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How to Play Basketball

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/31/2010

Many people learn how to play basketball during childhood. If you have never learned to play, want to teach someone, or want to sharpen your basketball skills, read on to learn how to play basketball.

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    Basketball is a game that just about everyone is familiar with. We begin learning about the game during our elementary school days and continue to play throughout our school years, and sometimes during our adult lives. Many people also spend time watching their favorite college and NBA teams knock out the competition. Knowing how to play basketball will make playing and watching the game easier and more enjoyable.

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    Different Positions in Basketball

    There are five different positions in basketball. These include:

    • The number one position is the point guard. The point guard is the lead guard and is responsible for directing the offense and calling the plays. The player in this position will set up the plays and bring the call up the court. The best passer and dribbler on the team typically plays this position.
    • The number two position is the shooting guard. This position has responsibilities similar to the point guard, but this player doesn't typically take the ball up the court. This player tends to be one of the best shooters on the team. They often take more shots that the number one position and they tend to hit shots from outside the paint.
    • The number three position is the small forward. The most talented player on the team usually holds this position. This player tends to have the best ball handling and shooting skills.
    • The number four position is the power forward. This position is usually occupied by bigger players that are known for their rebounding and defense skills. This player also scores a lot.
    • The number five position is the center. The player in this position plays a crucial role in both offense and defense. This player is most often the tallest player and the focal point of the offense. Their main roles are rebounding, blocking shots, and defending the opposing team's center.
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    Most Common Basketball Shooting Techniques

    Shooting is crucial to a team's success. In order to have high-scoring games, the team's shooting skills must be solid. There are several different types of shots and techniques. Some basketball players are good at all types of shots while some are great at one or two. The different shots include:

    • Lay-Ups: This is one of the most common shots in basketball. This shot is performed when the player is in the paint, very close to or right underneath the basket. In some cases, the player will dribble his way to the basket. Once in position, the player uses one arm to “lay the ball” into the basket. Using proper technique, the player aims the ball to hit the square on the backboard prior to sinking it into the hoop.
    • The jump shot is another very commonly used shot in basketball. This shot can be used by players of all skill levels and can be used anywhere on the court. Players will simply take the ball with both hands, using the handling techniques most comfortable to them (usually the dominant hand on the back of the ball and the non-dominant hand on the side of the call). Once they are in position, they aim toward the basket and shoot.
    • The free throw is a shot taken when the player is fouled. It is performed using the same technique as the jump shot, except the player does not jump.
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    What are the Different Fouls?

    There are three different types of fouls in basketball. These include:

    • The personal foul is the most common foul. These fouls can be both offensive and defensive. Some personal fouls include hand-checking, illegal screens, and over the back fouls.
    • A technical foul happens less often and is a more serious offense. This type of foul can affect anyone in the game, as well as players on the bench and coaches. If a coach or player is verbally assaults a referee or when a player uses inappropriate means to vent their anger a technical foul can occur. Other technical fouls can include delay of game, defensive three seconds, hanging on the rim, coach box violations, and having less than five players on the court.
    • A flagrant foul is the most serious type of foul. This foul is called when a player makes a reckless foul or harms another player. For example, if a player, or several players, start a fight on the court, a flagrant foul can be called.
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    What are the Different Violations?

    There are several different types of violations in addition to fouls. These include:

    • Traveling is a violation in which the player dribbling the ball takes too many steps without dribbling.
    • A back court violation occurs when the player handling the ball goes over the mid-court.
    • Double dribbling occurs when the player handling the ball stops dribbling and then starts dribbling again, or when they use both of their hands to dribble.
    • Goal tending occurs when a player tries to interfere with the ball when it is coming through the basket or is on the rim.
    • A five-second inbound violation occurs when the player inbounding the ball takes longer than five seconds to pass the ball to a teammate.
    • A three-second violation occurs when a player on offense remains in the paint for longer than three seconds.