Basketball is a team sport played on a rectangular court by two five-player groups. Played primarily indoors when organized in leagues, basketball is often also played outdoors in less organized “pick-up” games. The objective of the game is to throw (shoot) a ball (called the basketball) through the top of a circular band (referred to as the rim) that has cord hanging around its circumference (with both being named the basket), which is itself attached to a backboard.

Basketball is commonly also nicknamed “B-ball” and “hoops.” Men and women in all areas of the world and of all ages play basketball, making it one of the more popular organized sports. Some of the more popular professional basketball players in the United States have included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Yao Ming, and Bill Russell. Whether the game is played for fun or money, basketball provides a healthy workout for the body because it is a fastpaced sport that involves much running, jumping, rebounding, passing, dribbling, and various other beneficial physical activities.


The objective of the game of basketball is to have scored more points at the end of a specified time period than the opposing team. This is done by shooting the basketball through a rim, which results in one, two, or three points being scored. Whether one wins or loses after completing a game of basketball, each player's strenuous activities results in a physically fit body. Regularly playing basketball also provides great workouts and good cardiovascular health. It also helps to control high blood pressure. For instance, the Mayo Clinic states, “Flexibility and strengthening exercises such as lifting weights are an important part of an overall fitness plan, but it takes aerobic activity to control high blood pressure. And you don't need to spend hours in the gym every day to benefit. Simply adding moderate physical activities to your daily routine will help. Any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic exercise, including: …Active sports, such as basketball or tennis.”


For the United States, USA Basketball is the nonprofit governing body, which is within the FIBA, for national men's and women's basketball played in the country. Within the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Basketball represents the United States in basketball for its men and women competitors. Further, the men's professional basketball league in the United States, which consists of thirty (30) franchised clubs in the United States (29) and Canada (1), is operated by the National Basketball Association (NBA). The NBA also functions under the auspices of USA Basketball. The World Basketball Association (WBA), which is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, is another international basketball organization. The WBA is a basketball league composed of players hoping to enter the NBA and other professional basketball leagues around the world. The WNBA, the professional women's league established in 1997, consists of twelve teams.


American physical education teacher James Naismeth—who was employed by the Department of Physical Education at the School for Christian Workers (now known as Springfield College), in Springfield, Massachusetts—invented basketball in late 1891. The head of the department, Luther Gulick, had asked Naismeth to create a new game so students at the school would have an organized way to get physical activity during the long winter season. Thus, Naismeth coined the term “Basket Ball” (two words) for the game that he developed, which consisted of two nine-player teams whose players would use a soccer ball to throw at two half-bushel peach baskets fastened to the balcony railing, one at each end of the school's gymnasium. Thirteen rules were established by Naismeth for the eighteen boys to play their new game.


Playing surface: the court

When organized competitively, the playing court consists of a well-defined surface (one that is well marked according to established rules) that is located indoors. When played outdoors, the court is much less defined and the rules less established. The dimensions of basketball courts vary. Those used in high school and collegiate games are 84 ft. (25.6 m) in length and 50 ft. (15.2 m) in width. Grade-school children sometimes play on courts that are 74 ft. by 42 ft. (22.56 m by 12.8 m). In professional games, as sanctioned by the NBA, dimensions are a little larger at 94 ft. (28.65 m) in length and 50 ft. (15.24 m) in width. Under international rules, as directed by the FIBA, the court measures 91 ft., 10.4 in. (28 m) by 49 ft., 2.6 in. (15 m), although some variation exists within these dimensions when playing in different parts of the world.

Differences in the distance between the basket and the three-point line (the line that divides a two-point shot and a three-point shot) also occur within the different types of courts. In high school and women's college basketball courts, based on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the distance between the basket and the three-point line is 19.75 ft. (6.02 m). In addition, the NCAA uses 20.75 ft. (6.32 m) for men's college basketball. The position of the threepoint line in the NBA for male professional athletes is 23.75 ft. (7.24 m). The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) uses 20 ft., 6.25 in. (6.2548 m). For international competition, as based on the FIBA, the three-point line is 22.1 ft. (6.75 m) from the basket.

