Basketball is a competitive sport invented in 1891 by James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, United States. Originally it was an American men’s sport. Today’s basketball is played by both men and women on almost every continent. Two teams of five players each and a maximum of seven substitutes compete against each other. The object of the game is to capture the ball and throw it through an iron ring – the basket – and prevent the opponent from doing the same. The basket has a diameter of 45.0 cm, hangs at a height of 3.048 meters (10 feet) attached to a backboard and is provided with a net. There is a basket on each of the short sides of the rectangular basketball court. Basketball is practiced both indoors and outdoors (so-called street basketball or streetball). Indoors, the surface is usually made of hardwood or plastic, and outside is played on asphalt. International basketball games are played according to the official rules of the FIBA. However, the NBA (National Basketball Association) has had a major influence on this for many years and often takes the lead in rule changes, which are later adopted by the FIBA.
Basketball is one of the few sports that was invented out of thin air in 1891. Sports teacher James Naismith, Canadian and teacher at a training center for the YMCA in Springfield, USA, gathered 18 students from his class, divided them into two shifts of nine players and appointed a captain for each team. The intention is an indoor game in which skill determines the game more than physical strength. The goals are attached to balcony rails at a height of three meters using peach baskets. Thus began the very first basketball game, played with a football. Initially, the game is rather slow, because after every goal someone has to take the ball out of the basket; it was not until around 1900 that the baskets were replaced by a ring with a ball-permeable net. But the name ‘basket’ still refers to the peach basket.
During the 1920s, professional teams sprang up all over America. However, the level of organization was not high. Leagues and teams appeared and disappeared, players changed teams on a regular basis. The matches usually took place in barns or in dance halls. It is not until 1949 that with the founding of the National Basketball Association (NBA) a first truly steadfast league emerges.
Basketball was first included in the Olympics program in 1936, although it was already practiced in the demonstration program in 1904. The United States has always been the dominant team. In Munich (1972): Soviet Union, Moscow (1980): Yugoslavia, Seoul (1988): Soviet Union and Athens (2004): Argentina failed to win the Olympic title. The Dream Team (1992) and its successors restored American dominance, but despite the many NBA players, the United States won ‘only’ bronze in 2004.
World championships have been organized for men since 1950. Here again, the dominant nations are the United States, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. Only in the initial period up to 1963 were South American countries such as Argentina and especially Brazil able to change this.
Also in women’s basketball, the United States (Olympic Games) and the Soviet Union (world championships) have been the dominant teams for decades. Important to the evolution of women’s basketball has been the creation of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Taking advantage of the professional structure of big brother NBA, women’s basketball was thoroughly professionalized.
From an offensive point of view, basketball is played by bouncing the ball on the ground (either stationary or dribbling with the ball) or by passing it to an opponent. A scoring attempt must be made within the time allowed by the shot clock of 24 seconds. That is, the ball must hit the basket within a certain amount of time. The shot clock, which limits the duration of an attack, is set to match the speed and thus the attractiveness of the basketball game.
In modern basketball, depending on the distance from which the shot is shot, two or three points are scored with a goal (the so-called two- and three-pointers). A free throw is worth one point. The different field players take different strategic positions; the center and power forward in the vicinity of the basket, the small forward and shooting guard around the three-point line and the point guard moves the ball from one side of the playing court to one of his teammates to play. They try to defend their field as best as possible. The team that has scored the most points at the end of a 4×10-minute (FIBA) or 4×12-minute (NBA) basketball game wins. In the event of a tie, the match will be decided in one or more five-minute overtime (both FIBA and NBA). Scores and other important match data are kept on the match sheet.
The defending team tries to stop the attacking team from scoring and tries to get hold of the ball itself. A number of strategies are used to make the opponent lose the ball. Turnover occurs when an attacking team relinquishes possession of the ball. Loss of the ball can be suffered as a result of a steal from an opponent, when a player goes out of bounds with the ball or commits a running foul, when he commits an offensive foul, when a shot is blocked by an opponent or when the ball is dropped after a failed a shot for goal by the opposing team is secured via a defensive rebound. When a player passes the ball to a scoring teammate, who can then attempt a goal, this is called an assist.
