10 Basic NBA Basketball Rules You Need To Know

Here’s the obvious question, why we’re discussing basic NBA basketball rules, not basketball in general?

The question is legit. Usually, the rules for international tournaments and local leagues are the same for most sports. But in basketball, spices are different for each tournament.

That’s why you’ll find differences in rules between NBA and College basketball leagues. In fact, the NBA follows some rules that don’t match regular basketball rules.

You’ll also see the rules of Olympic basketball and NCAA don’t exactly replicate each other.

Is that a problem? Does that make basketball a difficult game to follow?

Well, far from it! In fact, it adds to the beauty of this game. Especially for the NBA, which is the world’s third most popular league, the rules are made to optimize viewer experience and fair play!

Basic NBA Basketball Rules

1. Court Size

Let’s start by the most basic rule, the court size. NBA court sizes are slightly longer than the FIBA official sizes. Usually, the dimension of NBA courts is 94 by 50 feet, while the FIBA courts are 91.86 by 49.21 feet.

The rim is placed in 10 feet height, and the restricted area from the rim is 4 feet. While NCAA (W) and WNBA don’t enforce any restricted area, NBA and FIBA enforce almost same restricted area.

2. Three-Point Line

This is an interesting area for basketball. Any successful field goal beyond that area will result in three points. The three-point line is the largest for NBA (23'9"), compared to other tournaments like NCAA (20'9"), FIBA (22.15').

Another thing, the free throw line is 15 feet, which is the same for all tournaments, except for FIBA (15.09 feet).

3. Game Duration

How long the game of basketball is played? In the NBA, the total game is played 48 minutes, which is distributed among 4 quarters. So, each quarter lasts for 12 minutes.

There are breaks between quarters. Teams will be given 130 seconds break between each quarter. However, halfway through the game, I mean between the second and third quarters, the break time is 15 minutes.

There is no draw in basketball. So, if the score is even after the allocated time, an additional five minutes is given to play.

4. Number Of Players

NBA tries to keep a balance between teams as much as possible. Each team can play with 5 players at a time. Although each player has different titles and roles, all of them have to participate in both defense and attack.

If a player receives six fouls, he’ll be disqualified from playing that game. But, if all other substitutes are disqualified, he can play. But then, he and his team will be handed both individual and team fouls.

If the last eligible player is injured and unable to play, he will be replaced by the previously disqualified player, the one who was disqualified because of six fouls.

5. Substitution Rules

Teams need to rotate people in order to keep them fresh since basketball involves a lot of running and jumping. Good news is, there aren’t many restrictions concerning substitutes.

Each team can substitute as many players as they want during a timeout. Aside from that, they can join the team when the ball is dead. A substitute has to be beckoned by an official. No substitute can join the game right after a successful goal by either teams until the ball is dead to any foul or violation.

6. Dribbling Rules

Dribbling in basketball is as eye-catching as dribbling in soccer. It gives the player a scoring advantage. But there are some rules the players have to follow.

He cannot touch the ball with two hands concurrently. He cannot touch the ball more than one time before the ball touches the ground.

Also, he cannot waste time while the ball is in his possession. He has to either pass it or try for a field goal.

7. Fouls

Fouls are part of the game, and luckily for basketball, they aren’t as gruesome as soccer. Sometimes players do it to prevent the opponent from scoring. But here’s the catch. If a player commits two technical fouls or six personal fouls, he’ll be disqualified.

So what’s in it for the opponents? For technical fouls, the opponent usually gets one free throw. After any team commits four fouls, the opponents are gifted two free throws for each additional foul.

If any team doesn’t commit four team fouls in the first 10 minutes of any quarter, they’ll be given chance to incur a team foul without penalty.

8. Jump Ball Possession

Basketball is not a long game like soccer. In fact, it’s divided into short but intense quarters. Teams who can keep the possession of the ball longer has a better chance of winning.

The game in NBA is started by a jump ball. The team who wins the jump ball also gets the ball possession in the third quarter. The opponent gets the chance to possess the ball in the second and fourth quarter. This way, both teams get an equal chance to start the play.

9. Zone Defense

NBA is a speedy league. All the players need to keep moving between defense and attack simultaneously. If one team has a weak defense, it’ll get easier another team to score.

You’ll see individuals employed in zone-defense in high school and college basketball. But in the NBA, it’s not possible. No player can spend more than 3 seconds in the restrictive area. The only time he can do this is when he’s defending an opponent player.

10. Basket Interference And Penalty

Players can defend their rim all they want, but there are situations when they’re prohibited from touching the ball. Check below-

  • If the ball is sitting or rolling on the basket, using the rim as the lower base.
  • A ball which is above the rim and within the imaginary basket cylinder.
  • A ball which has touched the backboard during a field goal attempt and has a chance to score.
  • Players are prohibited to shake the rim, net or backboard in order to hinder any scoring opportunity.

If any team violates these conditions within their own basket area, the opponent will be awarded 2 or 3 points, depending on the point zone the goal was attempted.

Final Words

Here finishes our guide about basic NBA basketball rules. To be honest, each of these rules has specific applications, tens of sub-rules, and exceptions. These aren’t as plain as they sound.

NBA is one of the most challenging leagues in the world. And they apply new rules to the basketball game on a year in, year out basis. While most of them are minor changes, these changes keep the game interesting and alive.

Hopefully, this guide will help you get a rough idea about the basic rules of NBA. If you are eager to know more deeply, we would suggest you take a look at the NBA’s official website. Let’s learn the game, and enjoy watching it!

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