Aims & Teams

Basketball is played by two teams who score points by throwing a ball into the opposing team’s basket. The team who scores the most points are the winners. Each team has a squad of 12 players to choose from. Five of those players are allowed on the court at any one time, with unlimited substitutions. Players can move the ball around the court by passing, tapping, throwing, rolling or dribbling.


The game consists of four quarters of 10 minutes each, with a 15-minute break at half-time.
There are also two-minute intervals between the first and second periods, and between the third and fourth periods. If the game is tied after the fourth period, it continues with an extra period of five minutes, then as many five-minute periods as are necessary to break the tie.

Officials & Starting The Game

The main officials include one referee and two umpires. The court is divided between them and they swap places after each foul involving a free throw penalty, as well as after each jump ball decision. They use whistles and hand signals to make and explain their decisions. Each game begins with a jump ball or tip-off. The referee throws the ball into the air in the centre circle and two opposing players leap up and try to tap it away. Each player is allowed two taps before the ball hits the ground, a basket, a backboard or another player.


Points are scored for shooting the basketball through the hoop. Two points for a goal inside the three-point semi-circle, and three points for goals scored from outside. Free throws, taken from the free-throw line and awarded after a foul, are worth one point.

Outside the three-point arc

Shots scored from outside of the three-point line – the D-shaped arc surrounding each team’s basket – earn three points. The shooter must have at both feet on the floor outside the three-point line prior to the attempt. Three-point shooting is highly prized by teams and spectators alike, especially if the winning basket is hit from distance on the buzzer.

Inside the three-point arc

Shots which find the basket from inside of the three-point line are worth two points. An unsuccessful free throw attempt which is tapped into the basket also counts as two points.

Free Throws

A free throw is an unchallenged shot at the basket from the free-throw line, taken while the clock is stopped. They are worth one point.
They are awarded after a technical foul a personal foul on a player in the act of shooting or a personal foul after the team committing the foul has exceeded four fouls in that quarter. The number awarded (1-3) depends on the offence. If a player scores despite being fouled, he also gets free throws.


There are a number of time restrictions that dictate how long a team or player has to make a particular move.

24-Second Rule

After a team gains possession of the ball, they have 24 seconds – timed by a “shot clock” – to shoot. Possession is handed to the other team if they fail to do so.

Eight-Second Rule

After the attacking team gains possession of the ball in their own half; they have eight seconds to move the ball into the opposition’s half. Otherwise they lose possession.

Five-Second Rule

Throw-ins from the side-lines or free throws must be taken within five seconds of the re-start.

Three-Second Rule

A player can only be in the opposition’s restricted area – or the “key” – for three seconds. A violation will be called if the player does not leave in time.

Time Outs

Play can be stopped for coaches to discuss tactics and game plans with their players. Each team can call two time outs in the first half and a total of three in the second half, each lasting for a maximum of 60 seconds. Only one per team is available in overtime regardless of its duration.


There are the eight personal foul offences. In practice, some bumping and barging is tolerated. A personal foul results in either player taking free throws or a team surrendering possession.

When personal contact is made with an opponent who restricts their movement.

Where a defending player makes contact with an opponent from behind.

Any sort of contact between two players where an opponent’s movements are impeded.

Called when a player moves or attempts to move an opponent with force, even if they do not have control of the ball.

An attempt to slow down or stop an opponent who does not have control of the ball.

When a defending player uses their hands on an opponent to slow their progress.

When a player, with or without the ball, pushes or moves into an opponent.

When contact is made by a player’s hand on an opponent when they are attempting to play the ball.

Fouls in basketball not covered by the personal category are as follows:

Covers such things as bad language and other unsportsmanlike conduct.

Called if a player commits a serious foul, such as striking an opponent. They will be dismissed immediately from the game.

If a player commits five fouls, either personal or technical; they must leave the game and cannot return. They can be replaced by a substitute.

Each personal foul committed by a player is also counted against his team; when a team goes over the limit, its opponent is awarded a free-throw.

In the BBL, the limit is five fouls – personal or technical – in any one period, after which the opposing team get two free throws.

Covers such things as an illegal dribble or spending more than three seconds in the restricted area. Possession is handed to the opposition, usually via a throw-in.