Basketball vs. Football: Which is Better? A Head-to-Head Comparison

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If you’re a young man or woman looking to be involved in sports, football and basketball are your top options. Both require physicality and skills, such as running and jumping. And like any other sport, basketball and football need specific strategies and tactics to translate your effort into success. In this football and basketball comparison, you will see the difference and similarities in rules and strategies, plus the skills you need to develop to succeed in each sport.

Basketball vs. Football PopularityBasketball vs. Football Popularity

Basketball and football are sports with an astonishing international reach. Around 200 countries have national basketball teams, and most of these nations also have professional leagues. Basketball is actually No. 2 in total national teams, with most UN members having one except Liechtenstein. Basketball has around 2.2 billion fans worldwide, and about 450 million of them play the sport. 

But then again, basketball’s surging popularity is dwarfed by football’s already-established following. It is estimated that there are five billion football fans in the world, with Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Middle Eastern countries making up the majority of the fanbase. As a matter of fact, more than 40% of individuals aged 16 and above in major cities throughout the world say they are interested or passionate about football more than any other sport.

Thus, when it comes to a football vs. basketball popularity comparison, the latter couldn’t really touch the former regarding sheer fan numbers.

Basketball vs. Football Rules and GameplayBasketball vs. Football Rules and Gameplay

Basketball and football provide kids the opportunity to develop their self-control, stay in shape, and be socially active. However, they are two very different sports, so it’s important to highlight the disparity in rules and gameplay.

Basketball is played by bouncing the ball around a court 94 feet long and 50 feet wide. The objective is to shoot the ball through a 10-foot hoop. Football is played by kicking the ball around the field, hoping to put it through the goal defended by an opposing player called the goalkeeper.

There are many similarities between basketball and football. For example, you must be skilled and multi-faceted to play basketball or football. You need to have control, build endurance, and learn how to defend and pass. Since basketball and football are team sports, you need tactics and teamwork to succeed.

Delve deeper into the topic and discover more about the facets of each sport:


In both sports, teams score upon putting the ball through the hoop or goal. However, football’s scoring is more straightforward; you only score one point for every goal. In basketball, you can score one, two, or three points depending on where you shoot the ball from and the situation.


In football, the most important rule is to never put your hands on the ball, except by the goalie or during a throw-in. Players can make contact with the ball with any part of their body except their hands. On top of that, the game is played on a field with 11 players on each team.

On the other hand, basketball players may touch and dribble the ball using their hands. This is part of a skill called ballhandling. You are not allowed to touch the ball with your feet, or it will be a kick-ball violation. A basketball game is played on a court with five players on each team.

Therefore, as a rule of thumb, basketball is primarily played with the hands, while football is with the feet. 


Basketball games typically last 48 minutes and are broken into four 12-minute quarters, but football games are 90 minutes long and are played in two 45-minute halves. (That said, basketball games are played for 40 minutes in high school, college, and international contests.) There are provisions for extra time on both sports in case the game ends in a tie. Football extra time is 30 minutes, while basketball’s overtime period lasts only five minutes.

In contrast to a soccer match, a basketball game does include stoppages. For example, when the ball goes out of bounds, fouls are committed, players shoot free throws, and timeouts, the clock is stopped. In other words, every second of the game is played out, which causes the length of the game to fluctuate.

Another difference in gameplay is that timeouts are not allowed in football, while basketball does. On top of that, basketball games never end in a tie, while football matches can.

Basketball and Football Comparison of SkillsBasketball and Football Comparison of Skills

Football and basketball both demand skills, athleticism, and strategy. Some may argue that football requires more skill than basketball, but it’s a totally subjective claim. Here is the football and basketball skills comparison in a nutshell.

Skills Required for Basketball

The basic basketball skills are dribbling, shooting, passing, rebounding, and defense. Here is the basic description of each skill:

  • Dribbling. Dribbling is a repeated movement in which a player uses one hand to continually bounce the basketball on the court. The ballhandler may switch the ball between his left and right hand. The live dribble ends when the ballhandler touches the ball with both hands.
  • Shooting. Shooting is the only way to score in basketball, making it the most critical skill of all. A basketball player may shoot in different ways, including layups, jump shots, floaters, and set shots.
  • Passing. Passing is a calculated attempt to move the ball from one teammate to another. It is probably the most challenging basketball to develop since it requires timing and precision.
  • Rebounding. Rebounding can be done in offense or defense. It is defined as successfully retrieving the ball after a missed shot. A rebound is sometimes referred to as a “board.”
  • Defense. Defense is about stopping the other team from scoring. It also involved a blend of other skills such as sliding the feet, anticipation, and more.

