fast-paced game played on a rectangular court, generally indoors, by two
five-player teams. The primary objective of the game is to score more points
than the opposition by putting a round ball through a circular band, called
a rim. The two rims are at each end of the court, placed 10 ft (3.1 m) above
the ground and connected to a backboard, a rectangular board that hangs from
the ceiling or is supported in the air on a pole or some other structure.
One of the most popular sports in the world, basketball is played by men and
women of all ages and ability levels in more than 200 countries.
|II. Court and Teams|
While the dimensions of individual basketball courts vary, a playing area 84 ft (25.6 m) long and 50 ft (15.2 m) wide—predominantly used in recreational, high school, and intercollegiate competition—is considered ideal for most players.
Professional basketball courts are slightly larger, 94 ft (28.7 m) long and
50 ft wide. In addition to size, courts can vary in other ways, such as in
the radius of the circle situated at the center of the court and in the
distance of the 3-point line (from beyond which a score counts for 3 points)
from the basket. For example, the 3-point line in high school and college
games is 19 ft 9 in (6 m) from the basket, while in international play it is
21 ft 6 in (6.6 m), and in the National Basketball Association (NBA) it
extends as far as 23 ft 9 in (7.2 m). The backboards were originally used to
prevent spectators from interfering with play. They are generally 4 by 6 ft
(1.2 by 1.8 m) and are connected to cast-iron rims, or baskets, that are 18
in (45.7 cm) in diameter. Each basket has a white, nylon-mesh net 15 to 18
in (38.1 to 45.7 cm) in length connected to iron loops on the rim.
The referees maintain orderly and fair play on the court and administer the rules of the game to ensure that neither team has an unfair advantage.
To make appropriate calls, referees must be observant and have exceptional knowledge of rules and playing styles. Referees must position themselves during play to afford a clear view of the action without interfering. A referee will cite rules infractions and stop play by blowing a whistle. After play has stopped, referees signal what violation has occurred by using hand signals and a verbal call. Most referees' decisions must be made very quickly. During the game a referee can run several miles supervising the activity, so exceptional physical fitness is important. Between games and during the off-season, referees engage in a continuing study of all possible game situations.
basketball is played informally on playgrounds or in organized fashion in
leagues, it is played with essentially the same set of rules, which have
stayed generally consistent since the game's invention in 1891. The game
involves two five-player teams that play both offense and defense. At the
completion of each game, the team that has scored the most points wins.
Recreational and high school games last 32 minutes (four quarters of 8
minutes each), college and international games last 40 minutes (two halves
of 20 minutes each), women's professional games last 40 minutes (either two
20-minute halves or four 10-minute quarters, depending on the league), and
men's professional games last 48 minutes (four quarters of 12 minutes each).
When a game is tied after regulation time has ended, the teams play overtime
periods until one team ends an overtime period with more points and is
therefore the winner.
offense is perhaps the most prominent part of playing basketball, as it
allows players to demonstrate and improve upon individual skills necessary
to being successful. Many of basketball's best players have exceptional
talents on offense. Basic offensive skills are passing, ball handling,
shooting, and rebounding.
just as important to winning basketball games as offense. The goal of
defense is simple: to stop the opposition from scoring. The more times a
team stops an opponent from scoring, the more likely it is that a victory
will be secured. The basic defensive technique involves guarding the
opponent while keeping both feet at least shoulder-width apart, with one
foot slightly ahead of the other and the knees bent. When defending, a
player's weight should be placed on the balls of the feet to ensure quick
movement in any direction.
|V. Amateur Competition|
While basketball gains much of its popularity through spectators watching professional competition, the sport flourishes worldwide at amateur levels for both men and women. Most organized amateur play takes place at the high school and college level, where the season runs from November through March.
|A. Organization of High School and College Play|
basketball's governing body, the National Federation of State High Schools (NFHS),
is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The NFHS does not crown a national
champion. Instead, high school teams compete to win their state
championship, with each state having its own guidelines for determining
titles. Most states have several state champions, each in a category
determined by school size.
|B. Collegiate National Championship|
The NCAA, the
NAIA, and the NJCAA all sponsor postseason national championship
tournaments. The men's and women's NCAA national championship basketball
tournaments are the most high-profile of these tournaments. They are also
two of the premier sporting events in the United States. Both tournaments
are held in March and early April, using the same format to determine a
national champion. Each tournament involves 64 teams in a single-elimination
competition, meaning that one loss disqualifies a team from further play.
|VI. Professional Competition|
The highest level of professional play takes place in the United States and Canada, and players from all over the world strive to play in North America. But professional basketball is also played in more than 20 other countries. Brazil, Japan, Germany, France, and Spain are among the nations that support leagues that develop the skills of international players. Some players from the United States and Canada play professional basketball in other countries if they fail to make teams in their own countries.
The National Basketball Association (NBA), with teams from the United States and Canada, is the major professional basketball league in the world.
