You know the setting. The smack of the leather ball echoing across the glossy gym floor as it is dribbled, the squeak of the players’ shoes, the sweat running down the players’ faces as they run, jump, and heave the ball across the court. This is basketball.
Basketball falls into a class of sports where the players are mixed, and they must relay the ball to a corresponding goal (in this case, a hoop, or “basket”, referring to the initial use of a basket with the game was invented) without interception by members of the opposing team. Basketball is played on a 94- by 50-foot court by NBA standards (international games are played on a 92- by 49-foot court), and the hoops are 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet inside the baseline. For men, the standard ball size has a circumference of 29.5 inches and a weight of 22 ounces, and for women, the circumference is 28.5 and the weight is 20 ounces.
Basketball as a sport is rich with strategy. All 4700 square feet of the court are open for travel, and there are endless techniques to learn and utilize. Positions have developed over time: a point guard, who calls the plays, a shooting guard, who is responsible for a large amount of offensive shots, a power forward, whose job is mainly to defend the basket, a center, who is dimensionally suited to active shooting and hoop defense, and a small forward, who does most of the ball transportation and cuts (a term for a change in location to gain positional advantage). Besides cutting, another common strategic device is setting picks or screens, which stop an opposing player from cutting. Defense usually happens by zone (defending a certain area), or by man (defending a certain opposing player). There is a science to passing, dribbling, and shooting. For instance, a shot can be a set shot, jump shot, a layup, in which the player usually releases the ball after leaving the ground, and uses the backboard to redirect the ball into the hoop, and a slam dunk, in which the player leaps to an extreme height at which he can throw the ball downward into the hoop.
An opposing player can block a shot, but it must be done before the ball reaches the top of its arc, before it touches the backboard, and before any part of the ball is over the rim. A ball that hits the rim or backboard and bounces off is called a rebound, and can be repossessed by either team. In half-court basketball, the ball must be taken past the free throw line or the perimeter of the key (or lane, meaning the keyhole-shaped zone directly in front of the hoop) before another shot can be made in order to simulate full-court basketball. Intercepting passes is also a productive way to change possession the ball. The ball can be legally stolen, so long as the stealer doesn’t foul the ball holder. The definition of a foul is flexible, but usually has to do with personal contact.
The ideal basketball player is as tall as possible, with strength for running and jumping, and excessive endurance. In professional leagues, most male players are taller than 6 feet 3 inches, and the centers are commonly over 6 feet 10 inches. The tallest basketball player was a Chinese athlete by the name of Sun Mingming, who stood 7 feet 9 inches tall. Although height is certainly desirable, shorter players, such as Muggsy Bogues (5 feet 3 inches) can be an advantage to the team as they have the ability to cut quickly and low to the ground. Normally, short players that reach professional levels have impressive vertical jumps.
Basketball offers excellent spectator appeal and allows for an endless possibility of play combinations. Its popularity is extensive, and for good reason.