OBJECTIVE OF BASKETBALL: Score the most points by shooting the ball through the hoop on the opposite side of the court.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 10 players, 5 on each team

MATERIALS: 1 ball, 2 hoops, basketball shoes, basketball uniform


AUDIENCE: All ages


Basketball is one of the most famous and popular sports in the world, but where does it originate? A team sport, basketball was first invented in 1891 by a gym teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts. In fact, basketball is the only major sport that is considered to be of US origin (especially since American football and baseball evolved out of older sports). While the sport was first invented to keep young people fit and out of trouble throughout the winter, basketball quickly evolved to be the major sport we know today.

At its core, basketball is fast-paced, exciting, and competitive. Players must dribble the ball across the court and shoot from behind the 3-point line or close up to score 2 points. Seems simple enough, right? There are quite a few rules to basketball, so let’s dive in before you get yourself benched for the season!


Are you ready to play some basketball? First things first, we’ll need to set up the game. To fully understand basketball rules, let’s go over the court, equipment, and the different basketball player positions.


A standard basketball court is about 91 feet long and 49 feet wide, with a 10-foot-high basketball hoop on each end. There are lines marking half-court, the sidelines, end lines, and free throw lines. There is also a large arc on each side marking the 3-point line.


You’ll also need the right equipment in order to play basketball. You’ll need the following:

  • Basketball Ball: Basketballs are generally made of rubber, nylon, polyester, and leather and must have a pressure of 7.5 to 8.5 psi. In terms of size, a regulation-size ball is a Size 7, which is 29.5 inches in circumference.
  • Basketball Shoes: While you can play basketball with regular shoes, you should opt for basketball shoes, which offer more cushion and structure with thick rubber outsoles for better traction.
  • Basketball Uniform: Generally, a basketball uniform consists of a jersey, shorts, and a pair of socks. You can also wear a headband or arm sleeve if you want!


A basketball team is comprised of at least 5 players plus substitutes, as only 5 players are allowed on the court from each team at any given time. All 5 players play a hybrid of defense and offense, as the ball is turned over quite often in basketball.

The five player positions are:

  • Point Guard
  • Shooting Guard
  • Small Forward
  • Power Forward
  • Center


Often described as the offensive leader. This is the team’s fastest player and best dribbler. Their main objective is to steal the ball from the opposing team and run the ball to the scoring end of the court.


This is the team’s best shooter. The other players pass them the ball often as they excel at making 3-pointers and long shots.


Small forwards go where they are needed. They move around the court and are extremely versatile by nature. Small forwards are aggressive scorers and should be good at 3-pointers as well as layups and dunks.


Power forwards play close to the hoop but also step back and take longer shots. The power forward is a hybrid position for a powerful player who can catch rebounds and pass/shoot well.


The center is the defensive tank. They play close to the hoop. The center is oftentimes the tallest player who is able to block shots and collect rebounds.


Now that we know the very basics of the game, it’s time to learn the actual basketball rules!

A basketball game is split into four 12-minute quarters. However, the game doesn’t last exactly 48 minutes, as the clock is stopped for time-outs, fouls, and halftime, among other reasons.


The game starts in the middle of the court with one player on each team in the center circle with the referee in between them. The referee throws the basketball into the air and both players jump up to gain possession of the ball. The team that gains possessions starts with the ball in the 4th quarter as well, while the losing team starts with the ball in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.


In basketball, the players advance the ball down the court by dribbling (or bouncing) the ball with one hand. If a player stops dribbling, they must either shoot the ball or pass it to another teammate. Players absolutely CANNOT carry the ball in any circumstance, and players must dribble the ball from the top of the ball.


As mentioned, a basketball court is divided into 2 halves. When a team advances with the ball past the half-court line, they cannot pass or dribble the ball back across this line. Doing so will result in a backcourt violation (more on violations below!) and the opposing team will gain possession of the ball.

The opposing team also gains control if a team knocks the ball out of bounds on the sidelines or end lines.


Making a basket from behind the 3-point line will land your team 3 points, while a shot within the 3-point line will give your team 2 points.

But more than that… one of the most exciting parts of basketball is the various ways of shooting baskets. Players can dunk, jump shot, layup, hook shot, throw 3-pointers, or even go for incredible half-court shots.

I mean, just watch some of the most incredible shots made in basketball over the years:


To keep the game fast-paced, a team is only allowed possession of the ball for 24 seconds before they must make a shot. If they fail to make a shot within this time limit, the opposing team gets possession of the ball and the shot clock resets.


Defenders can block shots or guard players to prevent them from passing or shooting the ball, and they can even steal the ball. However, there are some limits to what defenders are able to do. Defenders may not hold, block, jerk, kick, trip, or obstruct opposing players.


If a player shoots the ball at the basket and the ball is on a downward trajectory toward the basket, is on the way up toward the basket after touching the backboard, or is in the cylinder above the rim, a defender is not allowed to interfere with it. Doing so will result in the offensive team automatically getting those points.


There are four types of fouls in basketball. These are:

  • Personal Fouls
  • Technical Fouls
  • Flagrant 1 Fouls
  • Flagrant 2 Fouls

Generally, players are removed from the game after 5 personal fouls.


Personal fouls are the fouls most will think of when discussing basketball fouls. These fouls are committed by one player and can be offensive or defensive fouls. Generally, players are removed from the game after 5 or 6 personal fouls.

Personal fouls include:

  • Holding
  • Elbowing
  • Tripping
  • Blocking
  • Charging
  • Illegal screen


Technical fouls include any unsportsmanlike behavior. Players may be ejected from the game after max 2 technical fouls.

