How to Start Playing Basketball: The Ultimate Guide

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This is a little biased, but basketball is the best sport out there because you need to summon everything to play it. By everything, we mean teamwork, skills, talents, and everything between. And yet, it is a simple enough game that you can learn many things just by watching other people play. For you to figure out the essentials in how to start playing basketball, we will be taking you step-by-step and give you a push in the right direction.

First of all, you need to have the basic skills or the basketball fundamentals to get started. It’s how you make the game more straightforward for you down the road. Doing it this way, not only accelerates the learning process, but it will also add more fun by seeing the small improvements you’ve made along the way. Now let’s get to the very basics of basketball.

What Do You Need to Know about the Game of BasketballWhat Do You Need to Know about the Game of Basketball?

When it comes to basketball, all you need to know first are the basic rules and skills. Let’s start with the rules first. Thankfully, they are as straightforward as they come, so there should be no reason not to pick them up the first time. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • There are two five-player teams in basketball trying to score by shooting a ball through a hoop hung 10 feet above the ground—the team who scores more wins.
  • A basketball game is played in a rectangular-shaped court with the 10-foot hoops attach to both ends. The court is divided in the center by what is called the midcourt line.
  • The play begins with the offensive team inbounding the ball on the opponent’s side of the court. They have 10 seconds to cross the midcourt line, or that will be a violation. (It is called a backcourt violation.)
  • Once the offensive team goes over the midcourt line, they cannot get the ball back on the other side of the line unless the defensive team taps it away.
  • The ball is moved from one position to another by dribbling or passing it to another player for the offense to get the best attempt at a shot. The defense tries to stop them from doing so by stealing the ball, deflecting passes, and rebounding the ball if the offensive team misses.
  • There are three ways to score: A field goal anywhere inside the arc (three-point line) is worth two points. IFouling an offensive player in the act of shooting (or the other team is in the penalty), you will be awarded a free throw which is worth one point each. A shot behind the arc is worth three points.
  • A basketball game is divided into two halves. In professional basketball, a half is split into two 12-minute quarters. In international competitions, a quarter is 10 minutes long while in the US NCAA, they simply play two 20-minute halves.
  • If the game has a tied score at the end of regulation, the game goes into a five-minute overtime.

Basketball has a lot of rules, but that should be enough to get you going. Aside from the rules and regulations, there are also basic skills you need to work on. These are:

  • Shooting. Make no mistake about it, shooting is the most important skill in basketball. Unless you’re a threat to score, you’re not going to be needed in a basketball court. Remember, the name of the game is to score more points than your opponent.
  • Passing. Passing is the purposeful attempt by two teammates to move the ball. Often, in basketball, the purpose is to arrive at a good, open shot.
  • Dribbling. Dribbling is the bouncing of the ball with one hand at a time. This is the primary way to go from point A to point B if you’re holding a basketball. If you carry the ball while moving, that’s called a traveling violation; dribbling the ball with two hands is also a violation.
  • Jab Step. A jab step is a basketball move done by a player as he holds onto the ball before dribbling. He makes a jabbing motion forward or sideward in an attempt to test the defender’s stance and weaknesses, so he can exploit any mistakes.
  • Screening. A screen is a move done by one of the offensive players. He stands stationary behind or beside a defender to free a teammate to shoot, pass, score, and create. 
  • Rebounding. Rebounding is retrieving the ball after a missed shot. If defenders are the ones securing the rebound, it’s called a defensive rebound. If it’s the offense, it’s called an offensive rebound.
  • Defense. Defense is all about stopping opponents from scoring. A defense can either be man-to-man (which is pretty self-explanatory) or zone with countless other variations.

Can You Learn Basketball by YourselfCan You Learn Basketball by Yourself?

Honestly speaking, there is no better way to learn basketball but by playing it yourself. Basketball for beginners should start out by practicing shooting and dribbling alone. This would allow the neophytes to practice more moves without the fear of making mistakes. Of course, practicing alone would only take you so far so you would have to test your skills by playing pickup with friends or strangers. In any case, you can learn basketball by yourself.

What is a Good Age to Start Playing BasketballWhat is a Good Age to Start Playing Basketball?

It’s never too late or too early to start playing basketball, or any sport for that matter. If you are 30 or 40 and wanted to do a full-body workout, you can start playing basketball. Or if you’re a seven or eight-year-old and interested in doing basketball, then there’s no reason for you to hesitate.

