This image gives you an overview of the court.
Areas of a basketball court
But of course, that’s too technical! Let’s get into the specifics.
The center circle, endlines, and halfcourt line
The court, in its official entire form, is a playing area split into two equal parts, separated by the halfcourt line. Its edges are called the endlines, made up of the sidelines (spanning the length of the court), and the baselines (one at each end to close out the rectangle). Stepping out of bounds is a cause for stoppage in play. The center circle on the other hand, is where a jump-off or jump ball is held at the beginning of the game and when called for in certain situations.
The three-point line
This line separates a field goal from being worth two or three points, and is often referred to as the arc (as in a three-pointer would come from “beyond the arc”). It hasn’t been around since the beginning – the three-point line’s history and invention has been muddled throughout the years, but suffice it to say that it has only been around for some 40 to 50 years, with the NBA and FIBA adopting it only in the 1980s. Needless to say, it infuses excitement in the game, with teams able to rally back from big deficits just by making a couple of three-pointers. The distance from this line to the basket differs among leagues, with the farthest being in the NBA (22 feet at the corners, and 23.75 feet at the top).
The free throw line and circle
The free throw circle serves a similar function to the center circle, as it is used in jump-offs in certain situations. The free throw line, on the other hand, is used as a marker from which players shoot free throws, approximately 15 feet from the basket. Players cannot step on or over this line when taking a free throw until the ball hits the rim.
Also known as the “shaded lane” because it is usually painted, this area is located just below the basket. It is rectangular in the NBA and in Philippine hoops, but is trapezoidal in the FIBA rules (the FIBA is set to change this to rectangular as well by this year, though). Its main purpose is to keep players from staying underneath the basket for long periods – doing so will result in an offensive or defensive three-second violation, which turns the ball over to the other team or, in the case of the latter, a technical foul (meaning a free throw plus possession).
In the NBA, they also add a “restricted area” nearest to the basket in the key. When in this area, defenders cannot draw offensive fouls.
Last, but not the least, the part of the court where the game gets its name from, the basket is the “goal” in basketball. It is made up of the hoop and the backboard. The rim of the basket, and the area above it, is referred to in the game’s rules, such as goaltending (i.e. a ball already in the imaginary “cylinder” area above the basket cannot be blocked, or else it will count as a made shot).
The various differences among rules mean that different leagues may have slightly different measurements, but this basic guide should cover the important stuff – so the next time you watch a game, you won’t have too much trouble deciphering the technical stuff of the commentators!
Image from Wikimedia Commons.