Basketball is a team sport in which players compete against the opposing team. The goal is to score points by shooting a ball into a basket that sits 10 feet off the ground. There are two teams of five players on each side at one time, and the game is played in quarters or halves that last a variable amount of time depending on the level of competition. The teams exchange possession of the ball by passing or dribbling it. The defensive team tries to steal the ball, contest shots, and deflect passes.
To play basketball, you need a high degree of agility and strength, along with muscular endurance (the ability of muscles to exert force over an extended period of time). Basketball requires the use of quick, short-duration muscle contractions to change direction. In addition, the game requires a great deal of running and jumping, which require a higher-than-normal degree of cardiovascular endurance.
The most important skill in basketball is handling the ball. Players must be able to dribble the ball without looking at it, and they should always keep the ball close to their body by using their fingertips to maintain control. Beginners can practice this skill by bouncing the ball continuously with their hand, switching from left to right and back again. Alternatively, they can do stationary exercises such as dribble tags and tight chair drills.
Once a player has mastered the basics of handling the ball, they can begin to learn the rules and strategies of the game. The game is played in a gym or sports arena with two teams of five players each. The tallest player on each side is the center, while the second-tallest player is the power forward. The shortest and fastest player on each team is the point guard, who leads the offense and manages the execution of offensive and defensive plays.
A player may only dribble for two steps before passing or shooting the ball, or else they will be called for a traveling violation. In addition, players cannot stop dribbling, pick up the ball again, and then start dribbling again; this is also known as a double-dribble violation.
There are many different types of shots in basketball, but the most common is a layup, in which the shooter jumps very close to the basket and throws the ball downward through the hoop. Another popular shot is a slam dunk, in which the player jumps very high and throws the ball down over the basket with both hands. In some competitions, it is possible to earn extra points by shooting free throws when a player is fouled on a shot; these are worth one point each.