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Basic Rules for Basketball

The basic rules of basketball have changed considerably since the game was invented in Massachusetts by Dr. James Naismith in 1891. The original game featured only 13 rules, including that a player could not run with the ball and had to throw the ball from the spot he caught it. Today's rules, of course, allow players to dribble the basketball when moving up and down the court.

Players on a Team
Competitive basketball games include two teams of five players on the court at any given time. Each team is allowed to have substitutes and may substitute at any time play has been stopped.

Scoring in a Basketball Game
The object of basketball is to score more than your opponent. Teams score points by shooting the basketball through the goal. A different amount of points are scored for each basket, depending on the type of shot attempted. A free throw, which is awarded after a played is fouled by another player, is worth one point; any basket from inside the three-point line is worth two points; and any basket made from behind the three-point line, or arc, is worth three points.

Fouling Another Player
Basketball is generally considered a non-contact sport, although some contact is unavoidable and acceptable. However, when a player makes hard contact with a player on the other team, the referees will call a foul. Blocking, pushing, tripping, hitting, holding or knocking down a player on the other team will result in a foul. Free throw attempts will be awarded if the fouled player was shooting when the foul occurred.

Moving the ball
Players move the basketball up and down the court by passing or dribbling. The basic rules of basketball call for a player with the ball to always dribble when moving. If the player takes more than two steps without dribbling (called "traveling") or stops dribbling and starts again (called "double dribble"), the ball is given to the other team.

Length of a Basketball Game
Depending on the level of play, basketball games vary in length. The game at all levels is split into two halves. Youth games generally are split into four quarters of six or so minutes each, while college games are split into two 20-minute halves. Professional basketball games comprise four quarters, 15 minutes each, and two in each half. If the score is tied at the end of a game, an overtime is played. Length of overtime periods also vary depending on the level, but generally are three to five minutes.