Thinking about taking a trip to a basketball court sometime soon? Here’s what you need to know.

In basketball, the ball has to keep moving, and to do that, you must dribble by bouncing the ball on the ground. But how do you dribble? How to understand the criteria for a good pass? How to learn the basic technique?

To play basketball, you will have to integrate the essentials of a good pass. And we are here to guide you.


Basketball Rules

First things first, however, let’s have a look at what you need to know about how the game of basketball works.

Dribbling

  • As a player moves around the basketball court, the ball must be in a continual, controlled bouncing motion, with only one hand being used at a time. This is called dribbling.
  • When dribbling, the player’s hand must remain on top of the ball as it bounces. Touching the ball whilst dribbling or moving is considered a foul, which is known as a ‘carry’. If penalised for this, the carrying player’s team will lose possession of the ball.
  • Once you’ve stopped dribbling, you cannot start again. When a player decides to use two hands or stop dribbling, they will only be able to move with one foot and in a pivoting motion. If a player starts moving or dribbling again, it is a foul known as double-dribbling and the offending player’s team loses possession of the ball.
  • Players can only start dribbling again once another player from either team makes contact with or gains control of the basketball, most commonly from a pass or shot.

Offense

  • The basketball must be held in one or two hands, not against the body or the arms.
  • When the attacking team crosses the halfway point of the court, known as the half-court, they are not able to return to their half, which is known as the backcourt. If they do return to the backcourt, it is seen as foul, known as a backcourt violation.
  • The only time the attacking are allowed to legally return to the backcourt is if the defensive team knocks the ball into that backcourt. Only then are the attacking team allowed to recover the ball legally.
  • After the basketball goes out of play or ‘out of bounds’, it will be returned to the court by a player making a pass. They will be allowed five seconds to make the pass, or a foul will be called and the ball will be rewarded back to the opposing team. If this continues to happen, the offending team will have a foul called against them.
  • Points are scored when the basketball lands in the net. Also if the ball lands on the basket, and stays there without falling, or if the opponent moves the basket, both will count as points scored.

Defensive

  • For beginners to basketball, committing a foul may seem like an incredibly easy thing to do. It’s seen as gaining an advantage through unfair physical contact. Of course, this is down to interpretation, but it is deemed that a defensive player cannot touch an attacking player in a fashion that leads a player losing the ball or missing a shot. Contact through holding, shouldering, tripping, pushing, or striking in any way is prohibited. Although it is seen as a defensive rule, it applies to all players.


Basic rules for both sides

  • Players are not allowed to kick or punch the ball. Contact with the ball has to be made with an open palm.
  • Defensive players are not allowed to touch the basketball if it’s traveling downwards into the basket or has landed on the rim (although this is legal in some games). This foul is known as goaltending.


Player Positions in Basketball

As you get used to the game and its rules, it’s a good idea to also know the positions. Although during the early stages of your basketball education, most players should be able to interchangeably move between positions, knowing what player does will help as you proceed.

Point Guard

The playmaker and seen to be the leader on the court. Along with strong leadership, a point guard needs a skill set that includes good ball handling, passing and quick decision making.

Centre

This is a position that needs a good overall game. To play as a centre in basketball you need good passing, handling, shot accuracy, ability to react to rebounds, and are seen by many as the final line of defense.

Power Forward

Usually tasked with winning rebounds and close in scoring, this is a physical position that requires a large amount of strength. Power forwards are often known for their ability to win the ball as well as blocking shots.

Shooting Forward

The player that is known for their abilities to shoot from a long way out, also known as a three-pointer. Often ends up being the team’s top scorer. Much like the point guard, passing and handling are also important for Shooting Forwards.


How to play basketball (the essentials)

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Before playing, start with a warm-up without a ball, for about 5 minutes.

Two-Handed Pass - Direct Or Ground

Two terms to remember used often in matches; "the catch of the ball" and the "throw of the ball."

  1. In the initial position: place one hand on each side of the ball, the fingers apart keeping them close to your chest, elbows slightly apart from the body. Point your finger at your target and position the thumbs behind the ball.
  2. Your body is in the hand time well balanced and well bent and having the supports a little more spread than the shoulders.
  3. To initiate the movement, take a step forward towards your target, advance right foot for right-handed, and left for left-handed.
  4. Second, throw the ball, stretch your arms in line with your shoulders towards your target and use your thumbs to push the ball.
  5. To make a pass on the ground, use the same technique by changing the direction of your pass to make it bounce off the ground before your partner receives it.
  6. There are different types of possible passes to achieve: the pass with two hands above the head, the pass in the dribble, the pass to a hand offspring, and the passed ball.

Learn To Dribble

A player in possession of the ball can move only by dribbling. It is, therefore, crucial to master the fundamental techniques. To dribble, you have three major points to work on: position your body, control the ball, and dribble down.

