How to Play Basketball and Its Scoring System

Written by shawn candela
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How to Play Basketball and Its Scoring System
Basketball is more complicated than it looks. (basketball image by Predrag Marcikic from

Basketball might look like a simple game, with one team's players trying to shoot a ball through a hoop and the opposing team trying to stop them. But the rules are more complex than that, and the scoring system in most basketball games includes different scores for long-range shots, regular shots and free throws. To get started learning how to play and score the game of basketball, it's probably best to play one-on-one with a friend.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Basketball
  • Basketball court

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  1. 1

    Toss a coin to see who gets the ball first and who will play defence. Most organised games begin with a tip-off, but any fair method can be used to determine who goes on offence.

  2. 2

    Dribble the ball and only stop dribbling when you are ready to shoot. You can dribble with either hand, but not both at once. You must dribble continuously as you move.

  3. 3

    Stop your dribble when you are ready to shoot. Once you stop, you may lift and move one leg in any direction, but the other leg must remain set. This becomes your pivot leg and cannot be moved until you shoot.

  4. 4

    Shoot at the basket from where you've stopped. Earn three points if you make the shot from outside of the three-point line, the large arc that begins near one sideline, curves over the free throw lane and ends near the other sideline. Earn two points if you make the shot from the three-point line (if either foot is touching the line) or anywhere inside of it.

  5. 5

    Rebound the ball if you miss your shot. Once you shoot, you are free to move anywhere on the court. If you miss, you and your opponent try to get to the ball first in order to go on offence.

  6. 6

    Take a free throw shot if you are fouled in the act of shooting, regardless of whether you made your original shot. A foul occurs under a variety of circumstances, but most commonly is identified as physical contact that interferes with your shot attempt. If you make the free throw, score one point.

  7. 7

    Take two free throw shots if you are fouled while not in the act of shooting. Again, there are many circumstances in which a foul can occur, but some of the more common ones include being blocked by a moving opponent while you are driving toward the basketball, being struck on any part of the body by an opponent trying to steal the ball, and being tripped. Score one point for each free throw you make.

  8. 8

    Go on defence. Once you have either made a shot, shot free throws or missed a shot and lost the rebound to your opponent, your goal is to stop him from scoring. You may not make physical contact with your opponent, but you can attack the ball at any point--while he's dribbling or shooting. If you are in a set position, meaning both of your feet have stopped, and your opponent drives into you, you have been fouled and earn two free throw attempts. If you are not set at the time, you have committed a foul.

  9. 9

    Continue the game until one of you scores a set number of points--21 is common--or until a time limit runs out. Most games are played with a time limit, but while you are learning the game, either method will suffice.

Tips and warnings

  • For one-on-one games, you'll have to call your own fouls. You and your partner should discuss ahead of time how strict you will be. Whether everything should be called or you decide on a "no harm, no foul" policy, the most important thing is that both play by the same guideline.

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