Certain physical contact, especially when used to advantage, is punishable by a personal foul; unsportsmanlike conduct is punished with an unsportsmanlike foul. Commenting on the referees or technical staff may constitute a technical foul. If a player commits a specified number of fouls before the match, he is excluded from the game. In certain illegal handling of the ball, such as running with the ball or dribbling twice (double dribble or second dribble), possession of the ball passes to the opponent.
In basketball, the playing field is called a basketball court. It consists of a rectangular surface with a basket on both short sides. In professional basketball, especially when played indoors, the surface is hardwood, usually oak. When basketball is played outdoors, it is usually an asphalt surface. Basketball courts have different sizes. In the NBA, a field is 94 feet long and 50 feet wide (28.65 by 15.24 meters), a FIBA field is slightly smaller at 28×15 meters (from 26×14 meters a field can also be approved). The basket always hangs at a height of 3.05 meters (except in youth leagues, where the basket usually hangs at a height of 2.60 meters) and the center of the basket is 1.575 m from the back line. The field has two side and back lines, a center line, a free-throw line (at 5.80 m from the back line) and a three-point line (at 6.75 m from the center of the basket; until 2010 it was 6.25 m). Furthermore, a center circle (where every game starts with a jump ball) and a so-called bucket, the area immediately around the basket, are distinguished. The bucket is the area for the basket, it is marked with lines, 6 meters wide. It is the area between the free-throw line and the back line. Until 2010, this was a trapezoidal shape, then it became a rectangle. The basket is 1.2 meters from the back line. The basket has a diameter of 0.45 meters, the backboard is 1.80 meters wide and 1.05 meters high. The bottom of the backboard is at a height of 2.90 metres, the basket is attached to the board at a height of 3.05 metres. The distance of the three-point line has changed several times in the history of the game; in NBA games, the three-point line is further from the basket than in international games, i.e. 7.22 meters.
Basket, backboard and ball
The original basket was a peach wicker basket attached to the back wall of a gymnasium. However, the type of basket and its position were impractical and the backboard was introduced in 1897. In 1914, the bottom was removed from the basket, so that the ball could fall through the basket after a score and not have to remove the ball from the basket after every score. In 1921 the basket was placed 60 cm from the wall to prevent the wall being used as an aid, in 1940 the basket was placed another 60 cm further into the playing field to allow more movement under the basket. The original ball had a circumference of 81 cm, in 1931 this became 79 cm and in 1935 a basketball measured between 74.9 and 76.8 cm. The circumference of the backboard is 1.80 by 1.05 m. The black, red, orange or green square is exactly in the middle of the board, it is 0.59 by 0.45 m.
Players, substitutes and teams
Naismith’s original regulations stated the number of players allowed on the playing field. In 1900, a five-player number became standard, whereby a player could be substituted at any time, unless he made 5 fouls. From 1921 a player was allowed to be substituted twice and in 1934 three times. In 1945, the limit on the number of times a player could be substituted was removed. Coaching during a game was prohibited, but was allowed during time-outs in 1949. Initially a player was banned from the game after two fouls, in 1911 and 1945 this changed to four and five fouls respectively. In FIBA a player is banned after five fouls, in the NBA after six fouls.
Shot Clock and Time Limits
The first time limit was established in 1933, requiring a team to cross the halfway line within ten seconds of possession. This rule was maintained until 2000, when it was reduced to eight seconds by FIBA, followed by the NBA a year later. The three-second rule, which prohibits attacking players from staying in the bucket for more than three seconds, was enacted in 1936. The rule was originally induced to prevent foul play between the (big) players below the basket; now it is mainly considered a rule to cancel the advantage gained by waiting (too) close to the basket. The shot clock was introduced to the NBA in 1954 to accommodate the speed of the game. A team was required to attempt a shot for a goal hitting the ring of the basket within 24 seconds of gaining possession of the ball. When this happens, or when the opponent gains possession of the ball, the shot clock is reset. In 1956, FIBA instituted a similar 30-second rule, resetting the shot clock after a shot for a goal. The FIBA defined the term “goal attempt” less strictly than the NBA. FIBA adopted the 24-second rule in 2000 and adopted the NBA’s stricter definition of a shot attempt, where the ball must touch the ring of the basket. A missed shot, which elapses 24 seconds while the ball is still in flight, was considered a violation of this rule; in 2003 this was lifted, provided the ball hit the ring. From 2018, the shot clock was set to 14 seconds if the attacking team hits the ring after a shot attempt and regains possession (offensive rebound).
