Back To Basics: How To Play Basketball

Basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891, initially only having 13 basic rules and two peach baskets. This simple sport has transformed into a multi-billion dollar business played in almost every country in the world. Even with many countries adopting the gameplay, America has the largest influence on the game through the National Basketball League (NBA). There are basketball tournaments played year-round; however, they are all orchestrated the same way. Today, Rocky Mount Event Center teaches us the basics of how to play basketball.

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The Basics

The best thing to do is nail down the basics to understand basketball better. There are several components to understand before stepping onto the court. Having a firm grasp on these aspects will make gameplay run smoothly.

Game Objective

The object of the game is to put the ball through the basketball hoop more times than the opposing team. There are two teams on the court at a time, each trying to score on the opposing team’s basket. Each side will be trying to prevent the other from scoring in their basket, making it more challenging to win. To score a point or multiple points will depend on a variety of factors, such as distance or foul circumstances.

Three essential components are necessary to meet the game objective. Those are dribbling, passing, and shooting. Each of these factors will be broken down further in the Offense vs. Defense section for a step-by-step process of what each element entails.

Setting Up the Game

Team Requirements

Basketball games and basketball tournaments are set up the same way. There can only be ten players on the basketball court at a time, five from each team. Even though there can only be five players from your team on the court at a time, you are allowed to have 12 total players on your roster. These players can be substituted at any time during gameplay, allowing for quick breaks.

Game Length

The level of play of your basketball team will determine how long the game will last. Below are the levels of play along with the game length for both men’s and women’s basketball:

Men’s Basketball

High School Basketball: 4 quarters, 8 minutes each

NCAA College Basketball: 2 halves, 20 minutes each

NBA Professional Basketball: 4 quarters, 12 minutes each

Women’s Basketball

High School Basketball: 4 quarters, 8 minutes each

NCAA College Basketball: 4 quarters, 10 minutes each

WNBA Professional Basketball: 4 quarters, 10 minutes each


There are many ways to score points in a typical basketball game. An average basket is 2 points; however, you can score as many as 4 points off a single play! Scoring will vary from 1 point to 4 points depending on the situation.

On a basketball court, there are many lines, arcs, and boundaries that determine the point value. From the 3-point arc and beyond, if you were to shoot and score, the shot would count for 3 points. Any basket made inside of the 3-point arc is worth 2 points.

It gets a little more complicated from there. To score additional points, you must be fouled while in the motion of shooting the basketball. A foul is illegal physical contact with another player or unsportsmanlike behavior that violates a rule of the game. The player who was fouled will shoot what is known as “free throws,” which are taken from a line slightly below the 3-point line. These are uncontested shots and count for 1 point for every made basket. The amount of shots you can take is dependent on where you were fouled shooting. For example, if you were fouled while shooting a 3-pointer, you would have 3 free throws to attempt.  

Say you get fouled while shooting a basket, but you still make the shot. In this scenario, the points from the original shot count, and you get to attempt one free throw. This can turn a standard 2-point shot into a 3-point play or even a 3-point shot into a 4-point play!

Basketball Court Regulations

A standard basketball court for college and professional play is 50 feet x 94 feet. The various lines on the basketball court all have significant meanings to the point value, rule violations, and more. The dimensions of every basketball court should be identical no matter where you are playing. NBA and NCAA basketball court regulations are slightly different in terms of distances. Three main factors on the basketball court have a significant influence on the game: three-point arc, free throw line, and basketball goal height.  


Within the sport, there is not a lot of equipment outside of the basketball court itself. To play basketball, you need a basketball hoop and a ball. A basketball will vary in size from men’s basketball to women’s basketball, as well as for junior players. Size numbers label these basketball sizes. A size 7 is a standard men’s basketball, whereas a size 6 is the standard size for women’s basketball.

Basketball hoops must always be 10 feet from the rim to the court floor. A standard basket is made up of a rim (measuring 18 inches in diameter) and a backboard (72 inches x 48 inches).

Player Positions

The five-player positions are point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. Each plays a particular role in getting the ball into the hoop.

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Offense vs. Defense

Playing Offense

Playing offense effectively takes communication and teamwork. The team needs to work as a unit as they quickly travel up and down the court. There are three main aspects of offense: dribbling, passing, and shooting.


Each time a player is moving with the ball, they must be dribbling it down the court. Dribbling is a motion of using your fingertips to push the ball down onto the court and having it bounce back up to your hand.


While you are trying to beat the defense and make the basketball into the hoop, you will want to pass the ball. The two main types of passes are known as chest passes and bounce passes. Chest passes require two hands, and they start in front of the player’s chest and make it to the receiving player’s chest without hitting the basketball court. A bounce pass is when a player throws the ball off of the court so it bounces towards another player.


There is a standard way of shooting from almost all places on the court. You use one hand to thrust the ball into an arc while the other is placed on the side of the basketball to guide it. Depending on your distance away from the basket, a player will want to shoot a higher arc to reach the basket. Other than the standard basketball shot, there is a shot form called a layup. This fashion of shot typically takes place as a player runs towards the basket and uses one hand to gently bounce the ball off the backboard and land it into the basket.

Playing Defense

The primary goal of the defense is to prevent the opposing team from making the basketball into the basket. Defensive players want to put their bodies between the rival team member and the hoop, making it difficult to pass or dribble around them. The three crucial factors that play a role in defense are blocking, stealing, and rebounding.


Blocking a shot is the act of jumping to smack the basketball out of the air. When a player on the opposing team shoots, the defensive player will jump, putting his or her arms in front of the ball to prevent the ball from traveling to the hoop.


Stealing the ball from the opposing team is a primary goal of defensive play. This factor can come from intercepting a pass from the opposite team or taking the ball while another player is dribbling. These often result in a quick transition from defense to offense and fast points!


Rebounding occurs when a player on the opposing team shoots but misses the shot. The basketball will bounce off the rim or backboard, leaving the ten players on the court to scramble to grab the ball. Rebounds are crucial for defense because you do not want the team on offense to recover the ball, giving them another chance to score.

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Ready to Play? Visit Rocky Mount Event Center Today!

Basketball seems complicated on paper with all of the factors, rules, and objectives of gameplay; however, players can pick up the game very quickly. Whether you are brand new to the sport or want to improve your skill-level, visit Rocky Mount Event Center. Our state-of-the-art indoor basketball courts and facilities are well equipped to hold all sizes of events. Looking for a place to host a basketball tournament? Visit our website today to learn more about our basketball courts and how you can hold your next event at Rocky Mount Event Center. Contact us with any questions!