What is basketball
Basketball is a team game where the aim of the game is to score more points than the opposing team. A game lasts for four, ten-minute periods, with the clock stopping when the ball is not in play.
Teams are made up of 12 players, with only 5 allowed on court at any time. Teams can substitute as many times as they like, but can only do so when the ball is not in play. Players are permitted to commit four fouls in a game, as soon as they commit their fifth foul they are not allowed to take further part.
Points are scored by shooting the ball through a hoop suspended 10 feet off the floor. Shots from open play count as two points, unless they are released from outside the 'three point arc', in which case they are worth three points.
Free Throws - unchallenged shots taken from the free throw line - are worth one point. Players are awarded free throws if they are fouled whilst shooting the ball as well as every time the opposing team commits a foul if they have already committed four fouls in the period.
Players are able to move freely about the court at all times, except the player with the ball, who may only move if they 'dribble' the ball. Dribbling is the act of continuously bouncing the ball onto the floor with one hand. If a player ends their dribble, i.e. they allow the ball to come to rest in one or both hands, they are not allowed to start a new dribble until the ball has been shot or it has been touched by another player.
A foul is illegal personal contact with an opponent. In essence all players are entitled to the space which they already occupy and are entitled to attempt to move to any space on the floor which is not already occupied, as long as that does not involve going through another player's space.
Basketball is NOT a non-contact sport. There will be some contact between players during the game that is legal and allowed. In general the defensive team have more responsibility to avoid contact, but a foul can also be called against a player on offence.
The most common types of foul seen in a game of basketball will be holding, pushing, blocking (or moving into the path of a moving opponent) and illegal use of hands (touching a player is not necessarily a foul, but gaining an advantage by doing so would be).
A team that is in possession of the ball must attempt a shot before the 'shot clock' expires. Upon first gaining possession of the ball the shot clock will run down from 24 seconds. The shot clock will stop when the ball is not in play and there are rules which will see it reset to 24 seconds (or 14) when the defensive team commit an infraction.
There are other rules covering the movement of players and the ball and times when it is illegal to touch the ball. Anyone interested in learning more should check out the full Rules of Basketball.
With all five players participating in offence and defence and free to move around the court as they wish, positions in basketball are very fluid.
These are the five traditional basketball positions - although in reality teams will rarely have one of each position on court and players will more often than not fit into more than one description.
Point Guard (PG): a.k.a. - Point, One, Playmaker
Role: The PG will be the main ball-handler on the team and will mainly be responsible for deciding and orchestrating the offensive movements on any given play. They will not necessarily score lots of points.
Main skills required: Speed • Ball handling • Passing • Tactical awareness
Can succeed without: Height • Strength • Athleticism • Long range shooting
Shooting Guard (SG): a.k.a. - Off Guard, Two
Role: The SG is mainly on court is to score points. They are likely to shoot the ball a lot (hence the name). They will also help with ball-handling duties
Main skills required: Shooting • Ball handling • Passing • Athleticism • Free Throw shooting
Can succeed without: Height • Defence
Small Forward (SF): a.k.a. - Wing, Three
Role: The SF is likely to be able to fulfil most roles on court, whether that be scoring, creating for others, rebounding or defending.
Main skills required: Height • Athleticism • Free Throw shooting • Defence
Can succeed without: Strength
Power Forward (PF): a.k.a. - Post, Four
Role: The PF will generally play close to the basket on offence and defence. They will use their size and strength to create opportunities for themselves and their team-mates and prevent the opposition from doing the same.
Main skills required: Height • Strength • Athleticism
Can succeed without: Free Throw shooting • Long range shooting
Center (C): a.k.a. - Pivot, Five
Role: The C will play almost exclusively close to the basket. They will the main protector of the rim at the defensive end.
Main skills required: Height • Strength • Passing
Can succeed without: Shooting • Ball handling • Athleticism