Skills Required for Football

The basic skills in football are ball control, receiving, and passing. Check out the description below:

  • Ball control. Good ball control is a necessary ability for retaining possession of the ball from opponents allowing the player an extended period to make the proper decision. Having excellent ball control is the single most crucial football skill.
  • Receiving. Receiving is the process that involves the act of securing the ball from a throw or an interception and bringing it under control. It requires a delicate first touch and can be performed using the body, head, thigh, or foot.
  • Passing. Passing is when the ball is kicked from one teammate to another. It can be done using the chest or head, but most of the time, passing is done with the feet. A pass is completed when the receiving player has sufficient control of the ball to dribble or pass.

Basketball vs. Football StrategiesBasketball vs. Football Strategies

Any competitive game needs a strategy of sorts, even the simplest card and board games. Basketball and football involve multiple players and, thus, require techniques to make the most out of each individual’s skills and talents. 

Here are some of the most fundamental strategies used in basketball and football. In both sports, offense means scoring points for the team, and defense means preventing the other squad from doing so.

Offensive and Defensive Strategies in Basketball

In basketball, offensive and defensive strategies are tailored to the team’s makeup. Offense usually needs more structure, while playing defense is primarily about effort.

Two of the most basic offensive strategies are the uptempo and deliberate games. The uptempo style is often used if the team has quick and well-conditioned players that can run up and down the court all game. On the other hand, a deliberate game strategy is about slowing the ball down and milking the shot clock to find the most quality shot possible. 

Defensive strategies are mainly divided into two– zone defense and man-to-man. Zone defenses assign specific areas for each player to guard, while a man-to-man defense is about individually guarding each player. Of course, there are more defensive strategies employed in basketball, such as the full-court press, half-court press, double-teaming, triple-teaming, box-and-one, etc. 

Offensive and Defensive Strategies in Football

Like basketball, many offensive and defensive strategies are used in football. It is essential for coaches to employ these strategies as part of their preparation. 

One of the most utilized offensive strategies in football is the long ball, which is basically a long-distance pass that bypasses the midfield. A long ball is an excellent way to put pressure on the defense and build attacks.

Another football offensive strategy is the counterattack. As the name suggests, this involves quickly moving the ball up the field after a regained possession. Quicker, more athletic players usually thrive in these scenarios to take advantage of slower opponents.

Like basketball, football also has man-to-man and zone coverages. Then, there is an offside trap, where defenders bait the offensive team into committing an offside violation by moving forward together, catching the attacking player in an offside position.

A combination of an offensive and defensive strategy is the press. The idea is the same as the press used in basketball. This is an aggressive, in-your-face type of man-to-man defense that aims to quickly take the ball away from the attacking team. This puts the opponents in a vulnerable position, which means they are not ready to defend the attack.

Wrapping Things Up: Basketball vs. Football: Which Game is Better?

Basketball and football are two of the most popular games in the world, gaining the attention of billions of fans. Regarding ​​football vs. basketball popularity, the latter trumps the former, with an estimated 4 to 5 billion fans. Meanwhile, basketball has 2.2 billion fans on average.

There are also lots of similarities and differences between basketball and football. Both are team sports that require an assortment of offensive and defensive strategies. These games also need multiple skills, such as passing and ballhandling. 

You can’t touch the ball in football unless in a throw-in situation or if you’re a goalkeeper trying to fend off an attack. On the other hand, basketball allows using hands in almost all areas, whether on offense or defense. In short, football mainly uses kicks, while basketball primarily utilizes the hands for shooting and dribbling.

Now, on to the million-dollar question. In this football and basketball comparison, which game is better? Apparently, football has the upper hand in the sheer number of fans, but there is no clear-cut way to decide. Basketball is exciting because of its fast pace and high-octane scoring, but football has always been the favorite of more than half of the world’s population. Ultimately, it will be up to an individual to decide which sport captures his fancy the most.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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