Thursday, March 8, 2012

Basketball for Dummies

"Jimmer Range"
It has been requested that I write a series of posts along the lines of "sports for dummies." Since basketball is my favorite sport of all, I've decided to begin with that.

So, we're gonna start with the bare basics. The game of basketball is played on a rectangular court with a basket on each end. There are five players on the court at a time for each of the two teams. The "offense" is the team that currently has possession of the ball, and the "defense" is the team that doesn't have possession of the ball.

In college, the game consists of two 20-minute halves. The clock stops running when a foul or other violation is committed (we'll get to that later), the ball goes out of bounds (outside the rectangular area of the court), or a time out is called. It also doesn't run while someone is shooting free throws (unopposed shots taken from behind a line located 15 feet from the basket that are awarded after the other team commits a foul).

The object of the game is to score more points than the opposing team. Each team tries to get the ball into one of the baskets at either end of the court (they switch sides at half time). There is a large half-circle around the basket that, in college, has a 20-feet-9-inch radius. If you get the ball through the hoop while standing inside the line during regular play (while the clock is running), the shot is worth two points. If you are outside that line, your team gets 3 points. These are both called "field goals." There is, of course, one more unofficially recognized distance referred to as "Jimmer Range"-- where the shooter (usually Mr. Fredette himself) is significantly behind the three-point line. :) Although it should be worth more, a Jimmer Range shot is also worth 3 points. Free throws are worth one point each.

Here are some of the rules & violations that can be committed:
  • Players must dribble the ball at all times when their feet are moving (they can't just hold it and walk with it). If they stop walking, one of their feet must hold its position (called their "pivot foot") until they pass the ball or shoot it. If they take steps without dribbling, it is considered "traveling". The exception to this rule is that you can take two steps (although this is often very liberally interpreted) without dribbling immediately before shooting the ball. Your hand must remain on top of the ball all the time while dribbling (otherwise it is a "carrying" violation). You also can't dribble with both hands or dribble, stop, and then start dribbling again. That is called a "double dribble". If a player commits any of these violations, the other team automatically gets the ball.
  • Near each basket, there is a rectangle called the "key". Players cannot stand in this area for more than 3 seconds at a time (also often interpreted very liberally by referees).
  • If the ball goes out of bounds, the ball goes to the opposite team of whoever touched it last. 
  • You can't touch the ball on its downward trajectory to the basket or while it is on or in the basket. If that happens, the basket automatically counts, even if it didn't go through the hoop. This is called goal tending.
  • The ball cannot go past half court (the line dividing the court in half) and come back to the other side without changing possession to the other team (this is called a "backcourt violation").
There are 3 referees at each game who are responsible for calling "fouls". Here are some examples of fouls (although I'm pretty sure it would be impossible to name them all):
  • You can't push, trip, hit, elbow, or hold onto another player or their clothing. Hopefully that is pretty self-explanatory.
  • The most common fouls are called "charging" and "blocking." A charge is committed by a player who has possession of the ball and plows through the defensive player. A blocking foul is committed when a defensive player prevents an offensive player from getting a fair shot (by hitting him on the arm, etc.) It is often very hard to tell the difference between the two, and is almost impossible to explain. All I can really say is that Brandon Davies is a pro at taking charges. Way to go, B.
  • Players or coaches who argue with the referee or show poor sportsmanship can get a "technical foul." Two technical fouls in a game will get you kicked out of the game.
Brandon Davies being amazing, as always
If a foul is committed, it counts as one "personal foul" on the player who committed it and also adds to the count of "team fouls." If a single player gets 5 fouls during a game, they must sit out the rest of the game. The number of team fouls in each half determines the result. If the team has less than 8 fouls and the person who was fouled was not shooting the ball when he was fouled, his team just gets possession of the ball. If the team has 8 or 9 fouls and the person who was fouled was not shooting the ball when he was fouled, he gets to shoot "1 and 1" free throws (this is called the "bonus"). That means if he makes the first free throw, he gets a second one. But if he misses the first one, he doesn't get a second one. If the team has 10 or more combined fouls in the half, the other team automatically gets 2 free throws every time they are fouled (this is called the "double bonus"). If a player is in the process of shooting the ball when he is fouled and he misses the shot, he gets one free throw for every point he would have received had the shot gone in (either 2 or 3). If the shot does go in, the basket counts and he gets one free throw in addition (potentially resulting in 3 or 4 points total). This is called a "three point play" / "four point play" or an "and one".

A few other facts / terms to know:

If the game is tied at the end of the second half, the game will go into overtime, in which 5 minutes will be added to the clock and play resumes. If it is tied at the end of overtime, they go into double overtime. This continues until someone wins.

An "assist" is the last pass to a teammate that leads to a field goal. 

A double-double is when a player accumulates a double-digit number total in any two of these categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots. A triple-double is when they get a double-digit number in three of those categories. So when Brandon Davies scores 20 points and gets 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a single game, he gets a triple double. Heck yes.

Wow, that took a really long time, and I've probably forgotten about a zillion aspects of the game. But I love basketball, especially when it's played by my Cougar men. Even though this season isn't turning out to be that fabulous, I still love you. Way to go, boys.

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