Basketball in the USA: Know This

Basketball in the USA: Know This

What started as a workout for athletes during the winter is now one of the most popular sports in the U.S.

Basketball was invented by a physical educator in Massachusetts in 1891. It initially had 13 rules and was played by two teams of nine players each. Though there are slight variations to the rules and number of players, the game largely remains the same.

One big change is the equipment. Soccer balls have been replaced with a ball that bounces better, and fruit baskets have been swapped with a hoop and net.

A Brief Walk Through U.S. Basketball History

The first professional basketball league, called the National Basketball League, was formed in 1898. The sport rose in popularity due to the simple rules and indoor play. The league consisted of six teams and lasted for a period of six years.

After 1904, James Naismith, the inventor of the sport, took the game into colleges. This began the legendary sporting tournament that would soon be nicknamed March Madness. The tournament has 64 teams and remains one of the most popular sporting tournaments in the U.S. to this day.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), formed in 1908, governed the basketball world until 1949. Then, the National Basketball Association (NBA) took the spotlight away. For a few years in the 1970s, the American Basketball Association (ABA) tried to compete with the NBA, but it became obsolete within the decade.

The popularity of the NBA boomed in the 1980s-1990s, when iconic players like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were in the limelight. Today, the NBA has 30 teams, one being from Canada.

The Team Setup

Basketball is played between two teams of five players each. In previous versions of the game, a player would stick to the position given to them. 

The position can be:

Point Guard

A point guard is also known as the coach on the floor. This person keeps an eye on the progress of the play and decides how to proceed. They are responsible for driving the ball down the court and creating open shots.

Point guards are also expected to know how to shoot very accurately.

Shooting Guard

As the name suggests, this person is responsible for getting the ball into the net. They are typically the second shortest player on the team. But even then, the average height of a shooting guard is between 6’1” and 6’7” (185-201cm). They should be good at dribbling and passing the ball.

A good shooting guard can shoot from anywhere on the court.

Small Forward

The small forward is also the all-rounder of the team. They should be able to play well on the inside, that is offensively, and on the outside, defensively. This means they should know how to handle the ball properly and pass it when needed.

Small forwards excel at shooting from the foul line.

Power Forward

The power forward is usually the second tallest person on the team. They play near the basket and take rebound shots. But they are also responsible for shooting from the midrange.

The power forward should have the ability to defensively guard bigger players, like the center, near the basket. They should also be agile enough to guard quick players from the basket.


The center is the tallest and strongest person on the team. They are usually standing under the basket and taking close shots. They take rebounds and block the opponent’s shots. They are responsible for making sure the ball doesn’t pass into the opponent’s hands.

Yes, these roles still exist and players still train specifically to their strengths, but with how the game is played today, a single person assumes more than one role. Even defensive players are expected to know how to shoot and adapt their game according to the situation.

The Court

Today, you can find both indoor and outdoor basketball courts. Indoor courts are where professional tournaments and league matches take place. Outdoor courts are reserved for recreational play.

Indoor courts are made with hardwood, and are usually preferred by professional players. Outdoor courts are made of concrete or asphalt, and are much more painful on the joints. Since outdoor courts offer less traction and can cause more serious injuries, they are usually avoided by professional players.

An NBA basketball court is 94 ft. by 50 ft. But, the court size varies depending on the tournament. The baskets hover 10 ft. above the ground in all adult tournaments. But this height can be changed for youth tournaments or nonprofessional leagues.

The Many Markings and What They Indicate

Center Circle

This is a circle in the middle of the court where the tipoff happens. No other players are allowed to enter this circle at the start of a game.

Half-Court Line

This is a line running across the center of the court. A team has to advance the ball past half-court within 10 seconds of play. If they don’t, they lose possession of the ball. In NBA matches, this time limit is eight seconds.

The offensive side cannot pass the ball back to their half of the court. Even if this happens by mistake, the play is stopped and the ball is awarded to the other team. This does not apply if it is a rebound ball, though.

Three-Point Line

This is an arched line that separates the three-point area from the two-point area. If a shot is made beyond this line, the shooting team gets three points.

Free-Throw Line

One area of the court is usually colored differently from the others. This is called the free-throw line. The top line of that lane is from where free throws are made. The shaded box is also known as the Key.

Some Basic Rules

It’s very easy to earn a foul or violation in basketball, and that’s the last thing any player wants. So, to avoid fouls, you need to know some basic rules.


If a player wants to move with the ball, they must dribble it. Dribbling can only be done with one hand. It can be alternated between the hands, but if both hands are used at the same time, then it is a violation.

A player also cannot resume dribbling once they have stopped. They can only take one step after they’ve stopped dribbling and must pass it to advance it in the court.

If either of these rules is violated, the play is stopped and the other team gets the ball. The ball also cannot touch the player’s feet. If this happens, it is a violation.


If a player shoots the ball to the basket, the ball cannot be touched. Doing so is called goaltending. This is a violation, meaning the other team gets the ball.


Fouls are awarded when the infraction is more serious than a violation. This includes instances of illegal personal contact or violence. Whether you meant to do it or not, if you hurt an opponent, it is a foul. But, the type of foul changes.

The fouled person is given a free-throw, usually at the end of the quarter or half. The number of free-throws depends on the number of fouls against the team.

If a player makes enough fouls in a game, they are required to sit out for the rest of the match.


This is how the first quarter of a basketball game begins. The referee throws the ball into the air, and one player from each team tries to knock the ball into their own teammate’s hands. The players tipping off cannot touch the ball more than two times.

The ball cannot be taken by the player tipping off. They also cannot hit the other player’s hand during the tipoff. Since this is how the game begins, it is usually a dramatic part of the game that fans don’t like to miss. Now, you have a basic understanding this sport. Since basketball games are fast-paced, watching a match is highly intense and thrilling.

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