• Who invented the game of basketball?
  • Where exactly lies the three-point line?
  • Why and thanks to whom basketball is so popular?

Tempo, athleticism, spectacularness - if you look for sport combining these three features, then you’re in the right place. Basketball has it all. One of the most popular and profitable disciplines took the world by storm and united millions of fans from all over the world. What is the key to this sport’s popularity and success? How does it look both in practice and theory? In this article we solve the basketball mysteries and explain its rules and history.

What is basketball?

Basketball is a team sport in which two five-players teams compete on rectangular court and try to throw the ball to the hoop (the basket). Which of two teams scores more points, wins. It’s as simple as that. Although in basketball there are a ton of dependencies and rules regulating the course of the game throughout the years.

The Oxford Dictionary defines basketball as:

“A game played between two teams of five players in which goals are scored by throwing a ball through a netted hoop fixed at each end of the court.”

The game of basketball is played on a rectangular court. Plays basically consist of passing, dribbling and shooting in an offensive action with preventing rivals from doing all of these three elements in a defensive action.

Basic requirements to play basketball are two five-players teams, ball and at two baskets. But before diving into the details, let's go back in time for a while.

Invention of basketball

Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physical education student and an instructor at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, is considered as a father of basketball. During his teaching years Naismith was asked by his superiors to create a game that would engage and bring joy to his class during long nights of 1891-1892 winter.

As we can read on Springfield College’s official website, “Basketball is built into the fabric of Springfield College. The game was invented by Springfield College instructor and graduate student James Naismith in 1891, and has grown into the worldwide athletic phenomenon we know it to be today”.

“I felt this was a crucial moment in my life as it meant success or failure of my attempt to hold the interest of the class and devise a new game.” - Naismith wrote in his journal. Using medieval children’s game called “duck on a rock” as an inspiration, Naismith devised a game in which players get points by throwing a ball into the box guarded by an opposition team. Later he changed the rules, figuring out that it’s harder to score into the box placed above the players’ heads.

First game of basketball took place on 21st December 1891 at Springfield College. Players used then a soccer ball and two peach baskets used as goals. The cornerstone of the sport nowadays known as the basketball was set down right there.

13 rules of basketball. One of the most important Naistmith’s merits in invention and development of basketball was creating and writing its 13 original rules. They were published on 15 January 1892 in the Springield College newspaper The Triangle. Those who watched this sport over 100 years later still can appeal to those notes and fully understand them. While there are other, newer rules, the legacy and spirit of the original thirteen lives until now.

Basketball 101

Today’s basketball varies a lot from its original version from two centuries ago. Nowadays this sport is faster, the ball used in this discipline is not anymore a football, the number of players on the pitch changed as well. Nevertheless the heart of basketball beats the same rhythm. Check it’s most important aspects.

Gametime. Basketball matches are played in four-quarters systems. Every quarter lasts ten minutes on FIBA conditions and 12 minutes on NBA conditions. Halftime break starts after the first two quarters. If the result of the game at the end of regulation time is tied, overtime begins. In the NBA overtime lasts five minutes.

Basketball. As we mentioned before, during Naismith’s pioneer times basketball games have been played with football. Things have changed with the invention of orange basketball by Butler University’s head basketball coach Tony Hinkle. The basketball that we now know made its debut in 1958. Its biggest pluses was easy-to-see color which helped lead gameplay for players & referees. It was easily adopted to the game. The ball is made from eight panels of leather and weighs around 600 grams.

Official NBA game ball made by American company Spalding. Source: Spalding.

Backboard. With this aspect thing are much more regulated than with basketball. The rim is exactly ten feet (3,05 m) off the ground practically everywhere: in high school, NCAA, WNBA, NBA and FIBA games.

Court. In this case we again have varieties depending on competitions. Nevertheless basketball court should be a rectangle with designated areas. In the NBA court is 94 x 50 feet (28,7 x 15,2 m) while in the FIBA court is a little smaller, with measurement of 28 x 15 meters (92 x 49,2 feet).

Official NBA basketball court. Source: Rookie Road

Three-point line. Next and maybe the most important basketball dimension determined by the competition. Player standing behind this line scores three points instead of two. The better tournament the harder to score threes. That’s why in the NBA three-point line is 23 feet 9 inches (7,24 m) from the basket. In FIBA games it’s 22 feet 2 inches (6.75 m) and in College 20 feet 9 inches (6.32 m).

Three-point line has changed the basketball world and the way that games are played because it has rewarded players that make long distance shots. It was introduced in the NBA in the 79/80 season but originally came from the concurrent ABA league. There it was added in late 60s.

Exact distance of three-point line in the NBA. Source: WeAreBasket

Free throws. In basketball there are a lot of illegal plays, both in offense and defense. Players can get personal fouls in any type of illegal physical contact (hitting, pushing, slapping, holding). Fouls usually result in two free throws for the player that has been fouled while shooting (three if the shot has been made from behind the three-point line). If shot goes in, then fouled player gets one free throw.