NBA teams are divided into two conferences, the Eastern and Western, each of
which has two divisions. Each NBA team conducts a training camp in October
to determine its 12-player roster. Training camp allows each team to
evaluate players, especially rookies (first-year players), to assess the
team's strengths and weaknesses, and to prepare players for the upcoming
season through a series of on-court drills and practice of offensive and
defensive strategy. After a series of exhibition games, the NBA begins its
82-game regular season in the first week of November.
the draft order the NBA uses a draft lottery, introduced in 1985. Those
teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs the previous season are
eligible for the lottery. The lottery determines the first three teams to
select in the draft. The remaining teams, including those that qualified for
the playoffs the preceding season, draft according to their win-loss record
of the previous season, so that teams with poorer records draft earlier than
those with better records. Teams may trade draft picks with each other,
either for different picks or for players. The NBA draft consists of only
two rounds, with a total of 58 players chosen. Those players not selected in
the draft can be invited to try out for a team and are sometimes signed as
|B. Women's Professional Basketball|
1990s women's basketball became increasingly popular in North America, and
two professional women's leagues started play. The now-defunct American
Basketball League (ABL) was founded in 1996, and the Women's National
Basketball Association (WNBA) was founded in 1997. One major reason these
leagues were formed was to bring the nation's top female players back to the
United States. With no professional league in the United States, many of the
former college stars had been competing in foreign leagues.
|C. International Play|
basketball is extremely popular in the United States, it is also growing in
other countries. There are more than 200 national federations that belong to
Fédération International de Basketball Association (FIBA; French for
“International Basketball Federation”), an independent organization that
governs international basketball. FIBA, established in 1932 and
headquartered in Munich, Germany, divides the world into five sections,
called zone commissions. These commissions—Africa, Asia, the Americas,
Europe, and Oceania—govern basketball within their regions and conduct their
|VII. Olympic Basketball|
years, the worldwide basketball community gathers for competition at the
Olympic Games. Olympic play for men was first introduced as a demonstration
sport (with no medal awarded) at the 1904 games in St. Louis, Missouri. The
first official Olympic basketball tournament was held at the 1936 Games in
Berlin, Germany. The 1936 contests were held outdoors in a tennis stadium on
courts of clay and sand. The United States team won the Olympic gold medal
that year, defeating the Canadian team by a score of 19-8 in the final
round. The score was so low because the courts were soaked from rain, making
it difficult for the players to maintain footing and to dribble.
In early December 1891, Luther Gulick, chairman of the physical education department at the School for Christian Workers (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, instructed physical education teacher James Naismith to invent a new game to entertain the school's athletes during the winter season. With an ordinary soccer ball, Naismith assembled his class of 18 young men, appointed captains of two nine-player teams, and introduced them to the game of Basket Ball (then two words). Naismith, who had outlined 13 original rules, dispatched the school janitor to find two boxes to be fastened to the balcony railing at opposite sides of the gymnasium, where they would serve as goals. The school janitor, however, only found two half-bushel peach baskets, and the game was played with these.
|A. Early Developments|
The soccer ball and the peach basket soon gave way to specialized equipment.
example, in the early days the peach baskets were closed at the bottom,
meaning that someone had to climb on a ladder to retrieve the ball after a
made basket. The peach basket was later replaced by a metal rim with a net
hanging below, and in 1906 people began opening the netting to let the ball
fall through. The first basketballs were made from panels of leather
stitched together with a rubber bladder inside. A cloth lining was added to
the leather for support and uniformity. The molded basketball, introduced in
about 1942, was a significant advancement for the sport. The molded ball, a
factory-made ball that had a constant size and shape, offered better
reaction and durability, making play more consistent and the development of
individual skills easier. In Naismith's original 13 rules, the ball could be
batted in any direction with one or both hands, but it could not be dribbled
because players could not move with the ball. Beginning in 1910 a player
could dribble the ball, but could not shoot after dribbling. It was not
until 1916, following heated debate, that players were allowed to shoot
|B. Growth in Popularity|
growth spread in the United States and abroad through
Young Men's Christian Associations
(YMCAs), the armed forces, and colleges.
|C. Increased Organization|
mid-1930s another professional league called the National Basketball League
(NBL) was founded, taking the same name as the earlier NBL, which had ceased
operation some years before. In 1946 a group of executives in New York City
formed yet another new professional basketball league, known as the
Basketball Association of America (BAA). This new circuit was a direct
competitor with the new NBL, with teams in New York City; Boston,
Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; and Detroit,
Michigan. Just before the 1948-49 season, the four strongest teams in the
NBL—those from Minneapolis, Minnesota; Rochester, New York; Fort Wayne,
Indiana; and Indianapolis, Indiana—joined the BAA. The following season, the
NBL's six surviving teams also joined the BAA, forming a three-division
league that was renamed the National Basketball Association (NBA). After the
1949-50 season the NBA reduced its size and established two divisions, the
forerunners to the Eastern and Western conferences that were established
after the 1969-70 season.
|D. Changing Times|
decades after its founding, the NBA was the only major professional
basketball league. But in 1967 the American Basketball Association (ABA) was
formed. The league became known for the flashy playing style it encouraged
and the distinctive red, white, and blue basketballs it used. The ABA
convinced several NBA players to switch leagues, often for lucrative
contracts. Probably the best player in the ABA was guard and forward
who later starred in the NBA. The ABA disbanded in 1976, with several of its
teams joining the NBA.
|E. Recent Developments|
In the 1990s
interest in basketball at all levels continued to grow. The most important
figure in this growth was guard
who is considered by many to be the greatest player ever. Jordan's
exceptional basketball skills and flair for entertainment helped keep
basketball in the forefront of American culture as he led the
to six NBA championships (1991-1993, 1996-1998) and led the league in
scoring a record ten times. Other great players of the 1990s included
Star players of the women's professional leagues included Cynthia Cooper,
Teresa Edwards, Lisa Leslie, and Jennifer Azzi.