Dazadi.com Blog

General Rules of Basketball

February 18th, 2009

The rules of basketball have evolved greatly since Dr. James Naismith first drew up the famous first 13 rules. The most notable developments are the inclusion of the dribble, the free throw, and the three point basket. Here Dazadi offers rules that are by no means official, but rather give players a basic understanding of how the modern game is played.


The goal of basketball is to outscore the opposing team by making more baskets within the time allotted.


Each team consists of five active players and can have up to seven substitutions. Substations can only occur when play has stopped.


The game is played in four quarters. The NBA specifies that each quarter last 12 minutes, while FIBA specifies that they last 10 minutes. The clock only runs during actual playing time, so it does not run during time outs or after a foul has been called. After two quarters, the teams switch baskets. A shot clock timed at 24 seconds determines how long a team can be in possession of the ball without making a shot.

Advancing the Ball

A player may only walk or run with basketball while dribbling (bouncing the ball on the ground.) While dribbling, a player may not place his or her hand underneath the ball. If a player stops dribbling, one foot (called the “pivot foot”) cannot move. Moving the pivot foot is a traveling violation. The only exception to this rule is during a “lay-up,” when the player may take one or two steps while holding the ball before making a shot. Otherwise a player can advance the ball by passing to a teammate.


A successful basket is made when a player throws the basketball through the opponents’ hoop from above. Normal baskets are worth two points, while baskets made while the player shoots from beyond the three point line are worth three points. Free throws are worth one point.


Men’s basketballs are 29.5 inches in circumference while Women’s are 28.5 inches. Courts usually have two baskets on either side of a flat playfield, the official dimensions of which can vary between governing bodies.
In casual games when only a single backboard is available, players usually play “half court.” In half court games, the ball must be “cleared” whenever possession changes. That is, the player who has gained possession of the ball has to travel to the end of the half-court before a shot may be made.

Violations and Fouls

A violation is a minor infraction that results in the opposing team gaining possession of the ball. A foul also results in lost possession, but can also result in ejection from the game or the fouled player earning one or more free throws.

Violations include but are not limited to: touching the ball last before it reaches out of bounds, double dribbling (dribbling with both hands), traveling (moving with the ball without dribbling), kicking the ball, or goaltending (touching the ball while it is descending toward the basket.) In the case of goaltending, the opposing team gains the number of points that would have been earned if the shot was successful as well as possession of the ball.

Personal fouls are defined as any kind of physical contact that puts the opposing player at a disadvantage. Fouls include by are not limited to: charging (pushing into another player), blocking (illegally impeding the progress of an opponent), pushing (forcing a player to move), and holding (forcing a player to remain stationary). If a player is fouled during the act of shooting, two free throws are awarded if the player is inside the three point line and three are awarded if the player is outside.