Equipment: the backboard and basket, ball, and uniforms

The backboard, which is used to attach the rim, is generally 4 ft. (1.2 m) by 6 ft (1.8 m) in height and width, respectively. The rim is generally 18 in. (45.7 cm) in diameter, and manufactured of cast-iron. Nylon-mesh cord, usually white in color and ranging in length from 15 to 18 in. (38.1 to 45.7 cm), hangs from loops positioned evenly around the rim. The rim and the cord are together called the “basket.” The rim is positioned 10 ft. (3.05 m) above the surface of the court at the center of each of its (shorter dimensional) ends, and attached to a backboard that hangs from the ceiling or is supported by a pole or other type of fixed, ground-based structure. The rim may be lowered under 10 feet during youth competitions.



Michael Jordan is considered the greatest basketball player of all time. During the 1982 NCAA championship game, Jordan became a hero by sinking a fifteen-foot jump shot to end the game. In 1984, Jordan decided to play professional basketball and was drafted by the dismal Chicago Bulls. Jordan's amazing skills caused attendance at the games to increase by 87%. He established a jumpshot that was incredibly difficult to defend against.

In the early nineties, the Bulls became the first team in thirty years to win three consecutive NBA titles. Jordan is the sole player in NBA history to score more than 50 points in five playoff games, and he was awarded the NBA Finals MVP award three consecutive times.

In October 1993, he announced his retirement, but returned two years later. His last basket as a Chicago Bull was the 1998 NBA championship series-winning shot against Utah.

Uniforms are standard equipment for players playing in organized basketball games, such as those in the NBA. Such clothing consists of a tank-top shirt or jersey, shorts, socks, and leather sports (basketball) shoes. Synthetic fabrics usually compose the material of the uniforms because they help to quickly remove sweat from the players and because they are light in weight. Jerseys often contain a number to identify each player, a logo representing the team, and sometimes the player's name.

Game: the rules of play

Basketball is played generally the same way all around the world, with only minor variations in rules. Five players on one team play both offense and defense against a second team composed of five players. A game consists of a certain time-period, and the team with the most points at the end of this period is the winner. Time-periods are grouped generally by the following:

When the game is tied at the end of regulation play, overtime periods are enacted. The team with the most points at the end of an overtime period is deemed the winner.

A “jump ball” begins each organized basketball game. At the center of the court, two opposing-team players face each other within the “center circle” while a referee throws the ball vertically into the air. This is called the “tipoff.” The two center-court players jump and attempt to hit the rising ball to one of their players. The player who retrieves the ball along with fellow teammates is now playing offense (and tries to score points), while the other team plays defense (and tries to prevent their opponent from scoring at their basket). The offensive players use such skills as ball handling, passing, shooting, and rebounding, in trying to score points for their team.

After the offensive team scores or the defensive team prevents them from scoring (by stealing the ball from a player dribbling, intercepting a pass, preventing them from shooting the ball within the allotted time, etc.), the ball is returned to the defensive team, so team roles are reversed. Throughout play, the offensive team carries out specific plays to make it more likely to score points, while the defensive team uses other plays to make it more difficult for their opposition to score points.

If the offensive team shoots the ball but misses, then the ball is free for any player to regain its possession. Thus, either team may gain possession of the ball after a missed shot. When a shot is missed, the players try to make a rebound, meaning they try to gain possession of the ball. Throughout the game, a certain number of time-outs are allotted to each team. These stoppages of active play allow the coaches of both teams to talk with their players about specific facets (strategies, etc.) of the game. Injury time-outs are also allowed.

The offensive team can score in a number of ways. One of their players can make a basket; that is, throw (shoot) the ball into the air and through the opposing team's basket. If the player is closer to the basket than the three-point line, then the team scores two points. However, if the player is beyond the three-point line, then three points are scored.