There are two ways to get 24 seconds and three ways to get fourteen seconds.
24 new seconds: – When the opposing team gains possession of the ball. – If an offense is committed against the attacking team in the defensive half.
Fourteen seconds: – If an offense is committed against the attacking team in the attacking half when less than 14 seconds remain. – If the ball is hit with the foot when less than 14 seconds remain. – If the ball touches the ring on a shot for a goal and the attacking team regains possession of the ball.
Fouls, Free Throws and Fouls
Dribbling, or bouncing the ball on the floor as you walk, was not part of the original basketball and was not introduced until 1901. At the time, a player was only allowed to bounce the ball once and, moreover, was not allowed to shoot after doing so. In 1909 a player, while standing still, was allowed to bounce the ball more than once and also attempt a shot after doing so. Since 1900, walking with the ball is no longer regarded as a foul, but as a violation, which means that the possession of the ball goes to the opponent as a penalty. Fisting the ball also became a violation. From 1930, play was stopped and restarted with a jump ball when a defending player in possession of the ball was out of play for more than five seconds. Since then this has been regarded as a violation. Goaltending became a violation in 1946 and offensive goaltending in 1958. Goaltending is stopping or touching the ball after it has started a descending line after a shot attempt. The free throw was introduced soon after the invention of basketball. In 1895, the free-throw line was established at 4.6 meters from the basket, which had been 6.1 meters from the basket until then. From 1924, players against whom a foul is committed must take their own free throws. In 1998, the NBA introduced a four-foot-diameter arc around the basket, within which offensive fouls were not awarded. This is to prevent defensive players waiting under the basket for an offensive foul to be committed against them.
Scoring and Field Markers
Originally, only the number of scores was kept, without weighting it. When the free throw was introduced, it was equivalent to a field goal. In 1896, two points were awarded for a field goal and one point for a free throw. Founded in 1967, the American Basketball Association (ABA) introduced the three-pointer, a field goal scored from behind the three-point line. The FIBA introduced the three-point line in 1984 at 6.25 meters from the center of the basket. The rectangular bucket in the NBA was widened in 1951 from 1.8 to 3.7 meters. In 1956, FIBA introduced its trapezoidal bucket, 3.6 meters wide at the free-throw line. The FIBA expanded this to 6 meters in 1961 and the NBA to 4.9 meters, both the current standards.
Race management, formalities and procedures
Originally there was a referee to judge fouls and a referee to judge ball handling. These original designations of referee and umpire continue to this day, despite the fact that they both control all aspects of the game and are equal. The NBA introduced a third leader in 1988, the FIBA followed suit and applied it for the first time in international competition in 2006. Referee decisions are not supported by video footage. Only when it is unclear whether a last shot of a match fell within the time limit will images be used. The NBA has been using this exception since 2002. FIBA adopted it in 2006.
The umpires are assisted by assistants such as a scorer (all points and violations are recorded), a timekeeper (the time is stopped with every whistle) and the timekeeper to check the 24-second rule (you have 24 seconds to try for a goal).
After a run is scored, the ball is put back into play from behind the goal line by the non-scoring team. Until 1938, play was resumed with a jump ball after each score, this was waived in favor of the non-scoring team. The jump ball was still used to start every game and every period. From 1975 the NBA uses a different ball possession system and no longer starts the second through the fourth quarter with a jump ball, only the beginning of a game, the first quarter, starts with a jump ball. FIBA took over in 2003. In 1976, the NBA enacted a rule that allows teams to bring the ball to the halfway line in the last two minutes of a game after a timeout. FIBA followed suit in 2005.
On March 25, 2006, the current rules were approved by FIBA and implemented on October 1.
The five standard positions
Modern basketball has five standard positions:
The center (referred to as the “number five” position) is usually the tallest player on a basketball team, his height often associated with considerable weight and strength. An average NBA center is taller than 6 feet. The traditional role of the center is to score near the basket and stop the opponent from doing so. A center that combines height with athleticism and technical skills can be of unsurpassed added value to a team. There is some controversy as to what constitutes a ‘true center’, often raging as to whether one is a center or a power forward. Examples of players who hold this position in the NBA are Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Vlade Divac, Rik Smits, Arvydas Sabonis, Dino Meneghin, Hakeem Olajuwon.
