Basics to Basketball


Basketball is a simple sport to understand when you first start watching it, but there are many complexities and nuances when it comes to actually playing the game.


While it isn’t difficult to understand that you need to score more points than the other team to win, the strategies and rules of the game can provide some challenges for younger players.


Even shooting or passing the ball aren’t quite as simple as they seem.


That’s why it is essential to understand the basics of basketball before trying to become a superstar.


As mentioned, basketball is pretty straightforward, but it is important to understand the rules of the game.


Object of Basketball


The object of the game of basketball is to score more points than the other team. This is done by “shooting” the ball into the hoop, which is located 10 feet off the ground at each end of the court.


The court is a rectangular floor, usually made of wood, but outdoor courts made of concrete also exist.


The court is cut in half by the mid-court line, which offensive players must pass over within ten seconds of inbounding the ball in the backcourt.


There are 3-point arcs on each side of the court and scoring from beyond them counts for 3 points. Anything within the 3-point line counts for 2 points.


There is also a free throw line located 15 feet from the hope. Players shoot from here after being fouled, with no other players defending them. Each free throw made is worth 1 point.




Teams are comprised of 12 players each. Only 5 players per team are allowed on the court during live play.


The other 7 players are called “bench players,” and they come into the game as substitutions to give starters a rest, or if a player fouls out of the game or gets injured.


Players on each team must wear matching jerseys.




There are 5 main positions in basketball:


Center – Centers are usually the tallest players on the team, as they are often expected to play near the basket in order to score points on offense and block shots on defense.


Centers are generally great rebounders.


Point Guard – Point guards are fast, strong players who have strong ball handling and passing abilities.


Point guards are often in control of the play, coaching the team as they carry the ball across the court.


Good point guards will place more focus on getting the team in good position to score rather than trying to simply score points on their own.


Shooting Guard – Shooting guards are often the best shooters and scorers on the team, because they can hit many three-point and mid-range shots.


They often circle around the 3-point line trying to get in position for an open shot.


Small Forward – These are smaller, quick players who are usually accurate shots. They are usually almost as good as the shooting guard at hitting 3-pointers.


They are also expected to be strong defensive players and have the ability to draw fouls.


Power Forward – Similar to the center, the power forward is a large player who drive to the basket and score proficiently even against strong defenders.


They should also be able to hit mid-range shots reliably as well as occasional 3-pointers. On defense, they are expected to be a physical presence and be able to block shots and get rebounds.




The most important piece of equipment is the basketball. Men’s leagues from high school through professional use a size 7 ball, and women and younger leagues use size 4-6.


The ball is made of rubber and leather and should have a strong bounce and be easily inflatable.


Other important equipment includes protective gear such as mouthguards and face shields for those with injuries.


Basic Movements


There are several important motions to learn before you actually participate in a game of basketball.




As previously mentioned, the point of the game is to score points, and that is done by shooting the ball into the basket. There are a few types of shots available.


Jump Shot – This is used for mid to long-range shots, especially for three-pointers. The player squares his feet, bends at the knees, and then takes a large jump into the air.


While doing so, he shoots the ball with both hands during the basket. The best practice is to learn to release the ball at the highest point of the jump.


Set Shot – This is similar in form to the jump shot, except the player doesn’t jump in the air. These are great with an open basket because they have a quicker release and use up less energy.


Layup – This is a short-range shot that is made very close to the basket. The player dribbles towards the basket, taking two long strides as he gets within striking range.


He then jumps and lightly tosses the ball directly into the hoop, or attempts to bank it off the backboard into the hoop.


Slam Dunk – Slam dunks are usually reserved for taller, more powerful players, or those with extraordinary vertical jumps.


After the charge towards the hoop, the player grabs the ball with one or both hands, jumping towards the basket and “slamming” the ball through the rim.


Free Throws – After being fouled, a player is awarded 1-3 free throws, each worth one point if they are made. These are shot from the free-throw line without the resistance of defenders.


Usually, players don’t jump during free throws.




Dribbling is one of the most important skills to learn, because you must dribble the ball to legally move it around the court.


Dribbling is done by bouncing the ball between your hand and the floor repeatedly.


You can only dribble with one hand at a time, but you can alternate between hands at any point (in other words, never have both hands touching the ball while dribbling).


Once you stop dribbling, you cannot start up again, otherwise, you will commit a double dribble. You must pass or shoot the ball once you stop dribbling.


It is important to learn to run and dribble at the same time, as well as to make maneuvers such as dribbling around defenders or through your legs.




Passing is how you get the ball to other players on your team. You can “dribble” the pass to them but using one fluid motion while dribbling and bouncing it to them.


You can also pass it to them in the air with both hands.




Stealing is the process of taking the ball away from a player on the other team. This is often done by swatting it out of their hands while they are dribbling and trying to maintain control.


It can also be done by intercepting a pass to another player.




Blocking is another defensive move in which the defender jumps and uses his hands to deflect a shot that an offensive player is trying to make.




Now that you know the basic movements required to get the ball to the basket, you should be aware of the structure of the game.


