Rules of the Game

At the most basic level, the rules of basketball make it an easy game to learn and a simple game to play. However, like any sport, once played at an elite level, many additional rules intervene in order to address the many situations that may arise during a competitive game.

FIBA decides, publishes and adapts the Official Basketball Rules, which are the only basketball rules recognised internationally. They are comprehensive and address all rule-related aspects of the game.

FIBA 5-on-5 rules differ slightly from NBAWNBA and NCAA rules.

The basic basketball rules are explained in the below video:

Teams/number of players

Basic Rules

Two teams of maximum 12 players, with a maximum of five players of each team on the court at any time.

Teams may make as many substitutions as they like.

The objective

The objective of the game is to put the ball in the opposing team’s basket.

The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.


The game consists of four periods of 10 minutes.

If the scores are tied, overtime periods of five minutes will be played until one team has more points than the other (at the end of the 5-minute period)


A basket scored from near the basket (inside the three-point arc) is worth two points.

A basket scored from far (beyond the three-point arc) is worth three points.

A basket scored from the free-throw line is worth one point.

Moving the ball

The ball may either be passed from one player to another, or dribbled by a player from one point to another (bounced while walking or running).

Before passing or shooting the ball, a player may take two steps (without dribbling).

Once a player has stopped dribbling, he may not start to dribble again.

Once the team in possession of the ball has passed the half-court line, it may cross back over the line with the ball.

Shot clock

When a team gains possession of the ball, they have a maximum of 24 seconds to attempt a shot.

Additionally, offensive players may not remain within the restricted area (key) for more than three consecutive seconds.


A personal foul occurs when there is illegal contact between two opponents. A player who makes more than five personal fouls is excluded from the game.

A foul made on a player attempting a shot results in the awarding of the same number of free-throws as those of the shot taken (two from inside the arc, three from outside). If a player is fouled but makes the attempted shot, the shot counts and an additional free-throw will be awarded.

Once a team has made four fouls in a period, each additional foul (on a player not attempting a shot) will result in the automatic awarding of two free-throws.



Amendments to the Official Basketball Rules
Official Basketball Rules 2014
Official Basketball Equipment 2014
Official Basketball Rules - Summary of changes 2014
FIBA Official Basketball Rules 2014 - Official Interpretations - Valid as of 1/11/2015
New court markings for 2010
Official Basketball Rules 2010 - Referee's Manual for Two-Person Officiating
Official Basketball Rules 2010 - Referee's Manual for Three-Person Officiating
Mini Basketball Rules 2005



Official FIBA 3x3 Basketball Rules 2016 (Full Version)
Official FIBA 3x3 Basketball Rules 2016 (Short Version)
FIBA 3x3 Rules Interpretations 2016


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