Basketball Rules List

Basketball Rules List

Basketball is a fast-paced team sport played by people of all ages around the world. There are college, professional, and international leagues, and basketball has been included in Olympic competitions since 1936. Keep reading for a list of the most fundamental basketball rules.

What Are the Rules of Basketball?

There are many rules that make basketball the sport that it is today. They include:

Scoring Rules

In basketball, a field goal is worth two points or three points, depending on the location of the shot. Any shot taken from on or within the 3-point line is worth two points. Any shot taken from outside the three-point arc is worth three points. On free throws only, a successful basket is worth one point.

Dribbling Rules

Basketball Dribbling

In order for a player to move with the ball in their possession, they must dribble the ball. Dribbling is when a player bounces the ball on the court in a continuous motion with one hand. The player must keep a live dribble at all times in order to move with the basketball. If the ball is knocked from the player’s possession when they are dribbling, they are required to resume dribbling if they get it back.

Traveling Rule

Basketball Traveling

A travel is when a player who has possession of the ball moves without dribbling the ball. Traveling is most common with players going for a contested layup or players who try to create space to take a jump shot. A player may take at most two steps without dribbling the basketball, but they must be moving with the intention of scoring.

Carrying Rule

Basketball Carrying

A carry is when a player either palms the ball, and their hand gathers the ball from underneath, their forearm is able to carry the ball, or they pause but then continue their dribble. If a player stops their dribble by supporting the ball from underneath and then continues to dribble, this is considered a carry. A player thus cannot pause their dribble to lift the ball in the air with their palms facing up. Carrying can also be known as palming.

Double Dribble Rule

Basketball Double Dribble

A double dribble is when a player ends their dribble and picks it up again to continue their dribble without passing, shooting, or losing possession of the ball. This is considered a violation and results in possession of the ball being given to the opposing team.

8-Second Backcourt Rule

When dribbling the ball up the court, a player has eight seconds to get the ball beyond the half-court line; if they fail to do this, then it results in a backcourt violation. If a team has already moved the ball into the front court, they can not go back and pass the ball into the backcourt. If there is a loose ball and a player touches the ball and causes it to go into the backcourt, they are not allowed to be the first one to touch the ball if the ball was in their control.

3-Second Paint Rule

A three seconds violation occurs when any player stays in the painted area of the court for longer than three seconds. There are two variations of this penalty, one being on offense and the other on defense.

Offensive 3-Second Rule

An offensive three seconds violation occurs when a player is in the paint for longer than three seconds. However, if a player is in the act of shooting during the third second then it is completely legal, and no penalty shall be applied. The three-second count does not begin until the player is in full control of the ball.

Defensive 3-Second Rule

Defensive players are also not allowed in the paint for longer than three seconds. However, in this case the rule doesn’t apply if the defender is actively guarding someone who is close to the paint. Also, the count does not begin until the offensive team advances the ball into the front court.

Out of Bounds Rule

basketball Out of Bounds

If a player steps out of bounds, they lose possession of the ball. The ball is then considered dead and must be put back into play with a throw-in. If the ball itself goes out of bounds, whichever team touches it last loses or forfeits possession of the ball. If a player touches the ball and saves it from going out of bounds, they are not allowed to be the first person to touch the ball even if they have regained position within the boundaries of the court, and this incident will also result in a turnover.

Free Throw Rules

basketball shooting a Free Throw

A free throw is a shot that is given to a player as an opportunity to score one point due to a foul from the other team. The player must shoot from the free-throw line, which is 15 feet from the basket. If the basket is made, that team is awarded one point.

When shooting a free throw, a player has ten seconds to take their shot, or it will not be counted. A player is also not allowed to step over the free throw line when they take their shot. Also, a player is not allowed to fake a free throw shot on purpose. The free throw shooter is not allowed to purposely throw the basketball off the back of the backboard in order to catch it and regain possession of the ball, which is considered a violation.

Number of Players Rule

Both teams are allowed to have a maximum of five players on the court at any given time. This ensures that each player on the opposing team is able to match up properly with another player on the other team. Given this dynamic, it also allows each team to play the sport on an equal playing field.

Substitution Rules

Basketball Substitution

Players can leave the court and be substituted for another player on the bench. This happens relatively often throughout the course of a game to give a player much-needed rest. There is no limit to how many times a player can be substituted during a game, so this allows for different matchups and in-game rotation strategies to be used by coaches.

Physical Contact Rules

basketball fouls and violations

A foul occurs when a player comes into illegal contact with another player on the opposing team. Examples of illegal contact include personal fouls, shooting fouls, illegal screens, charging, and blocking fouls. Players are not allowed to hit, hold, or push other players.

Goaltending Rule

basketball Goaltending

Goaltending happens when a defensive player touches the ball when it is above the rim, or on the rim, or if the shot is on its way down and the player blocks the ball from entering the rim. It is also considered goaltending if a player touches the ball after it has been shot and has touched any part of the backboard above the rim and appears to have a chance of going down.


What are the most important rules of basketball?

The most important rules of basketball are dribbling rules and scoring rules. Players must dribble properly while moving with the ball, or they will commit a traveling or double dribble violation. Successful shots within the three-point arc are worth two points; outside of it, they are worth three points. Shots must be made from in-bounds, before the shot clock runs out, and without fouling for them to count.