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How to Play Basketball: Basics for Beginners

Basketball may not be America’s pastime, but it is definitely another one of America’s top sports. It’s not necessarily hard to learn, but it does take some practice, just like any sport. And if you’ve never played basketball before and are just now taking an interest, it can be a daunting challenge to learn the game for the first time. Thankfully there are many beginner tips you can follow to improve your ability to grasp the game even when you first begin learning how to play basketball basics.


The object of Basketball to outscore the other team (2 teams total) by shooting the basketball into your opponent’s basketball goal hoop and preventing the other team from shooting the ball into your goal hoop.  5 players from each team are on the court at a time.  The team with the ball is the “offense” trying to score a goal while the other team is the “defense”.  Teams move the basketball across the court using only their hands to dribble and pass the ball to teammates.


A rectangular basketball court split in the middle by the halfline or mid-court line, 2 basketball goals (1 located at each end or court), and a basketball

Basketball Basics for Beginners Tip #1: Fitness!

This first tip is the most important one of all: all good players are good athletes first! The more physically fit you are, the better you will be able to play basketball, or any sport for that matter. Physical health is directly related to performance on the court, so if you want to increase your abilities all around, staying in shape and staying healthy are the best ways to generally improve your entire performance.

Basketball Drills for Kids

There are lots of basketball drills that you can teach kids to improve both their fitness and skills.  Check out this awesome basketball tutorial that teaches elementary kids fun basketball drills for beginners.

How to Hold the Basketball

Beyond that we have the basketball basics, and the most basic of them all is making sure you hold the ball properly. Practically every maneuver and move you make in basketball stems from a position in which you are holding the ball. That means that holding the ball properly is key to executing more advanced maneuvers, just like holding a football wrong will hinder your ability to throw it as far or as accurately. That said, the proper way to hold a basketball is not what many beginners imagine. As a general rule of thumb, the only parts of your hands you should touch the ball with are your fingertips, as if you were holding the ball with claws rather than human fingers. Practice holding the ball properly and you will have greater success with practically every other aspect of the game, because the basics are basic for a reason.

Have you ever heard the expression, ‘it’s all in the wrist?’ Nowhere is this truer than in basketball. Shooting, passing, and dribbling all require great wrist dexterity, and practicing to increase that dexterity will improve all of those basketball maneuvers. Naturally, the more limber your wrists are, the easier it will be to effortlessly shoot, pass, and dribble the ball. As an added bonus, you’ll also be much less likely to somehow hurt yourself if you’ve increased the flexibility of the body parts most heavily involved in basketball. Practice exercises that help you stretch out your wrists, especially in the manner that shooting actually uses (back and forth).


Pivoting is critical to success in basketball. Almost every move in basketball involves pivoting, but you’ve likely seen in practiced most often when a good player is driving towards the basket, dodging defenders as they go. Pivoting is important, but you have to get it down pat or you could just be causing walking violations during a game. There are many ways to practice this, but keep in mind that you can’t change your pivot point after you start, and your foot can’t slide.


Defense is actually pretty easy to learn. The stance you use for defense is almost exactly similar to the stance you use for dribbling. The main point is being able to sprint at top speed in any direction at a moment’s notice. This is easy to practice, because any exercise that improves your footwork will increase your ability to move and turn on a dime, both of which are critical when defending against a good offense.

Shooting the Basketball

Many new players believe they should practice shooting from a greater distance as early as they can, but in reality you should practice at short distances first. Every player has their own shooting technique, but you need to develop that technique first. If you develop that technique from far away, it will actually be worse than if you develop your technique from up close. And of course, distorting your technique early on will make it much harder to fix it later down the line. Once you get your technique down pat you can work on long range shooting, but until that time it’s a very bad idea to practice at that distance. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to get a good handle on the sport even as a beginner.

Beyond the Basketball Basics for Beginners

What does it mean to dribble the ball? What happens when a player travels? Interested in learning the difference between man-to-man defense and zone-defense? Our How to Play Basketball post  answers these questions and more!