How to Play Basketball

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Basketball is a team sport played in a court with two netted rings attached to 10-foot poles on either end of the court. Five active players per team attempt to score points by getting a ball through one of the nets. Variations on the basic game include beach basketball, wheelchair basketball and bankshot basketball. Here's how to play the basic game.

Playing Basketball

  • The referee throws up the ball to start the game. Two players from the opposing teams vie to take possession of the ball.

  • The team that catches the ball first plays offense, and the opposing team plays defense.

  • Players of the same team pass (toss) the ball back and forth as the opposition attempts to take possession of it. Team player are assigned different positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.

  • The ball must be continually dribbled (bounced on the floor) as players try to move it toward the extreme ends of the court where the netted rings wait. Don't walk with the ball, which is called traveling. You have to dribble or shoot the ball.

  • Each player must throw the ball within a maximum of 35 seconds. The players cannot kick the ball.

  • Making illegal body contact is a foul. (See Resources below for a list of fouls.) If a team commits consecutive fouls, their opponents are awarded a free throw. If a player commits six fouls in an NBA game (or five fouls in a high-school or college game), he or she will be disqualified from fininishing the game.

  • The team that scores the most points in the stipulated time is the winner. If the teams are tied at the end of regulation, the game goes into overtime. Overtime periods are played until one team has more points than the other at the end of an overtime period.

Tips & Warnings

  • A game is divided into four quarters of 10 minutes each. The players are given a 15-minute break at half-time.
  • A basketball court is 92 feet long and 50 feet wide. The metal ring of a basketball net is 18 inches in diameter and 10 feet above the ground.
  • A basketball is made of rubber, a cloth lining and leather. It has a circumference of about 30 inches and weighs between 20 to 22 ounces when inflated.
  • Basketballs come in different sizes: size 5 for young players; size 6 for women; and size 7 for men.

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