Basketball FAQ

Like any other sport, the more basketball facts you know about its rules and origin, the more you'll enjoy the game. Here are some answers to basic questions about how basketball got started, the court, rules and common terms used in the game.

How did basketball get started?

Basketball is the only major sport of strictly U.S. origin. It's credited to James Naismith, a physical education instructor at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass. Around Dec. 1, 1891, he asked a janitor to put up two boxes, one on each end of the gym. The janitor used two half-bushel peach baskets, which led to the name basketball.

At first, players used ladders to scoop the balls from the baskets. Later, when metal baskets became popular, they used a pole.

Word quickly spread about the new game. Many associations wrote to Naismith asking for a copy of the rules. These rules were finally published in January 1892 in Triangle, the YMCA Training School's campus paper. The rest, as they say, is history.

What is the basketball court?

The standard American court is shaped like a rectangle. Its dimensions vary according to the level of play. The standard court is 50 feet by 94 feet. High school courts are sometimes slightly smaller.

Markings on the court include free-throw lines, a center circle and a three-point line. A basket is suspended from a backboard at each end of the court. In professional basketball, the backboard is a rectangle, 6 feet wide and 3-1/2 feet high, usually made of a transparent material such as glass.

What are the rules?

The basic rules governing the game are based on Naismith's five principles:

  • A large, light ball handled with the hands
  • No running with the ball
  • A player can't be restricted from getting the ball when it's in play
  • No personal contact
  • A horizontal, elevated basket

Of course, more specific rules are governed by the different bodies of the various branches of the sport. These cover details about players, fouls, officials, violations, scoring and timing, the playing court and equipment.

What are some common terms used in basketball?

  • Jump ball - At the start of the game, the referee tosses the ball in the air between a member of each team. The two players then try to tip the ball to a teammate.
  • Pass - The ball is moved around from player to player. The most common are the chest pass, the bounce pass and the roll pass along the floor. With a hook pass, the player tosses the ball either over his head or sideways. Finally, the baseball pass constitutes a long toss.
  • Pivot - The player with the ball keeps one foot on the floor and moves the other foot in any direction.
  • Rebound - Players try to grab the ball after an unsuccessful shot.
  • Shot - Ways of firing the ball into the basket to score points. With a lay-up, the player lays the ball against the backboard. If the player is away from the basket, he can try a push shot from a standing, jump or stride position. A hook shot goes over the player's head to the basket.

See also Popular Basketball Cheers.

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