From humble beginnings in North America, Basketballhas grown into one of the most popular team sports in the world. Its a truly global game: the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the UK, the worlds leading professional league, features players from more than 30 countries.
Number of competitions• 144 men and 144 women• Twelve teams compete in both the men’s and women’s competitions, with 12 athletes (five players and seven substitutes) on each team.• Each country is limited to one men’s and one women’s team.
Field of play• The basketball court is 28m long and 15m wide. The baskets at either end are 3.05m above the ground. The court is divided into two halves, with a free-throw line 5.8m inside either end, and the three-point line a 6.75m radius from each basket.
History of Basketball at the Olympic Games• Men’s Basketball first appeared on the Olympic programme at the Berlin 1936 Games, with the women’s event introduced at Montreal 1976. Professional players first competed at the Barcelona 1992 Games, when the famous US Dream Team won gold in the men’s event.
The basics• In Basketball points are scored by shooting the ball into your opponents’ net (or basket). The ball is moved up the court either by dribbling (bouncing) or passing to another team member. A player may not take more than two steps with the ball without dribbling.• Two points are awarded for a regular shot from open play, with one point for each successful free throw (following an opposition infringement) and three points for a shot from distance (beyond the three-point line).• Once in possession of the ball, a team has only 24 seconds to make an attempt on goal or they lose possession.• Games last for 40 minutes, split into four 10-minute quarters. The clock stops for every break in play and teams can call time- outs, which last one minute.
Competition format• At London 2012, both the men’s and women’s Basketball competitions will begin with a preliminary stage. The 12 teams will be divided into two groups of six and each team will play every other in their group. Teams receive two points for a win, and one for a loss (although they receive no points for losing by forfeiting the game.• The best four teams from each group during the preliminaries will qualify for the knockout stage, with the winners of the semi-finals going head-to-head in the gold medal game.• In the event of a tie at the end of any game, teams play extra periods of five minutes until the tie is broken.
Officials• A referee oversees each game, assisted by two umpires. There are also table officials who are timers and scorers, and statisticians who record all the action. A game commissioner also sits with the table officials next to the court.
Keys to success• Basketball is a fast and physically demanding game. Height is a distinct advantage, but players also need to have speed, strength and stamina. They need excellent ball skills and the ability to think on their feet and play tactically as a team.
Breaking the rules• Referees will be looking out for rule infringements including violations and fouls. Violations are not committed against another player, but include offences such as taking more than two steps with the ball, having a hand underneath the ball (carrying) or bouncing the ball with both hands. Violations result in the ball being awarded to the opposition.• Fouls are offences that are committed against an opposition player. These include more contact than is reasonable, blocking, pushing or striking another player. In the case of fouls the opposition team is awarded a throw-in close to where the infringement took place. If the player who was fouled was trying to shoot a basket at the time, then one or more free throws will be awarded, depending on where the foul took place.
Jargon buster• Assist – a pass that leads directly to a basket scored by a teammate• Downtown – the area outside the three-point line• Dunk – a one- or two-handed slam directly into the net• Lay-up – a one-handed shot from close range off the backboard• Shot clock – a timer measuring the length of time since the last shot. If the ball doesn’t touch the rim or pass through the net within 24 seconds, possession passes to the opposition.