Who does not want to learn how to play basketball now a days?
Basketball is a global sport, played and followed all across the world.
It also has the third richest professional league in the world, with the NBA.
The superstars in the sport, like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden are household names.
But compared to other sports like golf or football, basketball has had a relatively short history.
It was invented in Springfield, MA, by a Canadian PE instructor, James Naismith in 1891.
He designed it as a warm-up sport for athletes in the cold winter months.
Over the years, basketball has evolved into an extraordinarily energetic and ultra-competitive game.
It is widely played in schools, sports clubs, public parks, neighborhoods, and even in home backyards.
It is a game that can be played pretty much anywhere, with just the bare minimum of equipment.
How To Play Basketball
1. Learning The Basics
A. Equipment: Balls & Hoops
Before we get into detail regarding rules, let's start with the basic requirements.
There are only two pieces of equipment that you need to play this game: a ball, and a hoop to aim at.
Both of these can be readily bought from sports stores if you want to start playing on your porch or backyard.
Or you can always try at your nearby sports club, youth center, school gym, or a neighborhood basketball court.
In a pinch, you can even use a soccer ball if you cannot find a proper basketball. But if you are planning to buy a new basketball, keep in mind a few things:
Materials: Basketballs are made from either leather, rubber, or synthetic materials. Rubber basketballs are the most affordable and best suited for beginners. They are more durable and bounce well on a wide range of surfaces.
Sizes: Basketballs are available in various sizes, ideal for people in different age groups, and for different genders. Try to find one that is comfortable to hold and throw without having your wrist wobble. If you have smaller hands, look for smaller basketballs!
Once you get the ball, you need a hoop or two to play the game
According to the laws of the game, the hoop has to be ten feet high, and 18 inches in diameter.
If you don't have a regulation hoop, you can improvise with baskets, boxes or anything of that sort.
The first-ever game of basketball was played using peach crates! Just remember to keep your basket at a challenging height.
B. The Court And Teams
A full-length basketball court has to be 94 foot long, with hoops on both ends.
But the beauty of the game is that you can play a shorter version of the game using just one hoop.
This is called a half-court game, involving a lesser number of players (three instead of five).
For a standard full court game, you need ten players minimum, with five on each side.
Half court games can be played by two individuals, or by teams of two or more players.
For a bit of practice, you can always start by shooting hoops on your own, or with a friend.
C. Basic Rules About Scoring
In a game of basketball, your aim is to win by scoring more points than your opponents.
And you score points by shooting the ball through a hoop using your hands.
Each successful shot is worth either two or three-point depending on where you were standing when you took the shot.
In a standard court, there is a semicircular line at each end, in front of the hoops.
This arc extends to 20 feet from the hoop and is called the "three-point line.
Shots taken inside this line are worth two points, while longer range shots taken outside this line are worth three points.
When an opponent fouls an offensive player, you get "free throws."
Each successful free throw is worth one point, and the shot is taken from a free throw line, which is 15 feet in front of a hoop.
D. Moving, Dribbling and Passing the Ball
When you have the ball in your hand, you are not allowed to move both your feet.
You have to either stand still or pivot by keeping either foot planted on the ground.
You can jump, but only to shoot the ball, and the ball has to leave your hands before your legs return to the ground.
To walk or run when in possession of the ball, you have to bounce the ball on the ground constantly.
Once you start this dribbling, you can move and then choose to pass or shoot the ball.
But once you stop moving after starting a dribble, you cannot restart the process.
This will lead to a foul, called "double dribble."
Once you come to a full stop after a dribble, your only options are to pass the ball to a teammate or shoot.
To do either of these, you can pivot, by keeping one foot firmly on the floor at all times.
2. Advanced Dribbling & Passing Techniques
A. Proper Stance
When on the offense, stay crouched when you have the ball.
This will help better guard the ball while dribbling.
The proper stance involves you standing on the balls of your feet, knees flexed apart roughly at shoulder width, and the body crouched.
