COLLEGE BASKETBALL: A HISTORY
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five active players each try to score points against one another by propelling a ball through a 10 feet (3 m) high hoop (the goal) under organized rules. Basketball is one of the most popular and widely viewed sports in the world.
Points are scored by shooting the ball through the basket above; the team with more points at the end of the game wins. The ball can be advanced on the court by bouncing it (dribbling) or passing it between teammates. Disruptive physical contact (foul) is not permitted and there are restrictions on how the ball can be handled (violations).
Through time, basketball has developed to involve common techniques of shooting, passing and dribbling, as well as players' positions, and offensive and defensive structures. Typically, the tallest members of a team will play center or one of two forward positions, while shorter players or those who possess the best ball handling skills and speed, play the guard positions. While competitive basketball is carefully regulated, numerous variations of basketball have developed for casual play. In some countries, basketball is also a popular spectator sport.
While competitive basketball is primarily an indoor sport, played on a basketball court, less regulated variations have become exceedingly popular as an outdoor sport among both inner city and rural groups.
In early December 1891, Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physical education professor from McGill University of Montréal and instructor at YMCA Training School (today, Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, sought a vigorous indoor game to keep his students occupied and at proper levels of fitness during the long New England winters. After rejecting other ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, he wrote the basic rules and nailed a peach basket onto a 10-foot (3.05 m) elevated track. In contrast with modern basketball nets, this peach basket retained its bottom, and balls had to be retrieved manually after each "basket" or point scored; this proved inefficient, however, so a hole was drilled into the bottom of the basket, allowing the balls to be poked out with a long dowel each time. The peach baskets were used until 1906 when they were finally replaced by metal hoops with backboards. A further change was soon made, so the ball merely passed through, paving the way for the game we know today. A soccer ball was used to shoot goals. Whenever a person got the ball in the basket, his team would gain a point. Whichever team got the most points won the game. The baskets were originally nailed to the mezzanine balcony of the playing court, but this proved impractical when spectators on the balcony began to interfere with shots. The backboard was introduced to prevent this interference; it had the additional effect of allowing rebound shots. Naismith's handwritten diaries, discovered by his granddaughter in early 2006, indicate that he was nervous about the new game he had invented, which incorporated rules from a children's game called "Duck on a Rock", as many had failed before it. Naismith called the new game "Basket Ball".
The first official game was played in the YMCA gymnasium on January 20, 1892 with nine players. The game ended at 1-0; the shot was made from 25 feet (7.6 m), on a court just half the size of a present-day Streetball or National Basketball Association (NBA) court. By 1897–1898 teams of five became standard.
Women's basketball began in 1892 at Smith College when Senda Berenson, a physical education teacher, modified Naismith's rules for women. Shortly after she was hired at Smith, she went to Naismith to learn more about the game. Fascinated by the new sport and the values it could teach, she organized the first women’s collegiate basketball game on March 21, 1893, when her Smith freshmen and sophomores played against one another. Her rules were first published in 1899 and two years later Berenson became the editor of A.G. Spalding’s first Women's Basketball Guide, which further spread her version of basketball for women.
Basketball's early adherents were dispatched to YMCAs throughout the United States, and it quickly spread through the USA and Canada. By 1895, it was well established at several women's high schools. While the YMCA was responsible for initially developing and spreading the game, within a decade it discouraged the new sport, as rough play and rowdy crowds began to detract from the YMCA's primary mission. However, other amateur sports clubs, colleges, and professional clubs quickly filled the void. In the years before World War I, the Amateur Athletic Union and the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (forerunner of the NCAA) vied for control over the rules for the game. The first pro league, the National Basketball League, was formed in 1898 to protect players from exploitation and to promote a less rough game. This league only lasted 5 years.
By the 1950s, basketball had become a major college sport, thus paving the way for a growth of interest in professional basketball. In 1959, a basketball hall of fame was founded in Springfield, Massachusetts. Its rosters include the names of great players, coaches, referees and people who have contributed significantly to the development of the game.