The power-forward (the ‘number four’ position) shares certain tasks with the center in his role. The power forward plays offensively with his back to the basket. Defensively, he plays in a zone defense, or against the opposing team’s power-forward in a hand-to-hand defense. A typical power forward is one of the tallest players on the field, not as tall as the center but often more sturdily built. A power forward is expected to grab rebounds and score most of his points within two yards of the basket, rather than from long shots. The power forward makes an impressive appearance on the pitch, but it is the center who blocks most of the shots and takes on the more intimidating role. In the NBA, an average power forward is 2.03-2.12 meters tall and weighs 100–120 kg. Often the power forward takes on the role of center in certain game situations, especially when a team lacks a taller player. Examples of power forwards include Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, and Pau Gasol. Rodman and Barkley fell short of the power-forward stereotype at 1.98m, but were nevertheless very successful in this position.
The small forward (the ‘number three’ position) is usually somewhat shorter, less heavy and faster and more athletic than the power forward. The small-forward position is considered to be probably the most versatile of the five standard basketball positions by the nature of its role. Most small forwards are 1.95-2.10 m long. His main task is to score points, after the center and the power-forward he is third responsible for rebounding. Some small-forwards have a more than excellent passing. The small-forward is the least stereotypical player, some players in this position often score their points from distance and others tend to look for the basket more. A role of the small forward is to force personal fouls from the opponent. An indispensable quality of the small-forward is his shot, he scores many of his points from the free-throw line. The versatile small-forward plays an important role in defence, those who fall short on attack often more than make up for it defensively. Examples of small-forwards LeBron James, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Durant, Metta World Peace, Larry Bird and Carmelo Anthony.
Shooting guards (the ‘number two’ position) are generally shorter, lighter, more athletic and faster than small forwards. His main job is to score points. Although actually a point guard’s job, the shooting guard often brings the ball over the halfway line. These guards combine the task of shooting and point-guard and are known as ‘combo-guards’. A player who alternates the role of small-forward and shooting-guard is known as a “swingman.” The shooting guard is usually taller than the point guard and measures around 2 m. Shorter players often play in this position as well, including Allen Iverson. The shooting guard is often the team’s best shooter, something that doesn’t stop him from making his way toward the basket. Examples of shooting guards include Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Michael Jordan.
The point guard (the ‘number one’ position) is often the smallest player on the field, with the notable exception of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. The point-guard position is perhaps the most specialist of the five. The point-guard plays a pivotal role and sets out the lines. In essence, his role is to lead his team’s attack by controlling the ball and passing it to a team player at the right time. Above all, he is an extension of his coach on the field and must understand and execute his battle plan. The point-guard is the player with the most tactical insight and ingenuity and must be able to act quickly in all situations, especially in the case of a ‘fast-break’. The role of the point guard is similar to that of the midfielder in football and the quarterback in American football. The point-guard must speak for himself, he instructs his team players and is the first to discuss with the leaders in case of a questionable decision. He must at all times be aware of the shot clock, the remaining game time, the standings, the number of time-outs by both teams and the error rate of his own team and the opponent. More length is considered a surplus, but is secondary to game insight and technical skill. Every attack starts with the point-guard, which is why his passing, ball handling and game vision are crucial. The point-guard is often judged on the number of assists, rather than on his scoring ability. Despite this, a point guard must have a reasonable (jump) shot. Examples include Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Jeremy Lin, Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, Stephen Curry and John Stockton.
In addition to the five standard positions, there are also a number of other positions in basketball. These positions are combinations of the five standard positions. Players can usually play multiple positions and are then sometimes referred to by a single name, which is combined from the positions that the player in question can play. It also happens that this name consists of part of a name of the standard position.
This position is a combination of the point guard and the shooting guard. Well-known examples of combo guards are Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, James Harden.
Point-forward is a position of a forward who has enough game insight to be able to play point-guard. Examples of point forwards include LeBron James, Scottie Pippen, Hidayet Türkoğlu and Lamar Odom.
The swingman position is a combination of a shooting guard and a small forward. Well-known examples of swingman are Andre Iguodala, Tracy McGrady.
A cornerman is a combination of small-forward and power-forward, also called forward. Well-known examples of cornerman are Josh Smith, LeBron James, Elgin Baylor, James Worthy.
- Wheelchair basketball: Wheelchair basketball is a variant of basketball, in which the athletes use a wheelchair.
- 3×3 basketball: 3×3 basketball is a variant where two teams of three players play on a half court.