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basketball

Basic Rules

At each end of the court—usually about 92 ft (28 m) long and 50 ft (15 m) wide—is a bottomless basket made of white cord net and suspended from a metal ring, 18 in. (46 cm) in diameter, which is attached 10 ft (3.05 m) above the floor (usually hardwood) to a backboard made of fiberglass, wood, or other material. Players may throw, dribble (bounce), or shoot the basketball (an inflated ball usually made of leather or rubber) but may not run with it or kick it.

Teams try to advance the ball and shoot it through one basket (the ball must enter from above) and to keep the opposition from scoring through the other. Each field goal, or basket, scores two points, or three points if shot from beyond a specified distance (21 ft/6 m in U.S. colleges, slightly longer in international and professional play). Teams must shoot the ball within a prescribed time limit (24 sec in professional and international games; 30 sec in women's collegiate play; 35 sec in men's collegiate play).

Any player making illegal body contact with an opposing player is assessed a foul; the opposing team may be given possession of the ball, or an opposing player awarded free throws at the basket from the foul line. Each made foul shot is worth one point. Players who exceed the foul limit (usually five, but six in professional and international play) are disqualified from the game. International and collegiate basketball games have two 20-min halves, professionals play four 12-min quarters, and high schoolers play four 8-min quarters.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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