Guide to Becoming an NBA Fanatic
When you hear friends shout the phrases “check,” “brick,” or “from way downtown” at their TV screens, they’re celebrating the game of basketball. We don’t want you to miss out on enjoying all of the action! Our Guide to Becoming an NBA Fanatic will transform you from rookie to All-Star overnight, and leave you ready to tell others about the difference between a field goal and a 3-point play – among many other hoops nuances.
Thirty teams across the U.S. (and Canada) make up the National Basketball Association, better known as the NBA. There are the Eastern and Western conferences, each containing 15 teams; there are three divisions in each conference (six in total). The Atlantic, Central, and Southeast divisions make up the Eastern Conference, and the Southwest, Northwest, and Pacific divisions make up the Western Conference. One regular season consists of 82 games, and the top eight teams from each conference advance to the postseason.
Shot Clock Violation
Each NBA game takes place over 48 minutes, divided into four quarters. After the first two quarters, there is a “halftime” break. At the end of regulation (four quarters), the team with the highest number of points wins the game. If both teams are tied, a five-minute overtime decides the winner. If there is still a tie, the teams continue playing until an overtime period ends with one team ahead of the other in points.
When a team gains possession, a 24-second shot clock begins. Before this clock runs out, the ball must either be scored or make contact with the rim. If the ball hits the rim and the offensive team regains possession, the shot clock only resets to 14 seconds.
During each game, the clock can stop for many reasons: a player stepping out of bounds with the ball, when a foul is committed against another player (rule violation), when a coach or player calls for a timeout, or when a team scores.
Dribbling Down the Court
Each team places five players on the court at a time. While a player may have a specific position based on physical attributes and style of play, there is no requirement for a set number of positions to be present on the floor. For the five positions, each is commonly equated with a corresponding number:
- Point Guard (PG): 1
- Shooting Guard (SG): 2
- Small Forward (SF): 3
- Power Forward (PF): 4
- Center (C): 5
The future of the NBA is certainly headed toward position-less basketball, meaning teams prefer to field players who can change positions and show their versatility. But it still boils down to five main positions. If you’re trying to associate the names of players you’ve overheard with these positions, here are a few examples of current key ballers:
- Point Guard: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
- Shooting Guard: James Harden (Houston Rockets); Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)
- Small Forward: Paul George (LA Clippers); LeBron James (LA Lakers)
- Power Forward: Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors); Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)
- Center: Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz); Anthony Davis (LA Lakers)
During the game, any of the team’s five players on the court may be substituted with another player on the bench. Rotating players in and out of the game can be a strategy – with coaches sometimes looking to match up a type of player against another (for instance, a speedy playmaker versus a strong and tall defender), or just to give their player a break after a long stretch.
There are two phases of the game – offense and defense. These are very fluid in basketball and are interchangeable within seconds. Each team is able to score either one, two, or three points per shot.
- 1 point: Free throws, awarded after a player is fouled in the act of shooting
- 2 points: Any shot made inside the 3-point line
- 3 points: Any shots made beyond the 3-point line
That’s a Foul!
Knowing what penalties and fouls are called is perhaps the hardest aspect of learning basketball. You can find the full list of official NBA rules here, but here are the major penalties and infractions you’ll notice during a game.
- Traveling: When a player moves with the ball without dribbling
- Double-dribble: When a player picks up his dribble, then resumes dribbling
- Blocking foul: When a defensive player blocks the opponent with forcible body contact
- Charging foul: When an offensive player charges into the defender with forcible body contact
- Goaltending: When a defender blocks a shot attempt that is coming down near the basket
Must-See Teams and Players
So now you’re ready to hop on the court and start making threes, but hold on – let’s leave that to the professionals. You need to choose a team with exciting players to follow, and we have a few recommendations:
- Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron’s first season in LakerLand was a struggle, but the proud franchise restocked the cupboard this offseason by adding Anthony Davis and a slew of role players. Expect a big championship push from King James and his crew.
- Golden State Warriors: Plenty are happy to write off the Dubs after Kevin Durant’s exit and Klay Thompson’s injury, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Steph Curry and Draymond Green’s championship resolve push them into contention yet again.
- Los Angeles Clippers: Just when it appeared that the Clippers may fall back into irrelevance in LA, they offered the splash of the offseason by adding both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. After going back and forth over the last couple decades, we may have a true Lakers-Clippers rivalry to heat up the City of Angels this season.
If you’re watching your first full NBA game, here are the main tips to keep in mind.
- Each team fields five players on the court, which can be substituted at any stopping point.
- You can score one, two, or three points for a shot.
- Pay attention to the contact between offensive player and defender during shot attempts and the referees’ foul calls. These are often controversial in games.
- And get the best officially licensed NBA apparel and merchandise from Fanatics.com to cheer on your team.