Technical fouls include:

  • Too many players on the court
  • Unsportsmanlike behavior
  • Provocation
  • Shattering the backboard
  • Cursing a referee


A fragrant foul is any intentional or unintentional contact that might harm another player. There are two types of fragrant fouls: flagrant 1 and fragrant 2. A flagrant 1 foul is simple unnecessary contact with another player, whereas a flagrant 2 fouls is excessive and unreasonable contact.

Both flagrant fouls have a penalty of two free throws to the fouled team, with the fouled team also gaining possession of the ball. However, flagrant 2 fouls have the additional penalty of the player who committed the foul immediately getting ejected from the game. Players will also get ejected after committing two flagrant 1 fouls.


basketball rules

If a ball handler is fouled while shooting a basket, they are given 2 or 3 free throws depending on if they were going for a 2 or 3 pointer.

1 free throw is given to a team if the opposing team commits 5 fouls in a single quarter.

If a referee deems that a foul is excessively aggressive or flagrant, the fouled player is given a free throw.


Here are some other basketball rules to keep in mind when playing or watching the game:

  • There can be as many substitutions as needed in a single game.
  • As soon as a player places both hands on the ball (not including catching the ball), they must pass or shoot the ball. In other words, once a player stops dribbling, they cannot start dribbling again.
  • Once the defending team wins possession of the ball, they must get the ball back across the halfway line within 10 seconds.
  • After every successful shot, the possession of the ball is passed over to the opposing team.
  • The ball must stay within bounds. If a team loses the ball out of bounds, the opposing team gets possession.


Violations are generally for more minor infractions, while fouls are for more serious infractions. These violations generally cover any breaking of basic basketball rules. While we’ve covered a couple of violations already, let’s go over all the rules you absolutely cannot break in basketball.

  • Five Second Rule: There are many types of the 5 second rule violation in a basketball game, including a player cannot hold the ball for more than 5 seconds (see held ball below), a player cannot dribble the ball with their side or back to the basket for more than 5 seconds when in the free throw line (NBA only), and a player cannot take more than 5 seconds to inbound the ball.
  • Three Second Rule: According to the three-second rule in basketball, offensive players cannot stay within the free throw lane for more than three seconds. Similarly, when it comes to defense, a three-second violation is called when a player stays inside the free throw lane for more than 3 seconds when not guarding.
  • Traveling: Players cannot take more than two steps without dribbling.
  • Double Dribbling: After dribbling the ball, you cannot stop dribbling and start again. You can only dribble once!
  • Carrying: When dribbling the ball, you must always dribble by touching the very top of the ball. If you scoop the ball to carry it in any way, this is a carrying violation.
  • Held Ball: This violation refers to the offense holding the ball for five seconds without passing, shooting, or dribbling.
  • Backcourt Violation: Also called the 8-second or 10-second rule, this rule states that after winning possession, the offensive team must get the ball across the halfway line within 8 or 10 seconds, depending on the association.


basketball rules

A basketball game ends after four 12-minute quarters. At the end of the game, the team with the highest score wins. If the score is tied at the end of the game, the game goes into overtime. An overtime period in basketball is 5 minutes long and each period starts with a jump ball, exactly like the start of the game.


Basketball players are some of the most famous and popular athletes in the world. In fact, the best basketball players of all time are household names that even non-basketball fans will be able to recognize.

Here are some of the best basketball players of all time:

  • LeBron James: LeBron James is a huge name around the world for a reason. His endless accolades include 4 NBA titles, 4 Finals MVPs, 4 MVPs, 13 All-NBA 1st Team selections, 19 All-Stars, and plenty more.
  • Michael Jordan: Michael Jordan is a household name around the world and boasts accolades such as 6 NBA titles, 6 Finals MVPs, 5 MVPs, 10 All-NBA 1st Team selections, and 14 All-Stars, among many others.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Abdul-Jabbar has the most consistent basketball resume ever, boasting 6 NBA titles, 2 Finals MVPs, 6 MVPs, 10 All-NBA 1st Team selections, 19 All-Stars, and more!
  • Magic Johnson: The best point guard ever, Magic Johnson has 5 NBA titles, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 MVPs, 9 All-NBA 1st Team selections, and 12 All-Stars to his name.
  • Wilt Chamberlain: Chamberlain holds the record for the most points scored in a single basketball game, with 100 points, as well as 2 NBA titles, 1 Finals MVP, 4 MVPs, 7 All-NBA 1st Team selections, and 13 All-Stars.
  • Bill Russell: The basketball player with the most accolades and titles goes to none other than Bill Russell, who boasts 11 NBA titles, 5 MVPs, 11 All-NBA selections, 12 All-Stars, and an Olympic gold medal to boot!
  • Larry Bird: While Bird had a shorter NBA career than most, he still managed to grab 3 NBA titles, 2 Finals MVPs, 3 MVPs, 9 All-NBA 1st Team selections, and 12 All-Stars!

Check out our article on the top 20 best shooting guards of all time for more on this topic!


When Was Basketball Invented?

James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. The sport quickly gained popularity, with the first college basketball game played soon after in 1896.

What Is a Double Double in Basketball?

A double-double is a single-game performance in which a single player earns 10+ points in two of these five categories: points, assists, steals, rebounds, and blocked shots. The term refers to two of the categories achieving 10 points, as in, double digits; hence, double-double.

What Are the Most Points Scored in a Basketball Game?

Wilt Chamberlain holds the record for the most points scored in a basketball game with an amazing 100 points in a single game! Kobe Bryant comes in second with 81 points.Enjoy basketball? You should check out the rules for other similar sports like netball and handball!