Basketball was originally played with a soccer ball. The first balls made specifically for basketball were brown, and it was only in the late 1950s that Tony Hinkle, searching for a ball that would be more visible to players and spectators alike, introduced the orange ball that is now in common use. Dribbling was not part of the original game except for the "bounce pass" to teammates. Passing the ball was the primary means of ball movement. Dribbling was eventually introduced but limited by the asymmetric shape of early balls. Dribbling only became a major part of the game around the 1950s as manufacturing improved the ball shape.
Basketball, netball, dodgeball, volleyball, and lacrosse are the only ball games which have been identified as being invented by North Americans. Other ball games, such as baseball and Canadian football, have Commonwealth of Nations, European, Asian or African connections. Although there is no direct evidence as yet that the idea of basketball came from the ancient Mesoamerican ballgame, knowledge of that game had been available for at least 50 years prior to Naismith's creation in the writings of John Lloyd Stephens and Alexander von Humboldt. Stephen's works especially, which included drawings by Frederick Catherwood, were available at most educational institutions in the 19th century and also had wide popular circulation.
College basketball and early leagues
Dr. James Naismith was instrumental in establishing college basketball. He coached at the University of Kansas for six years before handing the reins to renowned coach Forrest "Phog" Allen. Naismith's disciple Amos Alonzo Stagg brought basketball to the University of Chicago, while Adolph Rupp, a student of Naismith's at Kansas, enjoyed great success as coach at the University of Kentucky. In 1892, University of California and Miss Head's School, played the first women's inter-institutional game. Berenson's freshmen played the sophomore class in the first women's collegiate basketball game at Smith College, March 21, 1893. The same year, Mount Holyoke and Sophie Newcomb College (coached by Clara Gregory Baer) women began playing basketball. By 1895, the game had spread to colleges across the country, including Wellesley, Vassar and Bryn Mawr. On February 9, 1895 The first intercollegiate 5-on-5 game was played at Hamline University between Hamline and the School of Agriculture which was affiliated with University of Minnesota. The School of Agriculture won in a 9-3 game. The first intercollegiate women's game was on April 4, 1896. Stanford women played Berkeley, 9-on-9, ending in a 2-1 Stanford victory. In 1901, colleges, including the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, University of Minnesota, the U.S. Naval Academy, the University of Utah and Yale University began sponsoring men's games. By 1910, frequent injuries on the men's courts prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to suggest that college basketball form a governing body, resulting in the creation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS). In 1910, that body would change its name to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The first Canadian interuniversity basketball game was played at the YMCA in Kingston, Ontario on February 6, 1904, when McGill University visited Queen's University. McGill won 9-7 in overtime; the score was 7-7 at the end of regulation play, and a ten-minute overtime period settled the outcome. A good turnout of spectators watched the game. 
Teams abounded throughout the 1920s. There were hundreds of men's professional basketball teams in towns and cities all over the United States and little organization of the professional game. Players jumped from team to team and teams played in armories and smoky dance halls. Leagues came and went. Barnstorming squads such as the Original Celtics and two all African American teams, the New York Renaissance Five ("Rens") and (still in existence as of 2008) the Harlem Globetrotters played up to two hundred games a year on their national tours. Women's basketball was more structured. In 1905, the National Women's Basketball Committee's Executive Committee on Basket Ball Rules was created by the American Physical Education Association. These rules called for six to nine players per team and 11 officials. The International Women's Sports Federation (1924) included a women's basketball competition. 37 women's high school varsity basketball or state tournaments were held by 1925. And in 1926, the Amateur Athletic Union backed the first national women's basketball championship, complete with men's rules. The first women's AAU All-America team was chosen in 1929. Women's industrial leagues sprang up throughout the nation, producing famous athletes like Babe Didrikson of the Golden Cyclones and the All American Red Heads Team who competed against men's teams, using men's rules. By 1938, the women's national championship changed from a three-court game to two-court game with six players per team. The first men's national championship tournament, the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball tournament, which still exists as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament, was organized in 1937. The first national championship for NCAA teams, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in New York, was organized in 1938; the NCAA national tournament would begin one year later.
