The Rules of Basketball

Published on:

The Rules of Basketball

Basketball is a fast-paced and exciting sport that requires an initial understanding of the basic rules of the game in order to play the game effectively kee fair. So grab a ball, lace up your sneakers, and let’s dive into the wonderful world of basketball and its basic rules.

For the full history of Basketball read here.

The 13 Original Rules of Basketball

  1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
  2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands, but never with the fist.
  3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, with allowance to be made for a man running at a good speed.
  4. The hands must hold the ball. The arms or body must not be used for holding it.
  5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, striking, or tripping in any way of an opponent. Any person’s first infringement of this rule shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole game. No substitution shall be allowed.
  6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violations of Rules 3 and 4 and such as described in Rule 5.
  7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls it shall count as a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).
  8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the ground into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
  9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field and played by the first person touching it. In case of dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on them.
  10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have the power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.
  11. The referee shall be the judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the goals, with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.
  12. The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.
  13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner.

Some additional rules to the game since its inception include;

The game is played by two teams of five players each.

Depending on the age of the players or regulating body each game is divided into four quarters, each lasting 12 minutes.

The offensive team must advance the ball across the half-court line within ten seconds.

Technical fouls are called for unsportsmanlike conduct, such as arguing with officials.

Free throws are awarded for certain fouls and can be taken from the free-throw line.

A three-point shot can be made from beyond the three-point arc, which is typically 23 feet and 9 inches from the center of the basket.

Jump balls are used in the case of a tied-up ball or a jump ball situation, a jump ball is used to determine possession.

Lane violations – A player cannot enter the key (the painted area around the basket) until the ball hits the rim. If they do, they are committing a lane violation.

Timeouts – Teams are allowed a certain number of timeouts per game, which can be used to stop the clock and make strategy adjustments.

Rebounds are considered the number of times a team gets the ball after a shot is missed.

Shot clock – The shot clock is a timer that starts when a team gains possession of the ball and gives them a certain amount of time (usually 24 seconds) to shoot the ball.

Double dribble: Double dribble is a violation in which a player dribbles the ball with two hands or stops dribbling and then starts dribbling again.

Traveling – Traveling is a violation in which a player takes more than two steps without dribbling the ball.

There are also several other rules that have been created as the game has progressed but it’s important to know the basics and understand their importance. 

Importance of Basketball Rules 

As with any game or process rules provide a clear structure and framework for the game, making it easier for players, coaches, and officials to understand what is allowed and what is not.

Playing by the rules also maintains fairness and balance between teams, ensuring that each team has an equal chance to win. This keeps the integrity of the sport and prevents actions that could compromise the competitiveness of the game.

Common rules ensure a consistent experience for players, fans, and officials, regardless of where the game is played or who is playing. They are also in place to protect players from injury and ensure their safety on the court.

Basketball Without Rules

Technically, you could play basketball without rules, however, rules provide the structure and framework for the game defining what is allowed and what is not.

In addition, the rules help to ensure player safety, as they regulate physical contact and other actions that could cause injury. 

With that in mind, there are some limited benefits to playing basketball without rules, as it can allow for greater creative freedom and experimentation for players. Playing without rules could also allow for a more relaxed and informal environment, which could be beneficial for players who are new to the sport or who are not as competitive.

Organized Vs Street Basketball

Ultimately, the choice between organized and street basketball will depend on the individual player’s goals, preferences, and needs. 

Some players may prefer the freedom and creativity of street basketball, while others may prefer the structure and competition of organized play….each has its own benefits. 

Benefits of Organized Basketball –

Structure – Organized basketball is played with rules and regulations, providing a structured environment for players to compete and improve.

Development – Organized basketball provides players with the opportunity to develop their skills and work on specific aspects of their game.

Competition – Organized basketball offers more opportunities for competitive play and can help players develop a more competitive edge.

Coaching – Organized basketball provides players with access to coaching and instruction, which can help them to improve and reach their potential.

Benefits of Street Basketball – 

Creativity – Street basketball is often more improvisational, allowing players to express themselves freely and try new things that might not be allowed in organized play.

Community – Street basketball is often played in neighborhoods and parks, which can foster a sense of community and bring people together.

Accessibility – Street basketball is often more accessible, as it does not require access to a gym or formal playing environment.

The choice is yours, whether you’re looking to play pick-up games with friends or join a league, having a solid understanding of these rules and benefits will set you up for success on the court. 


Hey, I’m Nick the creator of Basketball State…this site is a collection of hard work, research, and testing of everything the basketball world has to offer.