– Basketball –

The objective of the game is to shoot the ball into the basket and score more points than the opposing team. The game is played in two teams of five in 12 minute quarters (NBA) or 20 minute halves (NCAA).

The Leagues: National Basketball Association (NBA), Women’s National Basketball Association, (WNBA), International Basketball Federation (FIBA), and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).


1. Basketball is different from football and baseball because the ball changes possession A LOT more and it doesn’t have parameters like 4 downs or 3 strikes to dictate the duration of a possession. In basketball, it’s actually time that determines the duration of a possession. As long as a team abides by the shot clock rule, that team could hold onto the ball for as long as they want. It’s unlikely that a team could keep possession of the ball for an entire game but in theory, it is possible.

a. Shot clock rule: a timer (24 seconds in the NBA) that requires a team to shootthe ball within 24 seconds of possession and either hit the rim or go in the basket.

i. If the ball doesn’t go through the hoop, it’s likely teams will have to rebound the ball in order to regain possession of the ball.

ii. Rebound: this is a stat awarded to player that grabs the ball coming off the backboard or the rim during a missed field goal or free throw.

b. If a team cannot touch the rim of the basket or actually make a basket in 24 seconds, this is considered a shot clock violation. Even if a player has the ball in his possession when the clock expires, the turnover counts against the team not the specific player.

2. Scoring: How do you make a bucket?

a. To put it simply, you score by gaining possession of the ball, moving it down the court yourself or with the help of your teammates, and then putting the ball through the hoop.

b. There’s quite a few ways and approaches to score points, but let’s start with the basics. A player can either make a basket worth 2 or 3 points in a normal non free throw shooting situation.

c. The only time that a basket will be worth less than 2 points is when a player is shooting a free throw. Typically, a player goes to the free throw line if he/she was fouled in the act of shooting. Since as we mentioned, a player is either attempting to make a 2 or 3 point shot from the field, that determines how many free throws they are awarded.

i. If the player is fouled anywhere inside the three-point line, he/she will be awarded 2 free throws.

ii. If the player is fouled behind the three-point arc, he/she will be awarded 3 free throws.

d. There’s exceptions to the free throw rule, as always. A player can also go to the line if the foul was committed in the bonus (meaning the team that committed the foul already committed 7 fouls of any kind in one half).

e. When in the bonus, any defensive foul grants you free throws (not offensive fouls). Each shot made is worth 1 point. In the bonus, the player at the line shoots one-and-one, meaning you get the second shot if you make the first.  If the defensive team is in the double bonus (10 team fouls in one half), the person sent to line shoots two free throws regardless of if they make the first.

3. Make it rain: Types of Buckets

a. Layup (2 Points)

b. Alley-Oop (2 Points)

c. Hook shot (2-3 Points, depending on where the shot is made)

d. Free Throw (1 Point)

e. Bank shot (2-3 Points, depending on where the shot is made)

f. Slam dunk (2 Points)

4. We’ve given a lot of attention to the offensive side of the ball, but what about defense? While one team is attempting to put the ball through the hoop, the other five players on the court are doing everything they can to stop that from happening. Big defensive plays and movements include: 

a. Boxing out: it’s a maneuver in which players push their bodies against their opponents to position themselves in the best possible spot for a rebound.

b. Block: a blocked shot occurs when a defensive player deflects a field goal attempt by the opposing team. There’s lots of caveats here, but usually players will swat the ball (they’re only allowed to legally do this while the ball is still traveling upwards). 

c. Turnover: a turnover occurs when a team loses possession of the ball to the opposing team before taking a shot before attempting the field goal. A team can turn the ball over for many reasons including going out of bounds, travelling, having the ball stolen, etc.

d. Steal: this a stat awarded to player who steals the ball from an opponent by intercepting a pass or deflect a dribble or pass BUT they must control the deflection or else whoever does control the ball will get the boost on the stat sheet. 

e. Defensive rebound: as mentioned earlier, a rebound occurs when a player grabs the ball after a missed field goal or free throw attempt. It becomes a defensive rebound when a defensive player is the one gaining possession of the ball. 

f. Bouncing a ball off an opponent: this is another self explanatory move here. This happens when a player bounces the ball off a player from the opposing team, so the out of bounds violation is awarded to the opposing team and their (player who bounces the ball off the opponent) team is able to keep possession of the ball. This move only becomes illegal if you bounce the ball off a part of the body of the opposing team with the intention of hurting them. 