College basketball was rocked by gambling scandals from 1948 to 1951, when dozens of players from top teams were implicated in match fixing and point shaving. Partially spurred by an association with cheating, the NIT lost support to the NCAA tournament.
U.S. high school basketball
Before widespread school district consolidation, most United States high schools were far smaller than their present day counterparts. During the first decades of the 20th century, basketball quickly became the ideal interscholastic sport due to its modest equipment and personnel requirements. In the days before widespread television coverage of professional and college sports, the popularity of high school basketball was unrivaled in many parts of America. Perhaps the most legendary of high school teams was Indiana's Franklin Wonder Five, which took the nation by storm during the 1920s, dominating Indiana basketball and earning national recognition.
Today virtually every high school in the United States fields a basketball team in varsity competition. Basketball's popularity remains high, both in rural areas where they carry the identification of the entire community, as well as at some larger schools known for their basketball teams where many players go on to participate at higher levels of competition after graduation. In the 2003–04 season, 1,002,797 boys and girls represented their schools in interscholastic basketball competition, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The states of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky are particularly well known for their residents' devotion to high school basketball, commonly called Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana; the critically acclaimed film Hoosiers shows high school basketball's depth of meaning to these rural communities.
National Basketball Association
In 1946, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) was formed, organizing the top professional teams and leading to greater popularity of the professional game. The first game was played in Toronto, Ontario, Canada between the Toronto Huskies and New York Knickerbockers on November 1, 1946. Three seasons later, in 1949, the BAA became the National Basketball Association (NBA). An upstart organization, the American Basketball Association, emerged in 1967 and briefly threatened the NBA's dominance until the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. Today the NBA is the top professional basketball league in the world in terms of popularity, salaries, talent, and level of competition.
The NBA has featured many famous players, including George Mikan, the first dominating "big man"; ball-handling wizard Bob Cousy and defensive genius Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics; Wilt Chamberlain, who originally played for the barnstorming Harlem Globetrotters; all-around stars Oscar Robertson and Jerry West; more recent big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone; playmaker John Stockton; crowd-pleasing forward Julius Erving; European stars Dirk Nowitzki and Drazen Petrovic and the three players who many credit with ushering the professional game to its highest level of popularity: Larry Bird, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, and Michael Jordan.
The NBA-backed Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) began in 1997. Though it had an insecure opening season, several marquee players (Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Sue Bird among others) helped the league's popularity and level of competition. Other professional women's basketball leagues in the United States, such as the American Basketball League (1996-1998), have folded in part because of the popularity of the WNBA.
In 2001, the NBA formed a developmental league, the NBDL. As of 2008, the league has sixteen teams.
Basketball teams make up approximately 13 percent of franchised sports in the U.S, and an average of 17,558 spectators regularly attend basketball games in the NBA, with the Chicago Bulls (22,103), Detroit Pistons (22,076) and Cleveland Cavaliers (20,499) topping the popularity stakes. The combined revenue from the 30 NBA teams is approximately $3.37 billion and rising. 
Philippine Basketball Association
The Philippine Basketball Association is the second oldest professional league in the world. The first game was played on April 9, 1975 at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City. Philippines. It was founded as a "rebellion" of several teams from the now-defunct Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association which was tightly controlled by the Basketball Association of the Philippines (now defunct), the then-FIBA recognized national association. Nine teams from the MICAA participated in the league's first season that opened in April 9, 1975.
The Philippine Basketball Association features several famous basketball players like current superstars Gary David, James Yap, Mark Caguioa, Willie Miller, Kelly Williams, Cyrus Baguio and many others. Former PBA Superstar features Allan Caidic, Benjie Paras, Robert Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez, Francis Arnaiz, Atoy Co, Bogs Adornado, Philip Cezar, Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, and many others.
The International Basketball Federation was formed in 1932 by eight founding nations: Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland. At this time, the organization only oversaw amateur players. Its acronym, derived from the French Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur, was thus "FIBA."
