Basketball Rules & How To Play Basketball

Basketball Rules & How To Play Basketball
Basketball Rules & How To Play Basketball. (Photo credit: The Canadian Press / Nathan Denette)

James Naismith basketball of the 19th century has evolved to form a new style of play with such intensity and action peculiar to competitive sports. Before we delve in to understand the basketball rules that guide the play in the modern era, let’s present you some incitive background information, how to play basketball as well as the rules.

Background Information

Since it’s inception in 1891 by Canadian physical instructor James Naismith, basketball has risen in more than a century to become one of the most popular sport worldwide. Ranked among the top-10 sports played worldwide, basketball is played by about 400 million individuals, according to international basketball association FIBA.

The popularity of the sports and the ripple effects of games played in major leagues such as the National Basketball Association (NBA), the most popular basketball league in the world, has created has brought light repeatedly on the rules of the game. When James Naismith founded the game back in 1891, he set 13 rules of basketball which have formed the basis of the current rules which has been refined to form the rules of modern-day basketball.

How to Play Basketball

The Objective of the Game

Being a physically intensive sport, the major objective in a basketball game is to score as more points as possible in order to emerge the victor.


A basketball game begins with a tipoff whereby the referee tosses the ball between two players, each from both teams, the player who gets his hand on the ball tips the ball to a teammate.  The duration of the game spans 40-48 minutes which consists of two halves with a four 10 minute period in each half. There is usually a two minutes interval between the 1st-2nd as well and 3rd-4th periods. At the end of the first half, a fifteen-minute break is taken before play commences. A professional basketball court is a rectangular indoor court which spans 50 feet × 94 feet in dimension. The basketball court is laden with various markings, which includes a circle at the centre of the court, the free throw semi-circles, the three-point lines and the restricted areas. Three referees control the basketball game, while the time is noted by the timekeeper, and score and stats are noted by the scorekeeper.

Team Players & Player Positions  

The game is played by two different teams with 5 players each in the court. Both teams are at liberty to make as many substitutions as possible in a game. There are five positions for the five players, the point guard, often referred to as the leader of the team, the shooting guard, who is saddled with the shooting responsibility, the small forward who make cuts for shots and the power forward and center who are referred to frontcourt, they are responsible for blocking and rebounding shots.


Basketball Equipment
Basketball Equipment. (Photo credit:

The equipment required for a basketball game includes the hoop or basket which is 18 inch in diameter and hung at about 10 feet off the ground from a rectangular backboard 3.5 feet high. The ball is orange in colour, lighting as well as a game clock is necessary for a professional basketball game.


A goal is scored when the ball is successfully placed through the basket in the opposing team half. Teams prevent players from opposing team from placing the ball through the basket on its half to prevent goals.


Team with the most point at the end of the game emerges the winner in a basketball game. In the event of a tie, the game is further extended for an overtime five minutes where the team with the most point wins the game.

Basketball Rules

In modern basketball some changes have been made to the rules enshrined by the inventor of the game, we consider rule by rule the modern changes and the applicable rules.

  1. The ball may be thrown in any direction by players, but once the ball passes the midcourt, it cannot be passed behind the midcourt by an offensive player. An offensive player is allowed to pass the ball behind the midcourt line only when the ball touches a defensive player. Violation of this rule is known as backcourt violation.
  2. Rule 2, still adheres to in modern basketball. Players are allowed to bat the ball away from an offensive player with both hands or just one hand. Players are also allowed to block a shot with both hands or one hand, the NBA stats for blocked shots is an evolution of the rule set by James Naismith.
  3. The third rule frowns against a player running with the ball without making a pass or shot or without dribbling. Players who do not adhere to this rule are booked for travelling. Travelling, though a basic rule in basketball is often misunderstood, a player is said to have travelled when a player lifts his pivot foot and returns it before making a pass or a shot.
  4. The use of any body part aside the hand to hold the ball or obstruct a pass or shot is disallowed. Passes and shots can only be made with the hand.
  5. The fifth rule still applies to modern basketball. Players are ultimately removed from play when a foul with an intent to injure is committed, substitution for players who are removed in this manner is not allowed. Violation of this rule results in flagrant fouls which results in the allocation of the ball and two shots to the opponent, players who commit flagrant fouls are suspended for a duration while the game continues.
  6. As clearly indicated, fouls are counted when players hit the ball with the fist and violate the 3rd, 4th and 5th rule. In modern basketball, particularly in the NBA, players have adapted creatively to this rule by adopting styles of passes such as bounce pass, chest pass and behind-the-back pass.
  7. The seventh rule is currently obsolete. But it sets the basis for the current rule which states that five or more team fouls result in a penalty-free throw to the opponent.
  8. The 8th rule has changed, when James Naismith made the rule, the basket didn’t have a hole, which made the ball stay in the basketball. The basket now has a hole and thus the ball goes right through, but a player is not allowed to touch the rim when the ball is on its way to the basket. A violation of this rule is known as the goaltending violation.
  9. The ninth rule which is infamously known as the five-second rule states that a player who fails to throw the ball in five seconds forfeits the ball to the opponent. According to the rule, an in-bound player who fails to pass, shoot or dribble within five seconds forfeits the ball to the opponent.
  10. The umpire has been replaced with the referee. In professional leagues such as the NBA, three referees determine fouls.
  11. The rules still apply, though the referee control ball possession, the time monitoring as well as players substitution is monitored by various time checkers, while the scorekeeper controls the game score as well as other statistics of the game which includes individual player statistics.
  12. The duration of basketball has changed in the modern era, the duration consists of two halves which comprises of four 10-minutes quarters, the is a two minutes interval between the first and second as well as third and fourth intervals in each half. At the end of the first half, there is a 15 minutes break. If at the end of the fourth period in a half, both teams are tied, the game is allowed for five overtime minutes.
  13. At the end of the game, the team with the most point emerge winner in the game, but in the event of a tie, the team with the most points in the five minutes overtime emerges the winner.

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