5. As we mentioned earlier, basketball is in large part, a game of possession. The ball changes hands so much and play does not stop for a lot of it, however, there are a few reasons you will see stoppages in play. Most of them are accompanied by a blow of the whistle.

a. Timeout: these are stoppages in play called by a team. They can be called for any reason, substitutions, changes in play calls, a pep talk, you name it. In the NBA, teams have 6 one-minute timeouts per game and one 20-second timeout during which a player must be substituted.

b. Inbounding the ball/Throw-in: inbounding the ball (tossing the ball in from the sideline or baseline) often happens quickly, so it might not seem like a stoppage of play, but it is. The clock stops when a team needs to inbound the ball and doesn’t start back up until a player inbounds (inside the court) touches the ball.

i.  A player has 5 seconds to inbound the ball, or else the opposing team will regain possession of the ball. This is called a 5-second violation.

ii. You will see players inbound the ball after the opposing team goes out of bounds, after a penalty occurs, or after a shot is made.

1. If a player in possession of the ball or the ball is outside the boundaries of the basketball court, they are considered out of bounds.

2. Players will inbound from where the ball went out of bounds or where the penalty occurred.

3. Penalties that result in stoppages of play include traveling and double dribbling.

4. In the NBA, the clock doesn’t stop after a shot is made even though you will see players inbound the ball. The clock will stop after a shot is made during the last minute of quarters 1, 2, and 3, the last two minutes of quarter 4 and overtime.

5. The player inbounding the ball cannot move their feet while inbounding UNLESS a player is inbounding after the opposing team scored.  In that case, the player inbounding can run along the baseline.

c. Jump ball: (in the NBA, college has different rules) when two players line up at the center circle or the top of the key and jump up while the ref tosses the ball up in an attempt to gain possession of the ball. No players, other than the jumpers, can enter the circle until the ball is touched. A jump ball occurs for several reasons: at the start of a game, when two players from opposing teams each have two hands on the ball and are struggling for possession, at the start of an overtime period, when a ball gets lodged in the rim, or when two referees give conflicting calls and no resolution is reached.

d. Injury: a ref will blow the whistle to stop the clock if there is an apparent injury that has occurred. It’s up to the refs if timeouts will be charged in these situations.

The CourT


A. Free Throw Lane: You will also hear this area called “the paint” or “the key.” The free throw lane is the rectangular area, typically 12 x 16 feet in the NBA. It runs from the baseline (a.k.a endline) to the free throw line.

a. Defensive players can stay in the paint as long as they want if they are guarding an offensive player within arms’ reach. Otherwise after 3 seconds, it is illegal defense and is considered a 3-second violation.

b. Offensive players cannot stay in the paint or lane longer than 3 seconds. Otherwise, it is known as a 3-second violation.

B. Free Throw Line: The free throw line is in the free throw lane. You’ll also often hear people refer to it as the charity stripe. It’s the horizontal line 15 feet away from the rim that separates the rest of the free throw lane from the top of the key. A player’s feet cannot cross the free throw line until after they make their shot attempt.

C. Three Point Arc:  If a player’s initial jump is behind the three point arc or if one foot lands outside the line, then the shot is considered a 3-pointer.

D. Front Court: The front court refers to the offensive half of the court. It starts from the mid court line to the endline and is where the team with possession of the ball is trying to score. The team’s front court is their small forward, power forward, and center. These players play in the front court and attempt to free themselves for a shot.  

E. Back Court: The back court refers to the defensive half of the court. It starts from the mid court line to the end line. Once the ball crosses into the front court, it cannot go back into backcourt. The team’s backcourt includes the point guard and shooting guard. Both players are responsibility for advancing the ball back to where the team is trying to score. 

F. Mid Court (a.k.a. half court): The midcourt line divides the court in half and delineates the frontcourt and backcourt. In the NBA, the offensive team must advance the ball pass the midcourt line within 8 seconds. If they don’t, they lose possession of the ball and the defensive team inbounds it. Once, the offensive team pushes the ball across half court into the front court, the team cannot bring it back into the backcourt

G. Sideline/Baseline: The sidelines and baselines are considered the court’s boundary lines. There are two sidelines that are the length of the court, and there are two baselines that are the width of the court. The baselines are under the basket and are considered the ends of the court. Sidelines run parallel to the basket and are also considered the ends of the court.

a. Inbounded/Throw In: The offensive player awarded the throw in can inbound the ball to a teammate from the sideline or baseline. Players will inbound from where the ball went out of bounds or where turnovers occurred. The player must inbound the ball within five seconds, otherwise it’s a violation, and they will lose possession of the ball.

H. Basket/Hoop: The basket, hoop, or rim is connected to the backboard with a net hanging off of it. The rim is 10 feet above the ground. The name of the game is to shoot the ball through the hoop and outscore the opposing team. 

I. Center Circle: The game starts with a jump ball at the center circle. One player from each opposing team will try to gain control of the ball once the referee throws it into the air. The jump ball at the beginning of the game is also known as the opening tip or tip off. You will also see a jump ball happen at the start of an overtime period, similar to a game’s tipoff. Jump balls can happen during a game and don’t take place in this center circle.