As you already know, you score by shooting the ball into the hoop. Free throws are worth 1 point, shots from within the arc are worth 2, and shots from beyond the line are worth 3 points.


Game Clock


The game clock will depend on the level at which you are playing. In high school and professional basketball, there are 4 quarters which make up 2 halves of the game.


NBA quarters are 12 minutes long, while high school quarters are 8 minutes long.


College games are separated only into 2 halves, with each half being 20 minutes long.


If the game is tied at the end, it will enter overtime, which is a period of 5 minutes. Overtimes continue until one team comes out on top.


After the first half, there is a brief break called “halftime.”


Game Start


At the beginning of the game, teams are given a basket to defend. They will try to score on the other basket until the half, when the baskets switch.


The first play of the game is known as the “tip-off.” One player from each team will stand in the tip-off circle opposite another player.


Usually, these are the centers, but it can be any player that the coach chooses.


The referee will then throw the ball in the air between the two players. Each player will jump and try to swat the ball towards another player on their team.


This establishes the first possession of the ball.


Scoring and Possession Changes


As the object of the game is to score a basket, the team with the ball will attempt to do so every time they are in possession.


If they succeed in scoring the basket, the other team will be given possession of the ball in their end of the court.


The player will throw the ball inbounds to their teammate who will bring the ball across the court in an attempt to score.


If a shot is missed and the opposing team recovers the rebound, they will get possession of the ball and can immediately bring the ball towards the other basket to attempt to score.


Play continues to switch off as such until a foul or violation is committed.




Personal Foul


This is committed when a player contacts another in an illegal manner, including pushing, slapping, hitting, or holding.


If a player is shooting while a foul is committed against him, he is awarded a certain number of free throws. If he makes the basket, he will get one free throw.


If he misses a two-point shot, he will get two free throws, and if he misses a three-point shot, he will get three.




This happens when an offensive player pushes an opposing player over while trying to get downcourt. The penalty is that the other team will be given possession of the ball.




Blocking fouls occur when a defender does not legally take a defensive position and inhibits the ball handler from moving forward.




There are several violations that are not fouls. These all result in the other team getting possession of the ball.




Players travel when they take more than a step and a half without dribbling the ball.


Double Dribble


There are two types of double dribble. One is when a player uses both hands to dribble the ball at the same time.


The other is when the player stops dribbling, holds the ball, and then starts dribbling again.


Backcourt Violation


Once the ball has entered the defending territory, the offense cannot bring it back behind the mid-point line. If they do, they have committed a backcourt violation.


Shot Clock Violation


Teams have 24 seconds to attempt a shot once they have inbounded the ball. A shot attempt must make contact with the rim. If a team fails to do so, the other team will be given possession.


How to Improve Your Game


If you wish to get better at basketball, there are a few basic tips that you can take advantage of.


Become an expert on every position


You will want to know what every player is supposed to do if you want to become a better defender against them and be able to maneuver through them.


If you study each position thoroughly, you will be better able to predict their actions and succeed against them.


There is much strategy involved in basketball, and it is one of the most important parts of the game.


Practice, Practice, Practice


You’ll never become a great player without practicing over and over again. You should become a master at the fundamental motions before attempting to perform more complex moves.


As you perfect each move, you can then add more tricks behind each one. You should spend some time every day practicing your dribbling, shooting, passing, and even pivoting and blocking.


You’ll become a better player every time you get out there to practice the fundamentals.

  1. A very popular proverb is Practice makes everything perfect and the same thing applies in every aspect of our life. So to become a good basketball player you have to practice hard as the game needs a high level of fitness and accuracy.

  2. You have comprehensively covered the basics of basketball with this article. I never realized just how much goes into the actual sport. I thought I knew the basics of the game pretty well, but there were some aspects that I didn’t.

    It really resonated with me when you mentioned the importance of studying each position thoroughly. If you do that, then it can kind of become like a game of chess where you can predict the opponent’s move and gain an advantage over them.


    • Exactly, if you want to be a standout player then you need to go the extra mile and do more than what the average player would.

  3. I am very sure that this is the first time in my life where I have seen all the basic rules of Basketball laid out in an easy-to-understand manner as you have done here. 

    This is a sport that I started playing as a kid, and we played neighborhood ball all the time in the Summer months (when there was no ice to play hockey!). 

    In high school, I played on intramural teams, as my main focus was on wrestling. Nonetheless, I have maintained an interest in the sport and also in playing some 2 on 2 or just throwing some hoops as I may have time.

    Because I have never played on a school team, a college team, or professionally, many of the rules we just kind of learned. I see that in some cases, what I learned was not entirely 100% accurate!

    I have bookmarked the page! Thanks for your clear lay down, I am sure many people like me will appreciate it!

  4. Hi there James. This is exactly what I was looking for. I am just getting my feet wet with basketball and I thought I would search the web to learn the basics as I am a total noob. Your article is on point as an intro to basketball. I have bookmarked your site to get more awesome basketball content in the future. 🙂


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