Basketball Substitutions

Chapter 3.6

Can players ever take breaks and be substituted for new players on the court? Get ready to learn about the substitution rules in basketball.


We've already learned that basketball is a 5-on-5 game, meaning there are five (5) players on the court per team at all times. Since basketball games last sixty (60) minutes in the NBA and forty (40) minutes in the NCAA, it makes sense that these same five (5) players don't play the entire game. They are substituted out.

In this tutorial, we will learn about player substitutions and the rules that apply to them in basketball.


A substitution is the act of replacing one or more (1+) players of a team on the court with players from the player benches located on the sidelines. Of course, these players have to be on the team roster.

Rookie Road Basketball Player Bench Image

When Does A Substitution Happen In Basketball?

In basketball, teams are allowed to only make substitutions when the ball is declared 'dead' by officials or when the clock is stopped.

The ball is declared 'dead' by officials for reasons like:

How Often Can A Basketball Team Make Substitutions?

Teams can make unlimited substitutions throughout the course of a basketball game. If you're watching a game, you'll constantly see players coming on and off the court.


A rotation is a type of strategy used by coaches to maximize player performance. It is a defined schedule that coaches make determining how much playing time each player and when they get substituted.

We will learn more about rotations in later chapters.

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