If the player has been fouled while not shooting, then the ball is given to the team the foul was committed upon. Then the team has five seconds to bring back the ball from behind sideline or baseline into the action. If the team committing the foul has at least ten fouls, then the fouled player automatically receives two free throws.

Fouls and violations

Every illegal personal contact and unsportsmanlike behavior against an opponent end with referee blowing foul. In basketball there are two main categories of fouls.

  • Personal foul. The most common one. It’s a result of personal contact between players from two opposite sites. Every forbidden conduct by one opponent is considered as a personal foul. Six personal fouls are needed to being fouled out, other words disqualified for the rest of games. Examples of personal fouls? Pushing, holding, illegal use of hands, legs or knee. More serious personal foul is a flagrant foul. Flagrants are called when physical contact made by one player is excessive or violent and can lead to injury of rival. In the NBA those kind of unsportsmanlike behaviours are divided into two types. In Flagrant Foul 1 contact is treated as unnecessary, in Flagrant Foul 2 contact is treated as both unnecessary and excessive.  When a player commits two Flagrant Foul 1, then he is ejected from the game. Flagrant Foul 2 is an automatic ejection. Foul made by a player of the team in possession of the ball is called and offensive foul.
  • Technical foul. Every exceeding the rules not caused by physical contact. Technical fouls can be whistled against players, bench personnel, the entire team and even to the crowd. Examples? Insulting and provoking rivals or delay of game. Technical foul can be whistled against a player that has been already fouled out.

Violation is the action made against rules but not against rival. Most of violations are committed by the team with possession of the ball. Here are most important violations, according to NBA.com:

  • Double Dribble. Situation in which player dribbles the ball with one hand, stops, brings the ball into two hand and then starts dribbling again.
  • Travelling. It occurs when a player holding the ball with two hands moves one or both of his feet illegally.
  • Eight-Second Violation. After points scored by one team the other has eight seconds to get the ball back into court.
  • Carrying (known also as palming). A violation similar to double dribble. Carrying occurs when a dribbling player allows the ball to come to rest in one or both his hands and after that continues to dribble.
  • Goaltending. When a defensive player interferes with the ball while it is on its way to the basket, then goaltending should be whistled. In those kind of violation ball stopped by defensive player either started its downward flight or was entirely above the rim and had the possibility of entering the basket or was not touching the rim.
  • Charging. An offensive action in which player with the ball runs into and initiate a collision with rival who has already established his position on the court.
  • Three seconds rule (three in the key). Offensive player with or without the ball can not remain in the rivals’ restricted area for more than three consecutive seconds. Thisi restricted area, known as a key, is a marked place surrounding the basket.
  • Shot Clock Violation. Very important addition to game time and pace of basketball action. Shot clock refers to the required length of each offensive action. The team that has the ball can not exceed the time needed to score the basket. In NBA shot clock violation turns on after 24 seconds of each action.

Positions

Each of five players in basketball game has specific assigned role on the court. Though positions, roles and players’ responsibilities can intersect, in theory game of basketball has one established system. That’s how it looks:

Point guard (PG). Also known as the one. Usually the shortest player on the team but at the same time the one with the best ball handling and court vision. His basic duties include running the team’s offensive actions by controlling the tempo and making sure that the ball gets to the right player at the right time. Point guards need to have descent long-distance shooting but it’s not as crucial as their skills to find better-placed teammate and pass him the ball.

Shooting guard (SG). Also known as the two. Name speaks for itself. Main objective of SG is to shoot the ball to the basket. Scoring points is his basic responsibility on the court. He also has to try to steal the ball during defensive action. Often shooting guards can change their positions into point guards (those kind of players are known as combo guards) or small forwards (swingmans).

Small forward (SF). Also known as the three. Player with probably the most duties on the court and usually the most versatile one. Small forward is heavily included in offensive and defensive actions, both on the wing and near to the basket. Threes are generally great defenders that can guard practically every position in an opposite site. They have to be great shooters from behind the three-point line and know how to create shooting positions near to the basket.

Power forward (PF). Also known as the four. Maybe the most physical player on the court. Fours need to have power, play close to the basket, look after rebounds and stop rivals in defence. Nowadays power forwards are more often great shooters that can hurt consecutively hurt rivals from behind the three-point line.

Center (C). Also known as the five. Usually the tallest and the strongest player in the team. Center dominates physical part of the game, playing mainly nearest to the basket (in basketball terminology: in the paint). His main job is to protect the rim and be last standpoint of defense. Centers are primarily skilled at gathering rebounds and setting screens on both offensive and defensive plays. In offense he is supposed to look for easy points near to the rim (uncosted shots). The same as with PF, center’s role changed a little bit throughout the years. Nowadays fives know how to make three-point shots more often than they used to.

Basketball positions placed on the court. Source: Basketball Phantom

National Basketball Association

NBA (National Basketball Association). The best and most important professional basketball league in the world. It is an active member of USA Basketball (USAB), organization recognized by FIBA as the national governing body for basketball in the United States. NBA belongs to one of four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.