  1. First, properly position your body
  2. In position, place your hips slightly backward to reduce the distance between the ball and the ground.
  3. Keep your back straight and your head up to take as much information as you can.
  4. Then control the ball.
  5. To dribble, bounce the ball on the ground keeping your hand, fingers spread, over the ball. Keep your wrist supple. Do not hit the ball but accompany it to the end of its descent.
  6. Do not look at your ball, fix a point far in front of you.
  7. Finally, dribble down.

Never dribble higher than your hip, ideally, your dribble will reach knee height.


Frequent errors

  1. Be careful to keep the wrist supple during the dribble, not to hit the ball but to accompany it in its descent.
  2. Be careful not to put your hand under the ball to avoid carrying a ball.
  3. Your dribble should never exceed your height, ideally, it should be at the height of your knee.


Learn To Shoot: Gestures For Good Shooting

In a match, you will have to shoot, so this is a gesture that is important to master.

There are four steps to follow:

  1. First, position yourself well. Align your hand movement towards the basket, spread about the width of your shoulders, and a little bent. The foot corresponding to your strong hand is slightly advanced compared to the other.
  2. Place your strong hand on the ball, your thumb and forefinger should form a V. Your weak hand will come to the side. Your two thumbs should form a T.
  3. Then, arm your shot. Place your strong hand under the ball, fingers up and wide apart, bringing it toward your face. From this moment, do not move your eyes away from the basket. Align the foot, knee, elbow, and hand-puller with the basket.
  4. You can then finish shooting by pushing on your legs. Trigger your arm by accompanying your ball to release it as high as possible.

Understanding the Rebound

As you will have noticed in the different positions, rebounds are a vital part of the game of basketball. It is when a shot fails, but bounces back into the court, and is retrieved by the attacking team, giving them another opportunity to take a shot.

Winning a rebound often means an even better chance to score than the previous shot.

A popular technique for rebounding is known as ‘boxing out’, and involves standing in between the opposing player challenging for the ball and the airborne ball. If you keep yourself in this position, your opponent will try to jump over you, and a foul will be called for what is known as an ‘over the back foul’. This is an effective approach, even if the player is taller than you.

To successfully rebound when in defense, it’s important to first look to block the shooter, as they will often have the best track on which direction the ball will be traveling. When it comes to rebounding in attack, the best thing you can do is use a quick reaction to move towards the ball quicker than the defense. As mentioned with defensive rebounding, it will often be the shooter that has the best sense of where the ball will end for the rebound.

Learn To Defend

  1. First, take a good defensive stance: spread your legs a little more than the width of your shoulders and flex your legs.
  2. Bring your hips slightly backward and keep your back straight.
  3. Slightly lift your heels off the floor to position the weight of your body a little forward. This will allow you to be more responsive.
  4. Raise your arms horizontally, palms forward, so that the ball is easier to retrieve.
  5. Secondly, stand on the field: when defending against an opposition player, always stand between him and the basket. You must at all times keep your eyes on the ball and your player.

After the session, always take the time to stretch. Adapt the duration of the stretches to your needs. For example, after a very intense session, stretch for at least 10 minutes.


How to choose a basketball

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Now that you feel comfortable about rules and the skills you need to get going, it’s time to decide what basketball works for your age and your place of practice. Check out everything you need to know about how to choose a basketball in our Play article.


How to practice basketball at home

This of course is very dependent on space, as bouncing as basketball inside can both result in damaging items around your house, plus a carpeted floor does not allow for the best dribble coordination anyway.

However, if you do have enough space and surfaces that work (mainly a concreted space outside the front or back of your house), here are a few ways of improving your basketball technique and overall gameplay.

Develop your muscle memory

  1. Begin by lying on your back, holding a basketball in a shooting position. If you do not have a basketball, you can use anything from a tennis ball through to a loo roll or pillow. It’s all about muscle memory, so you can even use your imagination if you like.
  2. Shoot the ball straight up in the air. As the ball leaves your hands, focus on the follow-through from your elbow, all through your arm, through to the tips of your fingers. Make sure to flick your wrist of your shooting hand, allowing the ball to roll off your fingertips. The main aim to shoot the ball with a strong backspin so it falls downwards directly in your hands.
  3. Keep doing this until it starts to feel natural for your body.

Build hand-eye coordination

  1. Begin by passing a tennis ball back and forth in your hands.
  2. Once this starts to feel natural, pass it about your body, and when you’re ready, through your legs.
  3. Finish off by bouncing the tennis ball in the same way you would dribble a basketball, and try to recreate the ball through the leg movement as you were doing in the previous action. If you can do it with a tennis ball, a basketball will be easy!

Test your reflexes

  1. Begin by tying up your basketball inside a plastic bag, which should make the ball harder to grip.
  2. Bounce the ball on the bag’s tied knot, which will cause unpredictable bounces. This should test your reflexes and make you quicker on your feet.


How to find and join a basketball club

If you’re looking to get involved with a basketball team and maybe even starting to play competitively, it can be easy as visiting a website. Depending on your country, Basketball England, Basketball Scotland, Basketball Wales, or Basketball Northern Ireland will have what you need to get started.