throws
    • made field goal and a drawn foul will result in 1 free throw
    • missed 3-point attempt and a drawn foul will result in 3 free
    • made 3-point attempt and a drawn foul will result in 1 free throw
    • unsportsmanlike foul will result in 2 free throws and the same team's possession. (In all North American rule sets, this foul is called a "flagrant foul", with the same penalty.)
    • technical foul will result in 2 free throws and the same team's possession. (In the NBA and WNBA, technical fouls result in 1 free throw instead of 2.)
  • Field goal is any made shot in normal play. Field goals are worth 2 points, unless the shooter was outside the three-point line, in which case it is worth 3 points.
  • Personal foul is any contact, committed by a player of the other team, thought, by the umpires, to have caused a disadvantage.
  • Technical foul is a violation of certain basketball rules. They include:
    • fighting or threatening to fight with another person
    • entering the basketball court when it is not a substitution time
    • a player being out of bounds (away from the court) to gain an advantage
    • having too many players play on the court
    • refusing to sit on the bench
    • returning to play when a player is disqualified (loses his privileges to play).
    • yelling and/or swearing at another player or an official.
  • Rebound is the act of catching the basketball after a shot has been attempted, but missed.
  • Assist is to pass a teammate the ball, which then the teammate immediately shoots into the basketball ring successfully. 2-3 dribbles are allowed after catching the ball for assist to be counted.
  • Steal is to take the ball away from a person who is dribbling, shooting or passing without physically touching the person (committing a foul).
  • Turnover is when the team that controls the ball loses control and the other team gains control.
  • Walkover is the automatic victory of a team if the opposing team withdraws, is disqualified or there is not any competition at all.
  • Substitution is the act of replacing a player from the court to an another player sitting on the bench.
  • Double dribble is when a player dribbles the ball and picks it up and then dribbles it again without having shot or passed it. Dribbling the ball with two hands is also a double dribble. If a player double dribbles, the ball is automatically given to the other team.
  • Carry is when a player physically turns the ball over with their hands while dribbling it.
  • Travel is when a player in possession of the ball moves both feet without dribbling the ball. If a player travels, the ball is automatically given to the opposing team.
  • Shot clock is a clock designed to limit the time a team has to shoot a basketball. The shot clock is different in different leagues, but it is usually between 24 seconds and 35 seconds. After time runs out, the ball is automatically given to the opposing team unless they shot, before the clock runs out, and hit the rim or the ball enters the basket.
  • Substitute (subs) is when a player on the bench swaps for a player on the court. The player on the bench is allowed to play and the player sits on the bench.
  • Jump ball happens at the start of every game. This is where the ball gets thrown up from the centre circle and one person from each team jumps for it, aiming to hit it to one of his teammates.
  • Alternating possession At the start of the game there is a jump ball. Whichever team "wins" the jump ball gets the arrow pointed towards their goal. Each time the ball gets given to the team who is trying to score in the direction of the arrow it gets turned.
  • Clutch is a shot made at a difficult moment in the game, usually when the shot clock is about to run out, or if the team losing by 1 or 2 points suddenly wins the game because of the clutch shot.
  • Backcourt violation is when a player crosses the half-court line and walks backwards over the line while in possession of the ball, or passes to another player who is behind the half-court line. Note that this rule does not apply if a defensive player taps the ball, and it goes beyond the half-court line, and the offensive player retrieves it in the "backcourt".
  • 3-second violation is when a player stands in the lane (an area marked by the big square in front of the basket) for more than 3 seconds. The offensive team that commits a 3-second violation will lose the possession of the ball. The defensive team that commits a 3-second violation will receive a technical foul.
  • 8- or 10-second violation is when the team with the ball fails to advance the ball past the center line within the allowed time. The offensive team will lose possession. The allowed time is 8 seconds in international play, the NBA, and WNBA, and 10 seconds in college and high school play for both males and females. Women's college basketball was the last level of basketball to add this violation, only doing so for the 2013–14 season.

Positions in basketball

In professional basketball teams, each player has a position. A position is a job or role that a player has to take part in to play the game. If everyone is doing their job correctly, the team is usually successful.