Men's Basketball was first included in the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936, although a demonstration tournament was held in 1904. The United States defeated Canada in the first final, played outdoors. This competition has usually been dominated by the United States, whose team has won all but three titles, the first loss in a controversial final game in Munich in 1972 against the Soviet Union. In 1950 the first FIBA World Championship for men was held in Argentina. Three years later, the first FIBA World Championship for Women was held in Chile. Women's basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976, which were held in Montreal, Canada with teams such as the Soviet Union, Brazil and Australia rivaling the American squads.
FIBA dropped the distinction between amateur and professional players in 1989, and in 1992, professional players played for the first time in the Olympic Games. The United States' dominance continued with the introduction of their Dream Team. However, with developing programs elsewhere, other national teams started to beat the United States. A team made entirely of NBA players finished sixth in the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis, behind Yugoslavia, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand and Spain. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, the United States suffered its first Olympic loss while using professional players, falling to Puerto Rico (in a 19-point loss) and Lithuania in group games, and being eliminated in the semifinals by Argentina. It eventually won the bronze medal defeating Lithuania, finishing behind Argentina and Italy.
Worldwide, basketball tournaments are held for boys and girls of all age levels. The global popularity of the sport is reflected in the nationalities represented in the NBA. Players from all over the globe can be found in NBA teams:
Even in the 90's, many non-American players made their names in the NBA, such as Croats Dražen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc, Serb Vlade Divac, Lithuanians Arvydas Sabonis and Šarunas Marciulionis and German Detlef Schrempf.
The all-tournament teams at the two most recent FIBA World Championships, held in 2002 in Indianapolis and 2006 in Japan, demonstrate the globalization of the game equally dramatically. Only one member of either team was American, namely Carmelo Anthony in 2006. The 2002 team featured Nowitzki, Ginobili, Yao, Peja Stojakovic of Yugoslavia (now of Serbia), and Pero Cameron of New Zealand. Ginobili also made the 2006 team; the other members were Anthony, Gasol, his Spanish teammate Jorge Garbajosa and Theodoros Papaloukas of Greece. The only players on either team to never have joined the NBA are Cameron and Papaloukas. The strength of international Basketball is evident in the fact that the last three FIBA world championships were won (in order) by Serbia (Yugoslavia in 1998) and Spain.
Rules and regulations
Measurements and time limits discussed in this section often vary among tournaments and organizations; international and NBA rules are used in this section.
The object of the game is to outscore one's opponents by throwing the ball through the opponents' basket from above while preventing the opponents from doing so on their own. An attempt to score in this way is called a shot. A successful shot is worth two points, or three points if it is taken from beyond the three-point arc which is 6.25 meters (20 ft 6 in) from the basket in international games and 23 ft 9 in (7.24 m) in NBA games.
Games are played in four quarters of 10 (international) or 12 minutes (NBA). College games use two 20 minute halves while most high school games use eight minute quarters. Fifteen minutes are allowed for a half-time break, and two minutes are allowed at the other breaks. Overtime periods are five minutes long. Teams exchange baskets for the second half. The time allowed is actual playing time; the clock is stopped while the play is not active. Therefore, games generally take much longer to complete than the allotted game time, typically about two hours.
Five players from each team (out of a twelve player roster) may be on the court at one time. Substitutions are unlimited but can only be done when play is stopped. Teams also have a coach, who oversees the development and strategies of the team, and other team personnel such as assistant coaches, managers, statisticians, doctors and trainers.
For both men's and women's teams, a standard uniform consists of a pair of shorts and a jersey with a clearly visible number, unique within the team, printed on both the front and back. Players wear high-top sneakers that provide extra ankle support. Typically, team names, players' names and, outside of North America, sponsors are printed on the uniforms.
A limited number of time-outs, clock stoppages requested by a coach for a short meeting with the players, are allowed. They generally last no longer than one minute unless, for televised games, a commercial break is needed.
The game is controlled by the officials consisting of the referee ("crew chief" in men's college and the NBA), one or two umpires ("referees" in men's college and the NBA) and the table officials. For college, the NBA, and many high schools, there are a total of three referees on the court. The table officials are responsible for keeping track of each teams scoring, timekeeping, individual and team fouls, player substitutions, team possession arrow, and the shot clock.