Another way to score, by either the offensive or defensive teams, is to be fouled by an opposing player. The referee may call a personal foul for such rule violations as charging, holding, pushing, or tripping. A technical foul can also be called for such violations as unsportsmanlike conduct. When a referee determines such a foul, the player fouled is awarded one, two, or three shots, depending on certain factors, such as whether a shot was successfully scored and where the foul occurred. During this time, the fouled player stands in front of the opposing team's basket, just behind the “free-throw line,” which is 15 ft. (4.6 m) from the basket, in order to take one or more foul shots. Each shot is worth one point if successfully completed.


Warming up before playing basketball is important so muscles can be well prepared for all of the strenuous physical activities involved in the game. Five or so minutes of light exercise and stretching will prepare the body for the physical actions found within basketball. However, stretching should be done after other exercises so muscles are not injured. Normally, basketball players will also shoot practice shots to prepare for a game. After playing basketball, players should spend another five minutes cooling down to allow the body, and especially the heart, to return to its normal rate. Light exercises or walking helps to return the body to its resting state. Stretching afterwards is also recommended because it helps the body improve its flexibility.

Moving with quickness.
Related to the heart and blood vessels.
Skills needed to perform physical activity and movements.
To bounce a ball on a court, such as in basketball.
High blood pressure.

To get the most out of basketball, a regular regimen of exercises should be performed. An exercise trainer or reputable websites will help to inform about these exercises. When performed on a regular basis, they will provide more agility, endurance, and strength while playing basketball.


If planning to play basketball, especially as one gets older in age, it is suggested a doctor be consulted first to find out if any health risk may be present, which may result in injuries to cause adverse medical conditions to appear or become worse. For instance, the stress on joints from sudden stopping and starting may place undue strain on the ankles or knees. Such problems should be considered before playing basketball.

For people who play basketball professionally, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases states, “Among professional athletes, most Achilles injuries seem to occur in quick-acceleration, jumping sports like football and basketball, and almost always end the season's competition for the athlete.”

To reduce chances for injuries while playing basketball make sure the body is strong and flexible. A wide variety of exercises will accomplish this. In addition, warm up and stretch the muscles and joints before beginning to play basketball. Drink plenty of water before and during basketball. After a game, cool down and stretch to avoid similar problems. Depending on one's age, do not overdo it when on the court. If necessary, hold off playing too frequently, and participate in low-impact sports to reduce the possibilities of injuries.

In addition, some equipment is advisable to minimize the chance of injury. A quality pair of basketball shoes will help support the feet, and provide good ankle support while running and jumping. A mouth guard is recommended to protect the teeth if an opponent accidently hits one's mouth. In addition, protective knee and elbow pads are also advised because falls to the court invariably happen during play.


Basketball is a great sport to play because it helps all parts of the body. An hour of playing basketball can expend approximately 600 to 750 calories. It can also improve coordination, build endurance and stamina, increase muscle mass, add to overall flexibility, and develop better concentration. For instance, playing basketball forces the feet, legs, arms, hands, and eyes to work together for common goals. It helps to improve coordination in all people from young to old. Playing basketball for at least 45 minutes on a regular basis, along with a balanced and nutritious diet, also helps to improve physical strength and fitness, mental and physical health, and agility and dexterity. It is considered a good way to exercise the heart—that is, it is a great cardiovascular workout.


Playing basketball helps to lose weight when done together with a proper diet. By losing weight, one has a reduced risk from diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Basketball also helps with stamina because one actively plays basketball almost continuously for extended periods. Besides improving physical attributes, mental alertness is also improved because players must analyze, evaluate, and react to quick situations and strategies set before them. Players must also have motivation and self-confidence in themselves to play at their best, along with being able to cope with pressure situations.

See also Calories ; Exercise ; Football ; Running ; Stretching .



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International Basketball Federation, Route Suisse 5, PO Box 29, Mies, 1295, Switzerland, 41 0 (22) 545 00 00, Fax: 41 0 (22) 545 00 99,, .

National Basketball Association, 645 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10022, (212) 407-8000, .

USA Basketball, 5465 Mark Dabling Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO, 80918-3842, (719) 590-4800, Fax: (719) 590-4811, .

William A. Atkins, BB, BS, MBA

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.