Basketball Basic Rules

The first step to learning how to play basketball is learning the basketball basic rules.

In addition to these, it would also be helpful to become familiar with some common basketball terms used by coaches and players on the court.

When you're first starting out it may seem a bit confusing because every level of competition has its own uniquely different set of regulations:

Visit our official basketball rules page to find links to the various governing bodies for high school, college, professional, and international play.

Here are a couple resources you might find helpful. They come highly recommended by users.

Sport Spectator Basketball Guide

how to play basketball

Learn the basic rules of basketball in 10 minutes!

What does it mean to dribble the ball? What happens when a player travels? What's the difference between man-to-man and zone defense?

The SportSpectator Basketball Guide answers these questions and more!

Content includes court diagrams, player roles, basic rules and strategies, referee signals, and a glossary of useful terms — the essentials to understand and enjoy basketball.

Game-Day Youth: Learning Basketball's Lingo

basketball terms

Whether you recently signed up for the basketball team, watch a brother or sister play, or want to learn more about this game, this book is for you.

Simple text, clear illustrations of the court and its markings, drawings of where the players play on the court, and pictures of the official's signals will help you know more about playing basketball, the players and positions, basic rules, and the meaning of basketball words.

Basketball Basic Rules


The game is played with 2 teams. Each team consists of 5 players on the court at a time.

The object of the game is to outscore your opponent by shooting the ball into your basket and preventing them from putting the ball into theirs.

The ball can only be advanced up the floor with the hands either by dribbling or passing to teammates. 


The fundamental skills involved in the game, include:


There are a variety of ways players can line up on the court, but the most common basketball positions are:

  • #1 (Point Guard)
  • #2 (Shooting Guard)
  • #3 (Wing or Small Forward)
  • #4 (Power Forward)
  • #5 (Center)


Points are scored any time the ball goes through the basket.

3 points are granted if the shot is taken beyond the 3-pt line, and 2 points are awarded for a basket made from anywhere else on the court.

A free throw is worth 1 point.

Game length

Games are divided into time segments known as periods. The length and number of each period differs between leagues.


Basketball fouls are penalties assessed by the referees for rough play to keep a player from gaining an advantage over another player.

A player who is fouled is awarded the ball out of bounds unless the foul occurred during the act of shooting, in which case the player who is fouled is awarded 2 free throws.


The basketball basic rules include numerous ball handling and time violations that cause a team to lose possession of the ball.

These are the basketball basic rules in a nutshell. No doubt the game has come a long way since James Naismith's original 13 basketball basic rules were published back in 1892!

Check out this timeline to see the changes in official basketball rules that have most affected the game.

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