The only essential equipment in basketball is the basketball and the court: a flat, rectangular surface with baskets at opposite ends. Competitive levels require the use of more equipment such as clocks, scoresheets, scoreboard(s), alternating possession arrows, and whistle-operated stop-clock systems.
An outdoor basketball net.
A regulation basketball court in international games is 28 by 15 meters (approx. 92 by 49 ft) and in the NBA is 94 by 50 feet (29 by 15 m). Most courts are made of wood. A steel basket with net and backboard hang over each end of the court. At almost all levels of competition, the top of the rim is exactly 10 feet (3.05 m) above the court and 4 feet (1.2 m) inside the baseline. While variation is possible in the dimensions of the court and backboard, it is considered important for the basket to be of the correct height; a rim that is off by but a few inches can have an adverse effect on shooting.
There are also regulations on the size a basketball should be. If women are playing, the official basketball size is 28.5" in circumference (size 6) and a weight of 20 oz. For men, the official ball is 29.5" in circumference (size 7) and weighs 22 oz.
The ball may be advanced toward the basket by being shot, passed between players, thrown, tapped, rolled or dribbled (bouncing the ball while running).
The ball must stay within the court; the last team to touch the ball before it travels out of bounds forfeits possession. The ball-handler may not move both feet without dribbling, known as traveling, nor may he dribble with both hands or catch the ball in between dribbles, a violation called double dribbling. A player's hand cannot be under the ball while dribbling; doing so is known as carrying the ball. A team, once having established ball control in the front half of the court, may not return the ball to the backcourt. The ball may not be kicked nor struck with the fist. A violation of these rules results in loss of possession, or, if committed by the defense, a reset of the shot clock.
There are limits imposed on the time taken before progressing the ball past halfway (8 seconds in international and NBA; 10 seconds in NCAA and high school), before attempting a shot (24 seconds in the NBA, 30 seconds in NCAA women's and Canadian Interuniversity Sport play for both sexes, and 35 seconds in NCAA men's play), holding the ball while closely guarded (5 seconds), and remaining in the restricted area (the lane, or "key") (3 seconds). These rules are designed to promote more offense.
No player may interfere with the basket or ball on its downward flight to the basket, or while it is on the rim (or, in the NBA, while it is directly above the basket), a violation known as goaltending. If a defensive player goaltends, the attempted shot is considered to have been successful. If a teammate of the shooter goaltends, the basket is cancelled and play continues with the defensive team being given possession.
The referee signals that a foul has been committed.
An attempt to unfairly disadvantage an opponent through physical contact is illegal and is called a foul. These are most commonly committed by defensive players; however, they can be committed by offensive players as well. Players who are fouled either receive the ball to pass inbounds again, or receive one or more free throws if they are fouled in the act of shooting, depending on whether the shot was successful. One point is awarded for making a free throw, which is attempted from a line 15 feet (4.5 m) from the basket.
The referee may use discretion in calling fouls (for example, by considering whether an unfair advantage was gained), sometimes making fouls controversial calls. The calling of fouls can vary between games, leagues and even between referees.
A player or coach who shows poor sportsmanship, for instance, by arguing with a referee or by fighting with another player, can be charged with a more serious foul called a technical foul. The penalty involves free throws (which unlike a personal foul, the other team can choose any player to shoot the free throws) and varies between leagues. Repeated incidents can result in disqualification. Blatant fouls with excessive contact or that are not an attempt to play the ball are called unsportsmanlike fouls (or flagrant fouls in the NBA) and typically will result in ejection.
If a team exceeds a certain limit of team fouls in a given period (quarter or half) – four for NBA and international games – the opposing team is awarded one or two free throws on all subsequent fouls for that period, the number depending on the league. In the US college game if a team surpasses 7 fouls in the half the opposing team is awarded a one-and-one free throw (a player making the first is given a second). If a team exceeds 10 fouls in the half the opposing team is awarded two free throws on all subsequent fouls for the half. A player who, in an international game, commits five fouls (including technical fouls), or in an NBA game, commits six fouls (excluding technical fouls) is not allowed to participate for the rest of the game, and is said to have "fouled out".
