Ever found yourself embarrassed because you know absolutely nothing about basketball and simply nodded and smiled to get away with it? Sports Editor Eunice Bae won’t let that happen ever again.

Known for featuring super tall people with giant hands, you’ve most definitely come into contact with the sport in some way, shape, or form regardless of where you come from. But you might find yourself asking, “What exactly is basketball?”

You’ve come to the right place. Here are the triple-B’s: BasketBall Basics.


Basic Things

Moving Around: Basketball players must dribble the ball. Double-dribbling, which consists of dribbling with two hands on the ball or ceasing to dribble and then starting again, is a violation. Players can’t walk or travel, which involves taking more than 1.5 steps without dribbling the ball. If a player has stopped dribbling, moving their pivot foot is considered traveling.

Moving the Ball: Players are given five whole seconds to pass the ball inbounds– if they fail to do so, the ball goes to the other team. Some games also involve shot clocks, which require players to attempt to shoot within a certain time frame.


The Court

Basketball courts are symmetrical. You may have seen one before, complete with all of its confusing circles and random lines here and there. Here’s a diagram showing what those lines are (some names may vary):

bball court diagram

Center/Half-court line: This line, as you might have guessed, is in the center of the court. It divides the court into two. Two identical half-courts. This is where the game will start.

3-Point line: If a basket is made from this line or beyond (as in further away from the hoop), it counts as a 3-pointer which, you guessed it, adds 3 points to the score.

Sidelines/Endlines: The borders of the court. Players can’t step outside these lines. If a player is in possession of the basketball and happens to step outside one of these lines or the ball rolls out of bounds, the other team gains possession.

Free-throw line: Players making free throws stand at this line. All the other players stand along the free-throw rebound areas on the sides, ready to get the ball if it rebounds.



You might see basketball players fall a lot in the middle of the action, because when you have a lot of very tall beings aiming to possess a single basketball, things can get rough (whether it’s intentional or otherwise). When this happens, referees have the ability to call fouls. Fouls vary in severity and happen in different moments throughout the game, but in general players who are fouled have the ability to make free throws to compensate for the *inconvenience*.



3-Pointers: When a basket is made at or from beyond the 3-point line (easy, right?).

2-Pointers: When a basket is made from inside the 3-point line. When a 2-pointer is made, the other team gets the ball.

1-Pointer: Free throws are worth a point each. However, players can be offered 1, 2, or 3 free throws at a given time, depending on the reason (aka type of foul being called).


The Players

There are five players on a team on the court at a given moment in time. They are:

Center: Centers are usually the tallest and/or biggest players on the team and positioned near the basket. They are typically strong rebounders and able to block shots and passes when on defense.

Power forward: Power forwards are also usually fairly big in size, which helps them get rebounds and clear out space under the net.

Small forward: Small forwards are versatile players, able to perform well both defensively and offensively. They can be asked to defend any number of opposing players, make outside shots, or get rebounds.

Point guard: Chances are if you’ve heard any basketball position, it’s this one. Point guards are known as the players who typically call the shots and demonstrate strong leadership. They’re agile, handle the ball well, and make split-second decisions under pressure. They come in various heights, but are usually among the shorter players of the team.

Shooting guard: Teams rely on their shooting guards to be able to make those long outside shots and help point guards with passing. SGs are usually the top scorers on their teams.


When does the game end?

Men’s college basketball games are divided into two 20-minute halves of game time. Women’s games are divided into four 10-minute quarters. However, due to time-outs, free throws, fouls, and halftime, most college basketball games last around 2 hours.



While this post covers just the absolute, absolute basics of this all-American sport, you’ve hopefully learned something in the few minutes it’s taken out of your day. So what do you do now that you’ve absorbed this information?

Might I suggest perhaps attending a basketball game?

Maybe one of the Men’s Basketball (6-14, Ivy 1-3) games taking place this weekend in our very own Levien Gym? I mean, they are playing the Penn Quakers (10-7, Ivy 2-2) tonight at 7 pm if you don’t have other plans on a Friday night. Buy your tickets here.

If you’re a social butterfly whose schedule tonight is just too jam-packed, perhaps you can stop by tomorrow’s game against the Princeton Tigers (9-8, Ivy 4-0) at 7 pm (also in Levien). Cop tickets here.

If you really can’t make it this weekend, don’t you fret– our Women’s Basketball team has a few home games coming up next weekend! More to come on that.

Hope to see you there!

Court Diagram via Wikimedia

Columbia Lions Basketball via Bwog Archives

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