Information on Basketball Rules

Information on Basketball Rules

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Dunking doesn't add points, but it is part of the fun of the sport.

Basketball, the ideal sport for school gymnasiums and urban areas, was invented in 1891. At first, the hoops were peach baskets and had no holes in them, but at the start of the 20th century, basketball players, probably because they were sick of retrieving the balls over and over, started using the hoops and backboards that are still in use today. The ball also went through a metamorphosis from a soccer ball to a brown basketball to the present-day orange ball. The game has also become much more complex than the original 13 rules set down back in 1891.

Teams and Technique

Each basketball team is made up of five players. Each team defends a basket at one end of the court and attempts to score in the other team's basket. Players cannot take more than a step and a half without dribbling the ball. Holding the ball for more steps than that is called "traveling" and is against the rules. Players can only use one hand to dribble. Also, they cannot dribble, hold the ball and then dribble again; this is "double-dribbling" and is also against the rules.


The basketball court is a rectangle that is 94 feet long and 50 feet wide. The basketball hoop is ten feet off the ground and is located midway along the width of the court on either end. Dividing the court in two parts is the mid-court line, where the center circle marks the spot where the teams compete for control of the ball at the start of the game. At each end, there is a semicircular line -- 23 feet, 9 inches at its tallest -- surrounding the hoop; this is called the 3-point line. Inside this semicircle is a smaller, 16-foot-long rectangle with another semicircular line extending it to mark the free throw line.


Points are earned by making a basket. If a player shoots from the outside of the three-point arc, then he scores three points. A shot from inside the three-point arc earns two points. A foul, such as one player holding another, either gives the opposition free throws from the free throw point, if the offending player had been shooting for a basket, or gives the opposition a fresh start from the nearest baseline or side. The amount of free throws awarded for a foul on a shooter depend on whether the shooter makes his basket. Each successful basket from a free throw earns one point.


The game is divided into four periods of 12 minutes each for professional basketball, although quarters vary in length for other levels of the sport, such as in high school. There is a break of several minutes between halves and shorter breaks between the other periods. After the half-time break, the teams switch sides of the court.