After a team has committed a specified number of fouls, it is said to be "in the penalty". On scoreboards, this is usually signified with an indicator light reading "Bonus" or "Penalty" with an illuminated directional arrow indicating that team is to receive free throws when fouled by the opposing team. (Some scoreboards also indicate the number of fouls committed.)
The number of free throws awarded increases with the number of fouls committed. Initially, one shot is awarded, but after a certain number of additional fouls are committed the opposing team may receive (a) one shot with a chance for a second shot if the first shot is made, called shooting "one-and-one", or (b) two shots. If a team misses the first shot (or "front end") of a one-and-one situation, the opposing team may reclaim possession of the ball and continue play. If a team misses the first shot of a two-shot situation, the opposing team must wait for the completion of the second shot before attempting to reclaim possession of the ball and continuing play.
If a player is fouled while attempting a shot and the shot is unsuccessful, the player is awarded a number of free throws equal to the value of the attempted shot. A player fouled while attempting a regular two-point shot, then, receives two shots. A player fouled while attempting a three-point shot, on the other hand, receives three shots.
If a player is fouled while attempting a shot and the shot is successful, typically the player will be awarded one additional free throw for one point. In combination with a regular shot, this is called a "three-point play" (or more colloquially, an "and one") because of the basket made at the time of the foul (2 points) and the additional free throw (1 point). Four-point plays, while rare, can also occur.
Common techniques and practices
Positions and structures
Basketball positions in the offensive zone
Although the rules do not specify any positions whatsoever, they have evolved as part of basketball. During the first five decades of basketball's evolution, one guard, two forwards, and two centers or two guards, two forwards, and one center were used. Since the 1980s, more specific positions have evolved, namely:
- point guard: usually the fastest player on the team, organizes the team's offense by controlling the ball and making sure that it gets to the right player at the right time
- shooting guard: creates a high volume of shots on offense; guards the opponent's best perimeter player on defense
- small forward: often primarily responsible for scoring points via cuts to the basket and dribble penetration; on defense seeks rebounds and steals, but sometimes plays more actively
- power forward: plays offensively often with his back to the basket; on defense, plays under the basket (in a zone defense) or against the opposing power forward (in man-to-man defense)
- center: uses size to score (on offense), to protect the basket closely (on defense), or to rebound.
The above descriptions are flexible. On some occasions, teams will choose to use a three guard offense, replacing one of the forwards or the center with a third guard. The most commonly interchanged positions are point guard and shooting guard, especially if both players have good leadership and ball handling skills.
There are two main defensive strategies: zone defense and man-to-man defense. Zone defense involves players in defensive positions guarding whichever opponent is in their zone. In man-to-man defense, each defensive player guards a specific opponent and tries to prevent him from taking action.
Offensive plays are more varied, normally involving planned passes and movement by players without the ball. A quick movement by an offensive player without the ball to gain an advantageous position is a cut. A legal attempt by an offensive player to stop an opponent from guarding a teammate, by standing in the defender's way such that the teammate cuts next to him, is a screen or pick. The two plays are combined in the pick and roll, in which a player sets a pick and then "rolls" away from the pick towards the basket. Screens and cuts are very important in offensive plays; these allow the quick passes and teamwork which can lead to a successful basket. Teams almost always have several offensive plays planned to ensure their movement is not predictable. On court, the point guard is usually responsible for indicating which play will occur.
Defensive and offensive structures, and positions, are more emphasized in higher levels in basketball; it is these that a coach normally requests a time-out to discuss.
Player releases a short jump shot, while her defender is either knocked down, or trying to "take a charge."
Shooting is the act of attempting to score points by throwing the ball through the basket. While methods can vary with players and situations, the most common technique can be outlined here.
The player should be positioned facing the basket with feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and back straight. The player holds the ball to rest in the dominant hand's fingertips (the shooting arm) slightly above the head, with the other hand on the side of the ball. To aim the ball, the player's elbow should be aligned vertically, with the forearm facing in the direction of the basket. The ball is shot by bending and extending the knees and extending the shooting arm to become straight; the ball rolls off the finger tips while the wrist completes a full downward flex motion. When the shooting arm is stationary for a moment after the ball released, it is known as a follow-through; it is incorporated to maintain accuracy. Generally, the non-shooting arm is used only to guide the shot, not to power it.
