Basketball is one of the most widely-
viewed sports in the world.
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing a ball through a 10-foot-high hoop. The sport was invented by Canadian professor Dr. James Naismith in 1891, and today is one of the most popular and widely-viewed sports in the world.

Points are scored by placing the ball through the hoop with a net, called a basket, usually by throwing it, “slam dunking” it, or any other means. The team with more points at the end of the game wins; if the score is tied, the game goes into overtime. But there are a couple of catches that make the game more interesting: first, the ball can only be advanced up and down the court by dribbling, which means the player has to keep bouncing it between the floor and his hand as he moves, or else he has to stop and pass it to another player. Second, players are not allowed to make much physical contact with each other during the game; if they touch each other disruptively, such as pushing or shoving, a foul is issued and the other player may get free throws at the basket.



Compared with many sports, basketball is relatively simple to follow along with in terms of rules. Let’s take a look at some of them:

1. A player cannot hold the ball in his hands while moving across the court. This is called travelling. He also cannot catch the ball in his hands while dribbling, or dribble with both hands; both of these are called double dribbling. In both cases, the ball is immediately given to the other team, who starts with it out of bounds closest to where the violation occurred, and can then pass it onto the court to one of their teammates.

2. The ball must stay within the court. The last team to touch it before it goes out of bounds gives up the ball to the other team; they can then pass it to one of their teammates on the court, and play continues.

3. Once the ball has been moved to the frontcourt (i.e., the opponent’s side of the court), that team cannot return it to the backcourt (i.e., their own side of the court). Again, if this happens, they give up the ball to the other team.

4. When the ball is on the rim of the basket, or directly on its way through the basket (that is, not still travelling through the air towards the basket), no player is allowed to interfere with it. This is called goaltending and results in the point being automatically awarded to the team that threw the ball.

5. When the ball passes through the basket, it is worth 2 points, unless it was thrown from a certain distance away (marked on the court by the three-point line) in which case it is worth 3 points.

6. The game is played in four parts, called quarters. Each quarter lasts 12 minutes in the NBA, and there is a 2-minute break in between (with a 15-minute break at halftime, between the second and third quarters).

7. If the score is tied at the end of the fourth quarter, the game begins an overtime period that is 5 minutes long.

8. Five players are on the court at any time from each team, but each team has a total of 12 players. They can substitute players as many times as they like, but only during breaks.

9. The coach is allowed to call a certain number of time-outs during the game, which stop the clock for usually no more than a minute. These might be used, for example, to change his or her team’s strategy.

10. Any attempt to interfere with another player through physical contact is called a foul. A player who gets fouled may receive free throws if they were fouled while shooting the ball; a successful free throw is worth only one point. If they weren’t in the act of shooting the ball, they may just receive the ball for free to pass to another player.

11. There are generally 3 referees on the court monitoring the progress of the game and making sure each team follows the rules.

In essence, the flow of a game of basketball is less structured and rigid than a game of, say, baseball or (American) football. The play just passes to whichever team has the ball at the time, and the goal is simply to get it through the net (if you’re the offensive team at the moment) or to take the ball from the other team before they can score (if you’re the defensive team). This makes it a fast-paced and exciting sport to watch!



Here are some terms you might come across while talking with others about basketball or watching it on TV.

Center: A player whose role is to use height and size to score (while offensive) or protect the basket (while defensive).

Jump shot: A shot made typically from the top of a jump. This provides greater power and range.

Layup: A shot made while the player is advancing very close to the net and essentially “rolls” it up into the net from below, typically bouncing it off the backboard in the process.

Man-to-man defence: A defensive strategy in which a player tries to block a specific player on the opposing team and prevent them from taking action.

Pass: The act of transferring the ball from one player to another. There are several ways of doing this, but any good pass should be fast, difficult to intercept, well-aimed, and easy to catch. On a team that works well together, players may know exactly where each of their teammates is and be able to pass the ball to each other without even looking at them.

Perimeter player: Generally refers to a player responsible for shooting the ball from a distance, sometimes as far as the three-point line.

Point guard: This player is responsible for coordinating the offense of his team. His goal is to control the ball and make sure it gets to the right player at the right time. Usually, the point guard is the fastest player on the team.

Power forward: On offense, this player plays with his back to the net (making it harder for the other team to intercept him and steal the ball). On defence, he either plays directly under the basket, or attempts to block the other team’s power forward.

Rebound: Gaining possession of the ball as it rebounds from the hoop or backboard after a missed shot. Either the offensive team can rebound the ball, therefore keeping it in their possession, or the defensive team can rebound it, passing the play to them. Most rebounds are defensive because the defensive team is in a better position to catch missed shots.

Set shot: A shot made while the player’s feet are on the ground. Usually used during free throws.

Shooting guard: This player’s goal on the offensive side is to create as many shots as possible, and on the defensive side, he guards the opposing team’s best perimeter player.

Slam dunk: A shot in which the player jumps high enough to “slam” the ball directly through the basket from above.

Small forward: A player responsible for cutting through the opposing team and getting the ball close to the net. On defence, they usually try to rebound or steal the ball.

Zone defence: A defensive strategy that involves a player trying to block any player in his zone.



Just like in baseball, Canada currently has only one basketball team that plays in the NBA (National Basketball Association). Check out that team and the teams it is most likely to compete against below, pick your favourite, and cheer them on! In Toronto, games are usually played at the Air Canada Centre downtown.

Toronto Raptors – Established in 1995, they are currently Canada’s only team in the NBA. They are a part of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the NBA. The Atlantic Division is made up of five teams which compete throughout the season for a spot in the playoffs. The other teams in that division are below.

Boston Celtics

Philadelphia 76ers

New York Knicks