In this position, try switching the ball back and forth between both your hands while constantly bouncing the ball on the ground.
Stay crouched, and try to point your opposite hip towards the basket.
B. Finger Control During Dribbling
Don't use your palm to dribble the ball, use your fingers instead. This will give you proper control.
Try to avoid slapping and chopping at the ball with your palm; this is a common mistake for beginners.
Focus on getting a good grip with your fingertips, and try to find the optimum amount of push.
Remember to keep your elbows as still as possible during dribbling.
Practice while standing still, and focus on using your wrists to bounce the ball, not your elbows.
Always keep the ball well inflated as low pressure can severely affect its bounce.
C. Maintain Proper Bounce Height
Initially, you will not be able to dribble properly without keeping your eye on the ball.
This is fine. What you should keep an eye on, is the bounce of the ball.
Try to keep it as low as possible, by dribbling as closer to the ground.
Dribbles that push the ball above your waist and into the chest area are easy for your opponents to block or steal.
D. Learn To Keep Your Head Up
This is one of the basics of basketball dribbling.
With more practice, you should be able to dribble the ball without looking at it.
The ultimate aim is to keep your head up, allowing you to look at the surroundings instead of down at the ball.
You can only spot possible plays, passing and shooting options if you keep your head up.
So practice hard on this aspect of your dribbling game.
E. Learn To Walk, And Then To Sprint
You cannot just keep standing when you play basketball.
So learn to walk while dribbling first.
When you start feeling comfortable with that, try slow jogs and progressively increase the pace, until you are okay with making full sprints across short distances while dribbling the ball.
Practice using cones or chairs in your backyard or driveway, once you have mastered the basics of moving with the ball.
Dribble around these obstacles, try doing figure eights, and try varying your dribbling speed.
F. Practice Using Both Your Hands
If you use only your dominant hand while bridling, it will make you a very one dimensional player on the court.
You will be very predictable and easier to mark as well.
So diversify your skills, by learning to dribble with your weaker hand as well.
G. Learn How To Make Passes
Basketball is not always about you making the shot.
Don't hold the ball when another teammate has a better shot.
So try learning different kinds of passes, like chest pass, bounce pass, and throw-ins.
Make chest passes with both hands, while you can use either hand for bounce passes.
3. Shooting Techniques
A. "Square Up"
Squaring up means pointing both sets of toes straight at the hoop, and then aligning your hips front side parallel to the hoop.
Do this every time you make a shot to get more accuracy.
Stop the dribble and hold the ball with both hands before squaring up.
B. Balancing The Ball On The Dominant Hand
You shoot with your dominant hand, the one you use for most daily activities.
Its elbow has to be close to the hip, while you hold the ball with just the fingertips underneath the ball.
The power for the shot has to come from this hand.
You can use the other hand to balance the ball.
Bring the ball to your chin to shoot, with your knees bent and body in a crouch.
C. Roll The Ball Off The Hand To Shoot
When in the shooting position, extend your shooting elbow upwards, while you roll the wrist forward.
The motion should be like reaching into a jar on a high shelf. Extend the arm fully upwards, and then pop the ball forward.
Roll the arm back as you release the ball.
After release, continue the follow through, putting your hand into the imaginary jar.
D. Jumping Up During The Shot
This helps deliver extra power for the shot.
Pop your legs from the crouch position when your arm has extended fully for the shot.
Don't jump forward, that is a common mistake.
You aim to jump up and arc the ball, not launch it directly forwards.
Also, do not jump while taking free throws.
E. Aim For Just Over The Ring
If you aim for the rim, you will hit it, plain and simple.
So aim for a point slightly over and above the rim, to get the ball cleanly through the center.
F. Practice Lay-Ups
Layups provide great scoring opportunities, so learning these are very important.
To lay up means to bounce the ball off the backboard and into the rim.
To practice, always start with your dominant arm side, and dribble in at an angle, then jump and make the shot.
Once you are comfortable with your dominant hand, try from the other side.
