Basketball Field Goal Definition


When it comes to watching the game of basketball, if you are new to the sport you might start to wonder if you are listening to a new language altogether.


From people talking about bricks and bunnies to drives and dunks, you might be a bit confused.


One of the most important terms to learn about the game of basketball, though, is the field goal.


Without a doubt, a field goal is a term that you absolutely have to understand as it plays such a crucial role in any game of basketball.


While the rules might change from league to league, one thing does tend to stay consistent and that is what is a field goal.


The term field goal, though, can cover more than just one or two kinds of shot. For that reason, you might wonder what a field goal actually is.


Well, let us help you understand this most important of terms so that you can start enjoying b-ball like never before!


What is a field goal?


A field goal, then, is any kind of shot that is taken in live play. A field goal is a shot that is taken from any part of the field that is not the free throw line.


Any play that happens, whether it’s a slam dunk, a mid-range two, a short distance lay-up, or a three-point shot will be marked as a field goal.


Given the different terms that exist around shooting in basketball, the most important thing to note is that field goals count for either two or three points depending on where the shot is taken from.


What is a field goal in basketball, then? It is a shot that is taken from any location that is in live play. This might seem obvious now that you know, but many fans might not know this.


Some assume that a field goal is only a shot taken from 2-point range, while others assume it is a shot from 3-point range.


Both conclusions make sense in some way, but the most important thing to note is that a field goal is the kind of shot that happens in live play.


Why is it called a field goal?


The part that often confuses new fans isn’t so much what the name is, but why. Many times, the name will simply make sense without having to look closely into the history.


For example, basketball has a history of names being picked up and sticking based on one simple little phrasing.


The Los Angeles Clippers, for example, were called ‘Lob City’ based on one throwaway term from a basketball expert. The name stuck for years, and characterized an entire era and team at LA.


Field goals, then, are called a field goal because it takes place on what happens on the “field of play”. So, it’s literally a goal that was scored on the field.


It was a shot that was taken within the legitimate area of the field, making sure that it is a legitimate shot in the first place.


Some people also say that it might be called a field goal purely because it comes from older basketball terminology where the court would be called the field.


Since basketball is played on a wooden court, though, it would make more sense (for some) if it was called a ‘court goal’ as opposed to a field goal.


How many points can a field goal win in basketball?


As mentioned above, it does depend on where the shot is taken from. A field goal that is taken from inside the 2-point range (more likely to be a slam dunk or a layup) is going to be worth 2 points.


Anything beyond the 3-point line, though, is going to be noted as a 3-point shot.


The most that a shot can be worth is 3, and the minimum is 2. A single-point shot can only be scored if you play a shot from the free throw line.


And nobody counts a free throw shot in the percentages and numbers for a player when looking at their field goal percentage.


So, field goals must happen live in-play, and must be worth 2 or 3 points.


Field goal percentages


Another important part of the talk around the field goal is field goal percentages.


These are very important to understand, as the field goal percentage of a player is a key determining factor in their quality.


Basically, the number of attempts per game is taken for the player and then divided based on the number of shots which earned points.


It’s not about the number of points won, though; this stat looks at the number of shots that went in.


So, if someone took 10 shots in a game and 5 went in they would have 50% field goal shooting.


It does not matter if they were all from 3-point range or not; the number that matters here is the number of shots taken, nothing else.


Therefore, you need to understand that a player with a high field point percentage is extremely valuable.


A player who has a low-to-medium field goal percentage, though, should be checked out. Are they shooting a lot from distance?


If so, you expect their field goal ratio to go down a touch with the numbers.


However, if they are a player who takes a lot of layups and dunks then you would expect them to have a good, or at least higher, field goal percentage.


Final Thoughts


If you want to know more about a player, then you want to make sure that you learn about not only how many shots they take, and from where, but how many are going in!


Typically, you expect to see someone with an average above 50%, with more sharpshooter players heading into the 60% plus range for field goals.


Then, you need to look at the number of shots they are making from close range, medium range, and from distance. Only then can you say that you can grasp how good a shooter someone in.


Some players are far more useful from deep than they are up-close, and vice versa. It always helps to both know how a player is most effective in shooting, and what you are most effective at.


Once you stop taking the shots you are not naturally suited to, as shown by your stats, you can start to hone and improve your game in a way that you simply could not beforehand.

  1. I can assure you that this is the first time in my life I have ever read an article on what a basketball field goal is. I watch basketball and at times played it with the boys up till a few years back so I can say the field was sort of subliminally known. It is really true what they say that if you want to, you can keep learning new things even into old age- now I know that a field goal is any kind of shot that is taken in live play and could be worth two or three points. 

    Thanks for the lesson and article, James

    • Hi there,

      Yeah I’m pretty sure a lot of people have heard it mentioned but haven’t really sought out the meaning of it. In almost every sport, there’s a certain level of terminology which isn’t widely known. Glad you enjoyed the article.



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