Players often try to put a steady backspin on the ball to deaden its impact with the rim. The ideal trajectory of the shot is somewhat arguable, but generally coaches will profess proper arch. Most players shoot directly into the basket, but shooters may use the backboard to redirect the ball into the basket.
The two most common shots that use the above described set up are the set shot and the jump shot. The set shot is taken from a standing position, with neither foot leaving the floor, typically used for free throws. The jump shot is taken while in mid-air, near the top of the jump. This provides much greater power and range, and it also allows the player to elevate over the defender. Failure to release the ball before returning the feet to the ground is a traveling violation.
Another common shot is called the layup. This shot requires the player to be in motion toward the basket, and to "lay" the ball "up" and into the basket, typically off the backboard (the backboard-free, underhand version is called a finger roll). The most crowd-pleasing, and typically highest-percentage accuracy shot is the slam dunk, in which the player jumps very high, and throws the ball downward, straight through the hoop.
Another shot that is becoming common is the "circus shot". The circus shot is a low-percentage shot that is flipped, heaved, scooped, or flung toward the hoop while the shooter is off-balance, airborne, falling down, and/or facing away from the basket.
A shot that misses both the rim and the backboard completely is referred to as an air ball. A particularly bad shot, or one that only hits the backboard, is jocularly called a brick.
The objective of rebounding is to successfully gain possession of the basketball after a missed field goal or free throw, as it rebounds from the hoop or backboard. This plays a major role in the game, as most possessions end when a team misses a shot. There are two categories of rebounds: offensive rebounds, in which the ball is recovered by the offensive side and does not change possession, and defensive rebounds, in which the defending team gains possession of the loose ball. The majority of rebounds are defensive, as the team on defense tends to be in better position to recover missed shots.
- See also: Assist (basketball)
A pass is a method of moving the ball between players. Most passes are accompanied by a step forward to increase power and are followed through with the hands to ensure accuracy.
A staple pass is the chest pass. The ball is passed directly from the passer's chest to the receiver's chest. A proper chest pass involves an outward snap of the thumbs to add velocity and leaves the defence little time to react.
Another type of pass is the bounce pass. Here, the passer bounces the ball crisply about two-thirds of the way from his own chest to the receiver. The ball strikes the court and bounces up toward the receiver. The bounce pass takes longer to complete than the chest pass, but it is also harder for the opposing team to intercept (kicking the ball deliberately is a violation). Thus, players often use the bounce pass in crowded moments, or to pass around a defender.
The overhead pass is used to pass the ball over a defender. The ball is released while over the passer's head.
The outlet pass occurs after a team gets a defensive rebound. The next pass after the rebound is the outlet pass.
The crucial aspect of any good pass is being impossible to intercept. Good passers can pass the ball with great accuracy and touch and know exactly where each of their teammates like to receive the ball. A special way of doing this is passing the ball without looking at the receiving teammate. This is called a no-look pass.
Another advanced style of passing is the behind-the-back pass which, as the description implies, involves throwing the ball behind the passer's back to a teammate. Although some players can perform them effectively, many coaches discourage no-look or behind-the-back passes, believing them to be fundamentally unsound, difficult to control, and more likely to result in turnovers or violations.
A U.S. Naval Academy ("Navy") player, left, posts up a U.S. Military Academy ("Army") defender
Dribbling is the act of bouncing the ball continuously with one hand, and is a requirement for a player to take steps with the ball. To dribble, a player pushes the ball down towards the ground with the fingertips rather than patting it; this ensures greater control.
When dribbling past an opponent, the dribbler should dribble with the hand farthest from the opponent, making it more difficult for the defensive player to get to the ball. It is therefore important for a player to be able to dribble competently with both hands.