G. Shoot Often, And From Everywhere
You should try shooting from different spots on the court.
Learn to hit the target from different distances and angles.
Practice still shots, and off the dribble.
Also, try spending time on free throws.
Don't focus too much on long-range three-pointers in the beginning.
Get your basics right first.
4. Playing Defense
A. Roles In Defense
When on the defense, you need to stop the opposition from scoring.
For this you need to disrupt and block passes, steal the ball and block the shots.
Man to man defense is the most common strategy, in which you will mark one particular player for the entire match.
Zone defense is an advanced strategy, where players are given specific areas of the court to guard.
B. Defensive Stances
In offense, your aim is to keep as low as possible to protect the ball.
And in defense, your goal should be to get low and wide.
Keep your feet wide apart when you crouch, with your arms out at the sides.
Try to stand on the balls of the feet, and make sideways movements to block the opponent.
Your back should be towards the hoop, and your lead hip towards the sideline.
C. Side To Side Movement
To become a better defender, you need to learn to shuffle from side to side quickly.
Practice running sideways, and sliding around laterally.
Alternate with taking steps in each direction, then rapidly changing to the other side.
D. Stay On The Ground More
Try to resist the temptation to jump up and try to block any potential shots.
While defending, it is more important to stay on your feet.
Jumping will leave you vulnerable to pump-fakes.
When you see an opponent readying for a shot, stand straight and get your arms up at ninety degrees instead.
E. Grabbing Rebounds
Don't give your opponent a second chance.
Stay near the basket, and be ready to be the first one to the ball when it bounces on a rebound.
F. Try To Minimize Fouls
You cannot avoid them since most fouls in a game happen on the defense.
Don't hit, push or slap at the arms of the opponent.
Try to get to the ball at all times.
And don't reach for the body of the player as that will also lead to a foul.
5. Learn To Play As A Team
A. Learn The Team Roles
Understand all the different positions on a basketball team, and learn their duties and responsibilities.
Learn about centers, forwards, and guards. Learn their specifics to know your best position.
B. Focus On The Fundamentals
Don't go after trick and flair move from the get-go. Put in the hard work to improve your basic gameplay first.
C. Learn The Importance Of Passing
All the great basketball teams keep passing and the ball and keeping the play moving at all times.
Don't hog possession.
Constant passes will keep a defense off balance.
D. Practice Your Rebound Skills
The rebound is a highly underrated skill in basketball.
If you are good at it, your team has a better chance of dominating the opposition and controlling the game.
Try going for your own rebound while shooting practice.
E. Learn Pick & Roll Plays
Setting a pick involves using your own body as a barrier, freeing up a teammate to make a run up against a defender.
The more you practice with a team, the more you can work on these skills.
F. Make Constant Cuts
Don't just stand around when your team has the ball.
Try to shake your marker, and make cuts under the hoop.
This will help create openings in the defense, allow your team to get better scoring shots.
6. Learning The "Flavors" And Variants Of The Game
This is a fun game that has been endorsed by the legend himself, Michael Jordan.
This is a great way to practice as a team.
Any number of players can play it.
The game starts when a player takes a shot, from anywhere on the court.
If he makes it, other players have to take the same shot.
Each time you miss, you get a letter of the word "horse," starting from H.
The player who spells out the entire word first is the loser.
B. Twenty-One (21)
The perfect game when you have an odd number of players.
In this game, it is every man for himself.
The first player to reach 21 points wins.
Shots inside the arc are worth 1 point, and shots outside worth 2.
A great way to practice free throws as part of a large crowd of players.
You line up at the free throw line.
The first player in the line takes a free throw.
If he misses, he has to take the rebound until he scores.
Once he has scored, he goes back to the end of the line.
The second player can take a shot as soon as the first player's shot hits the rim.
If the second player scores before the first, the first player is knocked out.
This is a crazy game created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park.
It was the theme of their movie Baseketball.
It involves free throws, baseball and a lot of trash talking.
Each missed shot is an out.