Basketball Basic Rules

basketball basic rules

These basketball basic rules will give youth basketball players and parents a general understanding of how to play basketball. Topics include court layout, positions, scoring, fouls, and violations. 


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

basketball basic rules

Basketball Basic Rules
Playing Area

The basketball court layout is rectangular in shape and is split in half by a mid-court line. There are 2 baskets, one located at each end of the court. The standard basketball rim is 10 feet off of the ground.

basketball court layout

Click here for basketball court dimensions & diagrams for different levels

Basketball Basic Rules

To play a regulation game, you need a basketball and 2 basketball goals.



basketball goal

Basketball goal

Basketball Basic Rules
Starting Play

Teams are assigned a basket at which to shoot for the first half, and they switch ends at half-time.

The game begins with a jump ball at center court between one player from each team. Other players line up in alternating fashion around the center circle. Once the ball is touched by either player, the game begins.

The team in possession of the ball is on offense and takes the ball toward their basket to score against their opponent who is on defense.

Basketball Basic Rules

The fundamental skills involved in the game, include:

  • Dribbling - advancing the ball up the court by bouncing it with one hand.
  • Passing and catching - moving the ball around the court by throwing it to teammates.
  • Shooting - putting the ball through the hoop.
  • Rebounding - gaining possession of the ball from a missed shot that bounces off the backboard or rim.
  • Jumping - an important skill used in rebounding, shooting, and blocking shots.
  • Defending - keeping the opponent with the ball from scoring.
  • Moving without the ball - to get open for a pass or shot, players must break away from their defenders and cut to openings on the court.

Basketball Basic Rules

basketball positions

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

  • #1 or Point Guard (PG)
  • #2 or Shooting Guard (SG)
  • #3 or Wing or Small Forward (SF)
  • #4 or Power Forward (PF)
  • #5 or Center (C)

Basketball Basic Rules

basketball score

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

  • 3 points = shot made beyond the 3-pt line
  • 2 points = shot made from anywhere else on the court
  • 1 point = free throw

Basketball Basic Rules
Game Length

Basketball scoreboard

Games are divided into time segments known as periods. The length and number of each period differs between leagues. For example, college men's games are divided into 2 20-minutes halves, college women's games are split into 4 10-minute quarters, while high school games are made up of 4 8-minute quarters.

Basketball Basic Rules

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.

Each player is allowed 5 fouls before they are removed from the game. Here are some common basketball fouls:

  • Blocking – A personal foul caused when the defender makes illegal personal contact with an opponent who may or may not have the ball. Blocking is called when the defender impedes the progress of the opponent.
  • Charging (or Player Control Foul) – A personal foul occurring when an offensive player makes contact with a defender who has already established a set position. A player with the ball must avoid contact with a stationary defender by stopping or changing direction.
  • Elbowing – It is a violation for a player to swing the elbows excessively.
  • Flagrant Foul – A personal or technical foul, which is violent in nature. Examples are fighting, striking, kicking, or kneeing an opponent.
  • Hand Check – A personal foul caused by a defender making repeated contact with her hands on her opponent.
  • Holding – A personal foul caused by illegal contact with an opponent, which interferes with his freedom of movement.
  • Intentional Foul – A personal or technical foul, which keeps the opponent from capitalizing on an advantageous situation. It could be contact away from the ball or contact when a defender is not making a legitimate attempt to play the ball or a player. It also occurs when a player causes excessive contact with an opponent.
  • Offensive Foul – A foul caused by an offensive player, usually in the form of charging.
  • Personal Foul – Illegal contact with an opponent while the ball is live, which hinders the opponent's offensive or defensive movement. A personal foul also includes contact by or on an airborne shooter when the ball is dead. 
  • Technical Foul – A non-contact foul by a player; an intentional or flagrant contact foul while the ball is dead; or a violation charged to the head coach because of violations on the sideline or from bench personnel.
  • Team Foul – Any foul charged to a team. Once a team reaches 7 team fouls, its opponent is in a bonus free throw situation.

Basketball Basic Rules

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

  • Back-court Violation – If a player is the last one on her team to touch the ball before it goes into the back-court, she cannot be the first player to touch it in the back-court.
  • Closely Guarded (or Five-second Violation) – Violation that occurs when a ball handler in his team's front-court is continuously guarded by any opponent who is within 6 feet of him while he is either dribbling or holding the ball. The offensive player has 5 seconds to either get rid of the ball or drive past the defender.
  • Double Dribble - When a dribbler touches the ball with both hands at the same time or when the dribbler picks up the ball and then starts dribbling again.
  • Goal-tending – Occurs when a player touches a shot ball while it is in its downward flight above the rim. It also occurs when a defender touches a free throw attempt outside the basket.
  • Lane Violation – A violation called during a free throw situation against a player who enters the lane too soon.
  • Ten Seconds in the Back-court – A team has 10 seconds to advance the ball from their back-court past the half-court line to the front-court.
  • Three Seconds in the Lane – An offensive player cannot remain in the free throw lane for longer than 3 seconds while her team is in control of the ball in the front-court. She has to clear the lane completely with both feet to stop the official's count. If she receives the ball while she is in the lane, she is allowed to stay beyond 3 seconds in order to drive toward the goal for a shot.
  • Traveling – A violation caused by moving the feet in any direction without properly dribbling the ball. It results in a turnover, and the ball is given to the opposing team. While holding the ball, a player has to establish a pivot foot which has to remain on the floor at all times until he passes, shoots, or dribbles. While holding the ball, his knee cannot touch the floor and if he falls, he must get rid of the ball before attempting to get up.

Every level of competition has its own unique rules.

Click here to find youth basketball, high school, NCAA, NBA, and international rules. There, you'll also find links to the various governing bodies that can provide the official rules for each level.

Basketball Basic Rules

Depending on the number of players, skill level, available equipment, or the size of your playing area, you can modify the basketball basic rules to fit your needs. Here are some modifications you can make to get a game going:

Children's basketball goals

Little Tikes Adjust N Jam Basketball Set

Adjustable goals

Bison 6-in-1 Adjustable Easy-Up Youth Mini Goal

Youth-size basketballs

Spalding Rookie Gear Basketball (Multi-Color)

Spot markers

Spots/Markers,9-Inch (One Dozen)
  • Lower the goals.
  • Use other objects for goals like boxes, hoops, or trash cans.
  • Use other types of balls, like beach balls, bouncy playground balls, or soft nerf balls.
  • Let teams and/or players score without any defense on the floor.
  • Play with more or fewer players on each team.
  • Don't allow any dribbling. Players are only allowed to pass the ball up the floor.
  • Use a smaller court or only play half-court.
  • Have shooting contests from different spots on the court.

Search fun kids sports games that include modified basketball games.

Learn how to play basketball on this great youth basketball site!

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