  • Point guard (PG) (1) - point guards are responsible for leading the team on offense. They have to take the ball out (to dribble the ball halfway across their team's court side into the opposing team's court side) and plan an "attack" or "play" - to pass the ball to a player and he passes on to another player and so on till a player shoots the basketball. Point guards can be small, but they have to be very fast and possess good ball-handling. But the most important thing for the PG is a wide view. PG should control the game when on offense. That's why PG is called 'the coach on the court'.
  • Shooting guard (SG) (2) - shooting guards generally are a little bit taller and slower than point guards. They have to make good shots from far distances (like three-point lines).
  • Small forward (SF) (3) - small forwards are generally taller than both point guards and shooting guards. They are the team's most versatile player, doing everything from rebounding and assisting to scoring.
  • Power forward (PF) (4) - power forwards are usually one of the strongest players who play inside the 3-point line. Their job is to receive rebounds from under the basket and score in the opposing team's basket, although it is unusual for a power forward to score most points for the team.
  • Center (C) (5) - Centers will usually be the tallest player on the team. They score close to the basket, rebound and block shots on the defensive end. They also start the game in the tip off.

Other positions, more usual in professional basketball teams, are used in basketball.

  • Swingman - a basketball player who can play both small forward and shooting guard positions.
  • Stretch four (also cornerman) - a basketball player who can play both power forward and small forward positions. The term "stretch four" comes from the concept of a power forward ("four") capable of "stretching" a defense with outside shooting ability.
  • Point forward - a basketball player who can play both point guard and forward (either small forward or power forward) positions.
  • Forward-center - a basketball player who can play both forward (usually power forward) and center positions.


There are many types of basketball. Some are for people with disabilities, others are played more by a specific group, some are played using only half the court, and some are for when there are fewer players.

3 on 3

This is the most popular "pick up game" variation of basketball. Pick up games are when teams are chosen on the court instead of having official teams. Due to there being no referee, this more casual game has more relaxed rules than official games. Instead of 5 players, there are only three players on each team, hence the name.

While the exact rules vary from place to place, there are several common rules typically found in most games, including:

  • The game is played on a half-court instead of a full-court.
  • Players call their own fouls and violations.
  • Players inbound the ball from the top of the three-point line.
  • After a turnover, the team that gets the ball must take it out past the free-throw or three-point line before trying to score.
  • On any foul, the ball is inbounded. There is no foul shot.
  • Normal shots are worth one point, with shots beyond the 3-point are worth 2 points.
  • The game is played to a pre-determined set score rather than being timed.
  • First possession is decided by one or more players shooting 3-point shots to see who goes first. (If one player, if the shot is made his/her team gets the ball first, if not, the other team gets the ball. Sometimes called "shooting die".)

There are officially sponsored 3 on 3 tournaments, though the game is mostly played without an official league.

Variations with 2 player and 4 player teams often follow this same format.


Twenty-one (21) is a variation of basketball that does not include teams. It is often played with odd-numbers of players or when there are too few players for 3 on 3 games.

The object of 21 is to score exactly 21 points. Players keep track of their own scores and call out their points after making a basket. All players play defense against all other players and compete for the rebound on a miss.

When a player makes a shot, he or she scores 2 points and is then awarded a chance to score an additional 3 points by attempting a series of free-throws. If a player makes a free-throw, he or she is awarded an additional point and an additional free-throw. If a player makes three straight free-throws they are then given the ball a the top of the key and the other players may then defend.

One special rule is that if a player gets 20 points and then misses a free-throw, or scores 17 points and then makes all three free-throws, their score is set back to 15. This is because their next basket would put them over 21 points, and the object of the game is to get exactly 21.

Due to there being no teams, there are a number of special rules to 21:

  • The game is played on a half-court instead of a full-court.
  • There are no fouls, travelling violations, or out-of-bounds. Play continues despite any of these. However, flagrantly breaking the rules by not dribbling, intentionally double dribbling, or by fouling too harshly is not accepted and is dealt with by the other players.
  • Some players use an honor system, returning the ball to a player who was fouled too hard.
  • The defenders do not usually all gang up on the person with the ball, instead last person to shoot and miss defends while the rest are "back up" and look for the rebound.


The game H-O-R-S-E, (pronounced horse) is played by two or more players. The player in control of the ball tries to make a shot however they want. The other player has to repeat their shot. If they miss, they get an H added, until they get enough letters to finish the word horse and they lose. If the player who has the ball missed their shot, no letter is added and control moves to the next player. [1]

Wheelchair basketball

In this variation, the players are all seated in a wheelchair. This is often played by people who cannot walk or are unable to play normal basketball. The rules are altered slightly, but the game follows the same general concepts.

Basketball Media

Related pages


  1. "How to Play Horse (The Basketball Game): 11 Steps (With Pictures)".

Other websites

  • FIBA Archived 1996-11-04 at the Wayback Machine, Fédération Internationale de Basketball / International Basketball Federation
  • IWBF, International Wheelchair Basketball Federation