However, players who aspire to be more than a recreational league or pickup game players should start out as young as they can be. That way, they will learn hand-eye coordination, muscle memory, and other physical skills needed to play at a higher level. The younger they are, the better they will become; the more repetitions they will get, and the more natural the game will come to them.

What Should Be the First Skill to Learn in BasketballWhat Should be the First Skill to Learn in Basketball?

As mentioned, the game of basketball is a game of skills. The more skills you have, the higher your chances of success. But from experience, we would encourage two skills you should work on to get better at basketball. One is dribbling, and another is shooting.

Some coaches suggest that shooting may be practiced later, but we recommend to start early. Start with ballhandling first and couple it with some shooting drills. Ballhandling (or dribbling) is very critical because you the tighter your handles are, the more scoring opportunities you could get, especially off the dribble.

7 Tips on How to Start Playing Basketball7 Tips on How to Start Playing Basketball

In most cases, you don’t need anything more than a basketball and a hoop to start playing basketball. It is also advisable to warm up and pace yourself– never bite more than you can chew. Here are 7 basketball tips for beginners:

1. Wear the right gear

 Don’t go overboard with the headbands and stuff, but it is imperative to choose the right shoes, shorts, and jersey when playing basketball. The more comfortable you are, the better you will play, so don’t underestimate the power of the right basketball gear. We’re written tons of basketball gears, make sure to check them out here.

2. Practice

If we’re talking about basketball for beginners, there is one thing that you should do: practice. Choose a suitable place that has enough space for you to dribble around, try and experiment with some new moves. You will be good at straight dribbling in no time, so don’t be shy to do some crossovers, fakes, jab steps, and everything in between. 

3. Dribbling and finishing with the off hand

We feel this should have its own place outside of No. 2 since getting proficient on either hand in dribbling and finishing could get your game to the next level fast. It will be easier to get a separation or penetrate when your handles are good enough to take you anywhere you want to.

4. Practice shooting from a short distance and practice your way out.

The mistake many new players do when they practice shooting is they start heaving 30 footers right away. Steph Curry or Reggie Miller did not practice that way, okay? They became literally the best shooters in basketball ever by mastering the short distance and working their way out.

5. Be proficient in one skill and move on to others.

The better your skills are, the more joy you get out of the experience. That’s just the way it is. The evolution of the game requires positions 1-5 to work on every single one of these skills. The way to do it, of course, is to make sure you’re comfortable enough to do a move in-game and be successful in it. After that, you can move on to another skill and repeat.

6. Practice on your strengths, work on your weaknesses.

No matter how you work on skills, there will always be one (or two) that you’re going to be good at and a couple more that you won’t be as good. The key is to hone those strengths and focus on those weaknesses. Just because you’re a good shooter and a lousy passer does not mean you should only practice shooting and leave out passing drills. Still, go about your usual shooting routine and after that, work to improve your weaknesses. That’s how you will become a well-rounded basketball player.

7. Rest

As any professional would tell you, rest is a part of the training. If you’re just starting out, don’t overplay; overplaying increases the risk of injuries, so make sure you give your body time to recover. 

Wrapping Things Up: How to Start Playing Basketball?

Many want to start playing basketball and may worry if it’s a little too late, but it’s never too late to have a good time, especially if “good time” means playing sports. It helps you to be fit while enjoying and relieving stress. What’s not to like?

However, you may need to be reminded of a few things in our basketball for beginners guide. That includes basketball fundamentals and the basic rules of basketball. The fundamentals are the skills that you’ll need to play the game. These are dribbling, shooting, passing, defense, and others.

Basketball does have a lot of rules, but they are quite intuitive. Most of these rules are enforced in an organized game, so you don’t have to worry about it much when you’re starting. However, you are also encouraged to watch a basketball game to increase your knowledge and feel, so you still have to be familiar with these rules. That includes fouls, length of regulation time, violations, and everything in between.

Last but not least, our 7 tips on how to get better at basketball should serve you well if you’re just starting out. Another key that would help you through the ups and downs of learning how to play basketball is discipline. Rome was not built in a day, and neither are your basketball skills. Just stay on the course and follow up. Only then will you reap the benefits.

Did you enjoy this post? Then you’ll love the other commonly asked questions about basketball. Check them out below:

> How to Start Playing Basketball Again: Making a Return

> What is a Basketball Scrimmage?

> What Should Every Basketball Player Be Able to Do?

Hoops Addict
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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