NBA was founded in New York City on June 6, 1946, then known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). League’s name has been changed into National Basketball Association on August 3rd 1949. In 1976 NBA merged with its biggest rival American Basketball Association (ABA), creating one league for both USA and Canada. League’s headquarters are located in Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York.

Presently NBA has 30 franchises, 29 Americans plus one Canadian team Toronto Raptors. NBA is divided into two conferences, East and West, each of them including 15 teams. Each conference has three five-teams divisions. The Eastern conference has three divisions called Atlantic, Central, and Southeast, The Western conference also has three divisions: Northwest, Pacific, and Southwest.

Each of the 30 NBA teams plays 82-games regular season. Eight best teams of each conference advance to the playoffs. Every playoff tie is the best of 7 series, leading to the NBA Finals. The team that wins all of the series, becomes an NBA champion. Reigning champs from 2018 are Golden State Warriors. The most successful franchises in NBA’s history are 17 times champions Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers who have 16 overall championships.

Basketball beyond NBA

FIBA Basketball World Cup. An international basketball competition contested by the national men teams of the FIBA’s members. The tournament was founded in 1950. Since 1970 FIBA World Cup took place in the same year as its football equivalent. 18th edition, which will be organized in 2019 in China, changed the year schedule of basketball World Cup. From that point it will be held in the year following the FIFA World Cup.

United States are current world champions from year 2014. USA national team, together with no longer existing Yugoslavia national team, has the most world championship titles, counting five.

EuroBasket (also commonly referred to as the European Basketball Championship). The main international basketball competition in Europe associating national teams that are members of FIBA Europe. Since its foundation in 1935 EuroBasket has been contested every two years but after 40th edition from 2017 year format of competition has changed. Since then continental championships will take place every four years, with analogical system of qualification to FIBA World Cup. Current European champions from 2017 are Slovenians. The most EuroBasket titles (14) has been won by no longer existing Soviet Union national team.

EuroLeague (now known as Turkish Airlines EuroLeague due to sponsorship reasons) - annual club basketball competition founded in 1958, since 2000 organised by Euroleague Basketball (previously by FIBA Europe). Tournament is contested by top-tier European teams. It is basketball’s equivalent of football’s UEFA Champions League. In every EuroLeague’s season there are 24 teams that are spread into eight groups. 61 seasons of the competition has been won by 21 different clubs. The most successful club in the competition is Real Madrid which one it eight times, including edition from 2018.

Basketball’s popularity

Basketball is one of the top sports on the globe. Data and measurement company Nielsen Sports made a survey in 18 markets across four continents. In this survey respondents were asked if they are interested or not interested in particular sport. Results showed that the basketball is very popular. to be specific, the second most popular sport in the world, losing only to football. About 35 percent of people were interested in basketball through the years 2013-2017.

Where is fan’s popularity, there’s money. Tons of it. According to Statista studies, NBA teams are valued in billions of dollars. The most worth franchise was New York Knicks, valued at 4 billion dollars. Second Lakers were 3,7 bns while third Warriors 3,5 bns. This statistics open eyes, right?

Pursuit of basketball’s throne

LeBron James is - as his nickname suggests - without a doubt The King. The king of today’s basketball in every respect. He is the most influential, the most popular, the highest-paid and commonly considered as the best basketball athlete in the world.

According to Forbes, LeBron was highest-paid basketball player in the world as for 2018-2019 season, with total earnings amounting at almost 89 million dollars. Second best Stephen Curry had total earnings at 79.5 million dollars, while third on the list Kevin Durant earned 65 million dollars throughout 18-19 season.

James leads the way in social media rankings for years and his dominance only increases. According to sportskeeda’s ranking from 2018, LeBron once again smashed competitors. Then he had about 104.3 million followers (!) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram combining. He beat Curry’s result - 42 million followers - by two and a half. Durant repeated third position with 37,5 million followers across three the most popular social media platforms.

The King of Basketball is as well very close to the crown of all sports. He was second in World Fame 100 of 2018, ESPN’s ranking of the biggest and the most powerful names in sport. He lost only to Cristiano Ronaldo and overtook another football’s superstar Leo Messi. Curry was ninth on this list, Durant was 11th. Another basketball players didn’t even make to the final 100.

So it shows you everything. In the world of basketball, at least considering popularity and authority, there is LeBron, great gap, Curry with Durant, even greater gap and after that the rest of the players.

Source: ESPN’s World Fame 100

Conclusion

Basketball started more than one hundred years ago and thanks to its rate, spectacularity and athleticism has grown into one of the most shining jewels of sport’s crown. Even one billion people follow this discipline on a daily basis which statistically means that one of every seven men should have some feelings to this sport. Hopefully this guide helped you create an empathy and understand those feelings or even enlarge the above-mentioned one billion group of basketball fans. In that case you have no other option than to bet basketball game on betting site. Just like OneHash.

The article is a part of our beginner’s guide' series. You can also read:

The ultimate beginners guide to e-sports

The ultimate beginners guide to football