National Basketball Association (NBA) 101
The basics you need to be knowledgeable about the premier men’s professional basketball league in the world.
Housing some of the world’s best paid athletes and known for its fast-paced and high-skilled play on display, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is a professional basketball league in North America and one of the major sports leagues that’s played in both the US and Canada.
The league is played by 30 professional teams that play 82 games each during the ‘Regular’ season that starts in October every year and goes on till April of the following year. Select teams then proceed towards the ‘Playoffs’ to compete for the league’s championship title, which concludes the league’s season in June every year.
The NBA originated in 1946 with 11 teams, but after a series of team expansions, reductions, and relocations, it currently hosts 30 professional teams (29 teams from the US, 1 team from Canada). The 30 teams are divided into two groups (called “Conferences''): Eastern Conference and Western Conference.
The Easten Conference is further divided into 3 subgroups: Atlantic Division, Central Division, and Southeast Division. The Western Conference is further divided into 3 subgroups: Northwest Division, Pacific Division, and Southwest Division.
Five teams in each of the six divisions play the Regular season and Playoffs to ultimately compete for the NBA Championship.
The NBA schedules the ‘Regular’ season in a way such that each team plays 82 games in total. Each team plays against the other 4 teams within its division four times (16 games), 6 teams from the other two divisions (within its own conference) four times (24 games), the remaining 4 teams from the other two divisions (within its own conference) three times (12 games), and finally all 15 teams from the other conference twice (30 games).
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The top 8 teams in each conference are awarded a ‘Seed’ (or in other word, a ranking) based on the individual team’s ‘Regular’ season performance (win-loss record form). Each of these 8 teams (within each conference) advances to the ‘Playoffs’, a tournament format where each team plays an opponent in a best-of-seven series, with the first team to win four games advancing into the next round, while the other team is eliminated from the ‘Playoffs’. In June, the Eastern Conference champion and the Western Conference champion proceed to play the NBA Finals and compete for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
Rules of the Sport
The basketball itself measures 9 inches in diameter, and must be inflated to between 8.5 and 9.5 pounds per square inch. The rims (baskets) hang 10 feet from the floor, sitting on opposite ends of a court that’s 50 feet wide and 94 feet long.
The basic aim of the game is to get the basketball into the opposition team’s rim. Each successful basket is awarded 1, 2 or 3 points, depending on the location from which the player throws the basketball from.
The basketball court is demarcated with a distinct ‘3 point line’ (a 3-point arc that runs from 23 feet, 9 inches from the basket at the top of the perimeter to 22 feet at the baselines), and if a player shoots the basketball from behind the 3 point line and successfully nets the basket, his team is awarded 3 points.
2 points are awarded to the team if the player shoots and successfully nets the basketball from within the 3 point line.
1 point is awarded to the team when a player shoots the basketball from behind the ‘free throw’ line that measures 15 feet from the basket or rim (while keeping both his feet ont the ground). A free throw is offered to a team when one of its players is fouled.
An NBA game is split into 4 quarters, each 12 minutes long. If scores are tied, the game proceeds to an overtime period of 5 minutes to determine the winner. At any given point of the game, a maximum of 5 players per team are allowed on the basketball court. When a team gains possession of the basketball, it must score a basket within 24 seconds - failure to do so within 24 seconds will result in switching the possession of the basketball over to the opposition team.
Players with the basketball must only advance towards the opposition team’s basket while dribbling the ball with one hand only (i.e. bouncing the ball with one hand) or by passing the basketball to another team player.
There are 5 common positions in basketball:
Usually the best passer and dribbler of the team, the Point Guard is responsible for driving the team forward and speeding up the pace of the team’s offense.
As the name suggests, the Shooting Guard is the best shooter (thrower of the basketball) on the team and is often taking passes from teammates to net the basketball and score points.
The Small Forward is tasked with scoring from long range as well as close range, while taking on the opposition team’s players.
The Power Forward position demands the player to be close to the basket, taking rebounds and defending tall players while also taking some long range shots
The Center is usually the tallest player on the team and stays close to the basket on both sides of the court to gather rebounds, score close shots and block shots on the other side while on defense.
The NBA has witnessed several basketball legends, including Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neil, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, and of course, two of the most well known players - Micheal Jordan and LeBron James.
The modern era of the NBA houses many exciting players as well, notably Luka Dončić, Giannis Antentokounmpo, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and many more.
Many players are considered for the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) title in the NBA, but Micheal Jordan and LeBron James tend to be a part of every G.O.A.T. debate. These two players have had the most illustrious careers ever, and LeBron James is still going till date, approaching his 20th year in the sport!
The NBA hosts a total of 30 teams but the most successful teams in the history of the NBA to keep in mind are LA Lakers and Boston Celtics, both of them earning 17 titles each. These two teams have had a fierce rivalry in the past, especially during the era of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Other famous teams include Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, and of course, Golden State Warriors, who have been very successful in the recent past.
Every year, the NBA All-Star Game is hosted midway through the regular season - this is a basketball exhibition game hosted by the NBA showcasing 24 of the league’s top-rated star players, where the starting lineup for each of the two squads is selected by a combination of fan, player and media voting. Similar to the NFL’s Super Bowl event, the NBA All-Star Game is highly commercialized to gain the public’s attention, with top-rated artists performing gigs during the halftime period for this game.
It’s not uncommon to find a basketball net installed in the backyard of an American household. Throughout the country, you’ll often see early teens, college students, or even grown adults wearing their favorite team’s jersey, either bouncing the basketball around an empty courtyard or “playing ball” in a basketball court.