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Basketball Basics

1- History & Object of the Game
2- The Essentials (Offense & Defense, Scoring, etc.)
3- Fouls
4- Court Diagram & Positions
5- Glossary of Basketball Terms

The Essentials

Game Length

Games are divided into quarters or halves, with a total game time ranging from 32 to 48 minutes, depending on the level. Time is managed by a game clock. Additionally, a shot clock, ranging from 24 to 35 seconds, counts down the time the offense has to shoot the ball during each possession. An overtime period is played if a game is tied at the end of regulation time. Additional overtime periods are played, as needed, to determine a winner.

Start of the game

The game begins at center court with a tip-off, in which one player from each team, usually the tallest, attempts to tap the ball to a teammate. The team that takes possession of the ball is on offense.

Offense and Defense


Basketball is played at a quick tempo between two goals at opposite ends of the court. Teams design and select plays created out of 10 general formations, and strategies are determined by coaches’ preference and the players’ skills. The offense seeks to score points by shooting the ball through the basket before the shot clock expires. Shots taken near the basket generally have the highest success rate; therefore, players look to drive towards the basket and make a lay-up, or pass the ball to an open player to take a jump-shot. Players cannot advance the ball without dribbling or passing it to a teammate. Players who move while holding the ball are called for traveling, which results in a turnover.


Defenses usually employ one of two basic strategies: man-to-man defense or zone defense. In a man-to-man defense, each defender guards one member of the offense who usually plays the same position. In a zone defense, defenders guard specific areas of the court instead of covering a single opponent. In both strategies, the defense attempts to regain possession of the ball in three main ways. The defense can steal the ball, disrupt the offense so that no shot is taken and the shot clock expires, or force a difficult shot and rebound the basketball after a missed shot. In addition, the defense takes possession when the opposition loses the ball out of bounds, and when an offensive player commits a foul or violation.


Points are accumulated in three ways:

Free-Throw: (one point) An unguarded shot from the free throw line awarded after certain fouls.

Field Goal: (two points) A shot that passes over and through the basket from within the three-point line. This is the most common type of scoring.

Three-Pointer: (three points) A shot from beyond the three-point line that passes over and through the basket.


Equipment is minimal in basketball, and includes a uniform that consists of a shirt and shorts of the team color, supportive shoes, and a leather or nylon ball. Youth balls and women’s balls are slightly smaller than the standard men’s ball.

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