J. Top of the Key: You guessed it! This is quite literally the area at the top of the key (a half circle). On high school courts this is the area where the three point line and touches the half circle.  On NBA courts, the three point arc is further away, so it doesn’t touch the top of the key.  In the NBA, this area, along with the bottom half of it that’s part of the free throw lane, is also used for jump balls that do not occur at the start of games or overtime periods.

The Players

There are 5 positions in basketball. If you want to drop some names (and knowledge) find the top players for each position here.


blow the whistle

With balls dribbling everywhere and players running up and down the court, it’s hard to figure out what the referees are whistling about. Let’s break it down so we know what to look for on the court.

Depending on how severe the foul is, fouls can result in a shot(s) at the free throw line or ejection from the game. These are the main type of fouls: 

● Personal Foul: Personal fouls are the most common type of foul. In its most basic form, a foul is when one player has illegal contact with another player. Basketball isn’t a contact sport, so you shouldn’t be touching any other players if you’re playing clean.

○ If a player receives six personal fouls, he will be ejected from the game.  This is called a foul out. Coaches will monitor a player’s game minutes to avoid this at all costs.

○ Unlike what you might expect, fouls don’t always occur when defending. Fouls can be offensive too. An offensive foul occurs when an offensive player charges the defender or uses illegal screens. A screen also known as a pick can be found here.

● Technical (a.k.a. tech): this happens when a player displays unsportsmanlike contact (aka abusive language). Yeah – they’re yelling more than, “Great shot, buddy!” on the court. First tech results in a free throw for the other player. Second tech means they’re out.

● Bonus Situation:  this occurs when a team reaches their requisite number of fouls, each foul after will result in a free throw regardless of the foul.

● Charging foul: this is one of the harder calls to make in basketball. It is called when an offensive player collides with a defensive player that is already in position (has both feet firmly planted on the ground). The offensive player gets charged with a personal foul and a turnover.

● Blocking Foul:  a blocking foul occurs when a defensive player illegally obstructs an offensive player from making a shot. If a player is attempting to score while committing the charging foul, the basket does not count.

● Flagrant: a flagrant is considered a violent foul. A player is really trying to hurt another player on purpose. There are 2 kinds:

○ Flagrant 1: unnecessary contact on opposing player.

Flagrant 2: unnecessary and excessive contact on opposing player. This leads to immediate rejection and up to $35k fine.



As in you shouldn’t be doing that — this usually results in giving possession of the ball to the opponent. Now there are more rules and violations, but we’re not here to make you read the NBA handbook. We’ll just go over the common ones.

● Shot Clock Violation: in the NBA, It is a literal 24-second shot clock on the court. The team in possession of the ball has 24 seconds to make a shot. If a team can’t make the shot in 24 seconds,the opposing team will be awarded possession of the ball.  The shot clock resets to 24 when the ball hits the rim, a jump ball, or defense claims possession of the ball.

● Three Second Rule (Violation): if a defensive player is in the key and not guarding an offensive player or if an offensive player is in the key for more than 3 second this is a 3 second violation. This can respectively result in the offensive team selecting any player on the opposing team to shoot a penalty free throw or a technical foul.

● Eight-Second Violation: if the offensive team does not advance the ball pass the midcourt line within 8 seconds, the opposing team will be awarded possession of the ball.

● Goal Tending: this is any interference with the ball while it’s near/on the rim. The defender cannot touch the ball if it’s on a downward arc to the basket or it’s on or over therim. If he/she does, the offensive team automatically gets the appropriate points for the shot.

● Travelling: travelling can occur when a player moves without dribbling the ball. The violation results in awarding the opposing team possession of the ball. However, players are allowed to take two steps without dribbling if they drive to the basket and shoot in one fluid motion.

Double Dribble: a player dribbles, stops dribbling, and then dribbles again.  Once the player stops dribbling they must to pass or shoot.  Players must dribble with one hand only. Violating either of these results in a turnover.

Talk that Talk

Uh could you use that in sentence please? Hey I thought I was getting the hang of the sports terminology? You are! But you’re not like a regular sports fan; you’re a cool sports fan. Talk like ESPN sportscasters and talk that talk.

● Hard in the Paint: playing hard in the paint references the players playing aggressive in the free throw lane.

● Buckets: buckets reference when a player makes a field goal or basket.

● Boards: boards are otherwise known as rebounds. They call it ‘boards,’ because the player has grab the ball once it bounces off the backboard

● Break Ankles: player does a move that causes the defender to fall (like this)

● Buzzer Beater: a buzzer beater typically refers to the game winning shot made at the end of a game, but it can also refer to a shot that goes in as the buzzer sounds to end the half or quarter.

● Drive: this happens when player goes to the basket to attempt to score.