How Is Basketball Played

The rules of basketball are quite simple actually. The creator of basketball, Dr. James Naismith first began with thirteen simple rules (See Here). These rules have been developed to show how we play basketball today; many of them are slightly different, and other rules have been added on too. However, many leagues do not have the same exact rules, and a slightly different from one another. Even some of the equipment needed has changed slightly.

Modern Day Basketball Court

The modern day basketball court is 94 feet by 50 feet with two hoops on each side of width. Each hoop is attached to a backboard which is is 6 feet by 3.5 feet. Under each hoop are some semi-circles, and inside them, a shape resembling a key. The large semi-circle is the three-point line, meaning that every shot from behind that line, if it makes it in, is worth 3 points; and normal basket is 2 points. The shape of the key is different for many leagues, but the main purpose of it is to be used for free shots when a foul takes place when a player shoots; this will be discussed later. The line parallel to the hoop is where the fouled player will take one or two shots depending on conditions. The small lines on the side indicate where the players should stand between during the free shots, alternating, home, visitor, home, visitor and so on. An alternate name for this foul shot area is called the "key." Another important shape on the court is the centre circle, this is where the tip-off starts the game.

This image is a more specific diagram of all the dimensions of the court in the NCAA league.

Quick info on the structure of the game

  1. There are 4 periods (Like there are 3 periods in hockey)
  2. An overtime will be added if the score after 4 periods is a tie
  3. Tip-off is a method used to start the game and periods - This happens at the center circle where the referee throws the ball up in the are and the two opponents try to tip the ball to their teamates
  4. There are set times between periods for breaks
  5. There are time outs allowed in the game but are limited
  6. The referee(s) has control of the game - If a player is injured during the game, the referee reserves the right stop the game


In basketball, little equipment is required:

  • Appropriate clothing, including clothes and shoes - Do not have jewlery or any accessories on
  • A basketball
  • A hoop/ goal - Did you know that they first used peach baskets and the ball had to be fetched out each time a basket was made?
  • An area to play
  • A positive attitude/great sportsmanship - VERY IMPORTANT!!!

Substitutes & Fouls

Originally you were allowed to substitute players during the game, but the restriction was that once you were off, you could not re-enter the game. Later, around 1920-1950, subs commenced from 1 re-entry to unconstrained. In addition, time-outs to coach during the game were at first prohibited, but today we allow a few time-outs to quickly coach the players before continuing the game.

Fouls are also a change from the past. Formerly, at two fouls a player would be taken out of the game; it was later changed to four. Currently, the amount of fouls before you are allowed before you are knocked out of the game. On certain occasions, the limit is set at six fouls.

Shot Clock & Possession

Today there are time limits in the possession of the ball, different leagues having different time. For example, the FIBA, and the NBA both only allow eight seconds to move the ball to the opponent's side, but the NCAA keeps the ten second rule from before.

The shot clock was later introduced to speed up game play. This was enforced by having two digital monitors at each end of the court and each time the possession of the ball changes, and you would have to shoot the ball before the time runs out. Before this time was changed, the set time of the shot clock would be 24 seconds. Again every league later enforced a different time; the FIBA, 30 seconds; NCAA, 45 for men, and 30 for women.

Another important time limit is the "3 second rule." This rule means that the opposing team can not stay near your own net for more than three seconds. Today, more precisely, it would be considered a violation if you stay over the time limit in the "key," and the other team would gain possession of the ball

Fouls, Free Throws, & Violations

The most obvious fouls, more definitely violations, would be dilemmas like traveling, moving two or more steps without dribbling the ball, and double-dribbling, dribbling with two hands, or dribbling, picking up the ball, then dribbling again. Did you know that there wasn't dribbling when Dr. Naismith first created basketball? Originally, you could only only bounce the ball once and then stop moving, and you could not shoot after you had dribbled. The "3 second rule" also applies as a violation.

When it comes to fouls, it is a bit more complicated. A foul is basically an illegal action in a sport, in this case, will lead to a free/foul shot, if in the key. If it is outside the key, the possession of the ball will changed to the opposing team and will be a throw-in. Some other fouls include blocking, charging, hacking, and holding. Blocking is when preventing a player from passing with the ball by extending one or both of your arms, or getting in the path of another player. Charging is basically running into a stationary player for example, when someone sets a pick, you run straight into them, and knock the player down, it would be considered a charging call. Hacking is hitting the player with the ball on the arm or hand. Holding is literaly what it means; holding onto the player intentionally, preventing the player from moving. These are just some basic fouls when playing basketball.

A note: Sometimes, when you have personally realized that a player of the offense has fouled you, the referee may not have noticed; there is a whole game to be judged. It is important to have good sportsmanship not make a big fuss about it.


"FIBA - International Basketball Federation." Official Basketball Rules of 2008. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2011.
"Rules of Basketball." Home - Westlake City Schools. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2011.
"Rules of basketball - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2011.

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