European Basketball Rules


Despite losing dozens of players to the National Basketball Association over the years, European basketball is still alive and well. Teams from across the continent, including Greece, Italy, Spain and France, do battle annually in leagues and tournaments in preparation for major international transnational competitions like Euroleague and Eurocup. European basketball leagues use the official rulebook of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), while the NBA uses its own set of rules.

Court Setup

  • A European basketball court measures exactly 28 m by 15 m, making it slightly longer and narrower than an NBA court. The biggest differences in court setup concerns the size of the key (the boxed area directly in front of the net) and the distance of the three-point line from the basket. In European basketball, the boundaries of the key extend diagonally toward the end line from the free-throw line. This makes the European key bigger than the one used in the NBA, where the key is perfectly rectangular. The European three-point line is just 20 1/2 feet from the basket, while the NBA boundary is 23 feet nine inches from the target.

Game Setup

  • European league basketball games consist of two halves with two 10-minute quarters per half. The team that gains possession of the ball to start the game is also given the ball to begin the fourth quarter, while the other team begins with possession the second and third quarters. Teams are required to switch baskets at the beginning of the second half. Each team is given two timeouts in the first half and three more in the second half, with one additional timeout awarded should the game go into overtime. Teams may not carry unused timeouts from the first half over to the second half.

In-Game Rules

  • If a player takes more than one complete step while carrying the ball, he will be charged with traveling and his team will lose possession of the ball. This also occurs if a player stops his dribble, then resumes without first passing the ball to another player. When a team brings the ball into play from its own backcourt, it has eight seconds to advance the ball past the mid-court line. If it cannot, it loses possession. Each team has 24 seconds from the time it takes possession to attempt a shot at the basket. If the ball strikes the rim but doesn't go in, the shot counts as an attempt. This means that if the shooting team retrieves the miss, it can begin all over again with a new 24-second clock.

Foul Rules

  • Each team is permitted four defensive team fouls per quarter. On the fifth defensive team foul, the offensive team is given two shots from the free throw. Foul shots are also awarded if a defensive player interferes with an offensive player who is in the act of shooting the ball. If the shot doesn't go in, the shooter is awarded two free throws. If the ball does go in, the basket counts and the shooter is awarded one free throw. Players are only permitted a maximum of five fouls, with the fifth infraction resulting in ejection from the game.

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