Good dribblers (or "ball handlers") tend to bounce the ball low to the ground, reducing the travel from the floor to the hand, making it more difficult for the defender to "steal" the ball. Additionally, good ball handlers frequently dribble behind their backs, between their legs, and change hands and directions of the dribble frequently, making a less predictable dribbling pattern that is more difficult to defend. This is called a crossover, which is the most effective way to pass defenders while dribbling.
A skilled player can dribble without watching the ball, using the dribbling motion or peripheral vision to keep track of the ball's location. By not having to focus on the ball, a player can look for teammates or scoring opportunities, as well as avoid the danger of someone stealing the ball from him/her.
A block is performed when, after a shot is attempted, a defender attempts to alter the shot by touching the ball. In almost all variants of play, it is illegal to touch the ball after it is in the downward part of its arc; this is known as goaltending. It is also illegal to block a shot after it has touched the backboard, or when any part of the ball is directly above the rim.
To block a shot, a player has to be able to reach a point higher than where the shot is released. Thus, height can be an advantage in blocking. Players at the taller power forward or center positions generally record more blocks than players at the shorter guard positions. However, with good timing and sufficient vertical leap, even shorter players can be effective at blocking shots.
At the professional level, most male players are above 6 ft 3 in (1.90 m) and most women above 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m). Guards, for whom physical coordination and ball-handling skills are crucial, tend to be the smallest players. Almost all forwards in the men's pro leagues are 6 ft 6 in (2 m) or taller. Most centers are over 6 ft 10 in (2.1 m) tall. According to a survey given to all NBA teams, the average height of all NBA players is just under 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), with the average weight being close to 222 lb (101 kg). The tallest players ever in the NBA were Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan, who were both 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m) tall. The tallest current NBA player is Yao Ming, who stands at 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m).
The shortest player ever to play in the NBA is Muggsy Bogues at 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m). Other short players have thrived at the pro level. Anthony "Spud" Webb was just 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) tall, but had a 42-inch (1.07 m) vertical leap, giving him significant height when jumping. The shortest player in the NBA as of the 2006-07 season is Earl Boykins at 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m). While shorter players are often not very good at defending against shooting, their ability to navigate quickly through crowded areas of the court and steal the ball by reaching low are strengths.
Variations and similar games
Variations of basketball are activities based on the game of basketball, using common basketball skills and equipment (primarily the ball and basket). Some variations are only superficial rules changes, while others are distinct games with varying degrees of basketball influences. Other variations include children's games, contests or activities meant to help players reinforce skills.
Wheelchair basketball, created by disabled World War II veterans,  is played on specially designed wheelchairs for the physically impaired. The world governing body of wheelchair basketball is the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF). Water basketball, played in a swimming pool, merges basketball and water polo rules. Beach basketball is played in a circular court with no backboard on the goal, no out-of-bounds rule with the ball movement to be done via passes or 2 1/2 steps, as dribbling is next to impossible on a soft surface.
There are many variations as well played in informal settings without referees or strict rules. Perhaps the single most common variation is the half court game. Only one basket is used, and the ball must be "cleared" - passed or dribbled outside the half-court or three-point line - each time possession of the ball changes from one team to the other. Half-court games require less cardiovascular stamina, since players need not run back and forth a full court. Half-court games also raise the number of players that can use a court, an important benefit when many players want to play.
A popular version of the half-court game is 21. Two-point shots count as two points and shots from behind the three-point line count three. A player who makes a basket is awarded up to three extra free throws (or unlimited if you are playing "all day"), worth the usual one point. When a shot is missed, if one of the other players tips the ball in with two while it is in the air, the score of the player who missed the shot goes back to zero, or if they have surpassed 13, their score goes back to 13. This is called a "tip". If a missed shot is "tipped" in, but the player who tips it in only uses one hand, then the player who shot it is out of the game and has to catch an air ball to get back in. The first player to reach exactly 21 points wins. If they go over, their score goes back to 13.
Other variations include streetball, knockout,Around the World, and one-on-one; a variation in which two players will use only a small section of the court (often no more than a half of a court) and compete to play the ball into a single hoop. Such games tend to emphasize individual dribbling and ball stealing skills over shooting and team play.