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How is Basketball Played?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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Basketball involves the use of a court, ball, and hoops, and it is played by attempting to score points for each time the ball is successfully thrown at the hoop and goes through. It's a team sport requiring a minimum of five players per team. Each person fills one of these positions: two forwards, two point guards, and one center.

Each team has a designated hoop at each end of the court. To score points, players maneuver the ball down the court towards their own hoop and shoot (throw) the ball through the hoop. To advance down the court, players can dribble (bounce) the basketball with one hand at a time, as well as pass the ball from one player to another. When a player in possession of the ball stops dribbling, he must either pass the ball or shoot it.

The team in possession of the ball is considered offense while the other team is considered defense. While playing offense, the object is to score, but while playing defense, the object is to stop the other team from scoring by either stealing the ball or blocking a shot. When the defensive team gains possession of the ball without the offensive team scoring, it is called a turnover. Rebounding a missed shot is another way to gain possession of the ball.

Basketball is played at professional, collegiate, and amateur levels and is a refereed sport. There are several rules that apply to both offense and defense, but they vary at all levels of play. Fouling is an offense that applies to both teams and is achieved by touching a player in possession of the ball with the hands or illegally blocking a shot. If the referee calls a foul on a defensive player, the offensive player is permitted a free-throw shot, or a shot at making a basket with no interference. If a foul is committed by the offense, possession is turned over to the defense.

Games of basketball are timed. Generally speaking, the game is either played in four quarters or two halves. The length of the quarter or half varies with the organization and is determined by said organization’s governing body. Scoring is simple with each shot, or basket, made being worth two points each. Three points can be made if a basket is made from a certain location on the court. Free-throw shots are worth one point each. At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins the game.

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Discussion Comments
By msturner — On Apr 15, 2011

@jessicalab - There are a lot of different rules for different places. The court is designed differently for international basketball versus American basketball. Even here in America there are different rules. For example, in women’s college basketball there is no “10 second” rule. In the men’s game the players have 10 seconds to get the ball across half court, and if they don’t the ball is turned over to the other team. But in women’s ball they can take the entire shot clock to get the ball across the half court line. When you are used to watching men’s ball that can be unsettling.

Shot clocks for pro, international, college, men’s and women’s are all different as well.

There are also a lot of differences for youth basketball. While most people play with basketball goals that are 10’ high, younger players often play with 8’ or 9’ goals. They also have smaller basketballs. In fact women’s basketballs are smaller than men’s normal basketballs.

By ex1ex2noex3 — On Apr 13, 2011

@jessicalab - I think that most of the rules for men’s college and men’s professional rules are the same. The court dimensions and the distance for the three point line may be different, but I think the overall rules are alike. Oh, and of course the NBA plays 4 quarters still while college plays two halves.

By jessicalab — On Apr 13, 2011

Are the rules for college basketball and professional basketball the same? My boyfriend is really into basketball so I'm trying to learn more about it too.

By anon43653 — On Aug 31, 2009


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