The Rules of Basketball

Basketball is one of the most famous and popular team sports. It is played in two teams of five active players, on a special court, which represents a rectangular. The mid-court line divides it into two equal halves, each end being equipped with a hoop at the height of 10 feet. The aim of each team is to score more points than the rival team, by shooting the basketball through the hoop of the rival; another logical objective is to prevent the other team from gaining access to the team’s hoop and scoring a point.

The organization of the game

Every game has two halves, each of them is divided into two quarters. The length of high school basketball half is 16 minutes, college basketball halves are 20 minutes long, and in NBA it’s 24 minutes. The breaks between the quarters are short (usually 2 minutes long).
The break between two halves of the game is 15 minutes. In case overtime period is required, each lasts for 5 minutes. The total time of the game by far exceeds the limit allotted, as this is the actual playing time. The coach can also request a time-out, when a minute is given for the team to gather and hold a consultation.
The officials present at the game include umpires (one or two) and table officials that record the score, keep track of time, fouls, substitutions etc.

Players’ skills and key positions

During the game, the ball can be either passed or moved by dribbling. The team in possession of the ball is called offence, the other team then becomes defense. The defense team has to steal the ball from their rivals by stealing or deflecting passes from player to the player of the same team, and garnering rebounds.
The skills of the basketball players include dribbling (bouncing the ball with the tips of the fingers of one hand, so as to make it rebound), passing (throwing, handing or bouncing the ball to another player), shooting (throwing the ball into the basket to score a point), rebounding (getting hold of the ball that has bounced off the rim or the backboard), pivoting (stepping in another direction with the same foot while retaining the other one in the initial position).

The main positions of basketball players are center, forward and guard.
Offensive center has to be open to receive a pass, shooting soon after that. These players are expected to block defenders and open up other teammates, allowing them to drive the ball to the basket. Defensive center is responsible for blocking passes or shots in the key area. He is usually taller than the rest players on the team.
Offensive forward is responsible for getting a pass from another player, rebound or drive for the basket. Defensive forward has to prevent the point from being scored, and rebound, when necessary.
Offensive guards are usually shorter than other players on the team, and are required to be good at fast dribbling and making effective and exact passes. They are also good shooters. Defensive guards steal passes, box out and prevent other players from scoring points.

The game and scoring

Michael Jordan at Boston Garden
Michael Jordan at Boston Garden

The game begins in the center of the court with referee tossing the ball between the players from both teams. The tip-off follows, when the player, who manages to take the ball into possession, passes it to the player from the same team. Another way the team can get hold of the ball is if the rival team commits a foul or violates certain rules. The number of substitutions is not limited; however, these are allowed while the game time is stopped.
Two points are awarded, if the shooter throws the ball from a different position and misses because of the foul. If the player is fouled, and was not going to shoot at that moment, the ball passes to his team; the ball is passed at the nearest side of the baseline, and they have to throw it onto the court within 5 seconds.
When the offence team player manages to throw the ball through the hoop, the team is awarded two points, and the ball has to be passed to the other team. It is also important from where the shot is made, as the team is awarded 3 points if the player shooting the ball is situated outside of the three-point arc. The team can also be given a number of free throws, depending on the fouls accumulated during half the game.


There are a number of personal fouls, such as pushing, slapping, hitting or holding the other player. In the situation when the player shooting the ball from the three-point position is fouled, and this results in him missing the shot, his team can be awarded three free shots. If he manages to score anyway, one free shot is awarded.

If the team accumulates 7+ fouls, and commits one more, the player who was fouled is awarded 1 free shot; if he gets the ball into the basket, one more shot is given. In case the team has accumulated 10+ fouls, and commits another one, two free throws are awarded to the opposite team.

Fouls, such as charging (pushing or running over the player), blocking, fragrant fouls (violent physical actions taken against the player, such as hitting, punching or kicking), intentional fouls (physical contact that demonstrates no intention of the player committing it to gain possession of the ball) can be punished with free throws given to the opposite team, or be subject to a judgement call. Another kind of foul that can take place is technical foul. It includes any acts of obscenity, using foul language, arguing, even dunking while the warm-up is in progress.


Among the violations there are double dribbling (using two hands to dribble or picking up the dribble to dribble it again); walking (making more than 1,5 steps without dribbling the ball); carrying or palming (when dribbling is performed with the hand under the ball or far to the side of it); goaltending (interfering with a ball that is on its way down to the basket); backcourt violation (going back across the mid-court line during possession of the ball once it was crossed), and not keeping within the time limits.

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