Basketball for Beginners: Ultimate Playing Guide for Starters

Along with being one of the most popular team sports in the US, basketball has tens of millions of fans across the globe. Sports teach us sportsmanship and good values, and a competitive sport like basketball can teach you values to practice in everyday life.

Basketball isn't just a fun way to pass the time with your friends. The game is physically demanding, so you’ll want to make sure you are fit. You’ll also learn the importance of teamwork and hone your situational awareness.

Here are some of the best beginner basketball tips for you to dominate the court:

Basketball Basics for Beginners

Basketball is somewhat simpler than other ball-based sports. Unlike soccer, basketball requires you to handle the ball with your hands. Plus, you will not be weighed down by extra equipment such as a bat or a helmet.

From an outsider's perspective, basketball players simply bounce the ball across the court. While this is true to some extent, there are several complex moves you must master to bounce the ball correctly. And as in most sports, you'll need time to master the techniques.

The primary goal of the game is to get the ball into the hoop or basket. However, there are several ways to get the job done, as we'll explain below:

  • Dribbling

Dribbling is the primary method of moving the ball around. You risk a violation if you carry it for more than a step and a half. Therefore, you have to master your dribbles before considering other moves.

Fortunately, bouncing a ball is not the most challenging thing to do.

First, however, you must know how to dribble while running and picking your teammates. This technique takes time, especially since you are better off honing your dribble using your non-dominant hand.


You shouldn't fully depend on your stronger arm during a game. That may seem comfortable at the start, but your opponents will be able to predict your next move easily. Once you master both arms, you can play on either side of the court with ease. 

As a result, you must learn to dribble with your weak hand. At first, it won't come easily, particularly if you're older, but it would be best if you slowly forced your weak arm to bounce the ball.

Then, continue the routine until you get comfortable dribbling with your non-preferred hand.

Further on, try to bounce two balls at the same time. Remember to drive the ball towards the ground with your elbows held back. After that, you can try to walk as you dribble. 

Don't bounce too hard so that you have control over the dribble. With further practice, you will improve your ball handling and coordination.

You might also like: Best Weighted Gloves to Help Improve Your Driblling Skills

  • Passing

Just like dribbling, most beginners focus on passing using their stronger hand. If you want to get better at the game, you should aim to be ambidextrous. Point guards must be good at distributing the ball to feed the open players.

Developing your weaker hand can throw your opponents off during a game with a fake pass. But it is easier said than done. You will need a partner to refine your passing skills with both hands.

As always, start slowly and force your dominant hand out of the way. Once you're comfortable with basic passes, increase the frequency and bump the challenge with your teammate.

Related: What is an Assist in Basketball?

  • Shooting

If you want to be on the scoreboard, shooting is a must-have basketball skill. You will also be a more competent player if you can take long-range shots. Moreover, you must improve your accuracy to help your team win games.

If you can hurl the ball to your mate, then you can shoot. Therefore, you must have strong arms to take long-range shots. Additionally, accuracy goes a long way when making split-second passing decisions.

In any game, the offense is as important as the defense. Therefore, your team must actively seek those points to win matches and earn valuable championship points. Also, if your team is awarded a free throw, you must convert it into points.

basketball for beginners

Improving your shots and passing accuracy takes time. You can start by shooting from one point on the court. Stick to shooting from that position to boost your hand-eye coordination.

At first, you'll probably miss most of your attempts, but keep practicing until you can confidently take accurate shots from your preferred position. After that, practice shooting from a different spot.

Now head over to the free-throw line. You have to increase your accuracy from this position to get a decent point haul.

Related: Best Basketball Shooting Machine for Improving On-court Performance

  • Jumping 

After mastering your shots, raise the bar by shooting on the jump. Jumping allows you to receive passes, block shots and score some dunks. 

The basketball rim is ten feet high, while the average height of an NBA player is slightly under seven feet. Therefore, if you can not find the space to make a shot, you'll have to jump for it. 

There is no doubt that tall players enjoy a competitive edge. You cannot change your height, but you can improve your jumps and get level with the taller players. Fortunately, vertical jumps can improve your ball skills.

  • Defense 

For a basketball beginner, defense is vital. An airtight defense will keep the opponent team from scoring points. To defend correctly, you must combine your physical strength and intuitiveness to cover shots. In addition, it would help your squad avoid fouls on defense.

If you are the shooting guard, you must watch the opposing team's guard. This position affords players plenty of space to make long shots. 

basketball kids 3

A good defense means establishing your position. For example, in the case of a jump shot, you have to match the opponent's jump. However, keep your arms raised straight upward to avoid contact. If you reach for the ball, that's a foul.

Avoid looking at a player's feet while defending. It can be hard to predict an oncoming move. Once they put the ball past your position, it will get harder to recover if you trip. 

Alternatively, watch their hips and do not reach for the ball. Again, acute awareness comes in handy as you'll predict where the ball will be and intercept it.

Related: What is Goaltending?

Player Positions On The Court

Before starting a game of basketball for beginners, you should know what position to play. A game typically involves two teams of five members each. 

If you are an amateur, you can play anywhere on the court. However, each position demands a particular ability.


For instance, centers use their height to dominate shorter opponents. They are big and strong and easily cover the basket during the defense. With time and practice, you will be able to identify the position you are most skilled in.

Here's a breakdown of five positions in basketball:

  • Center

The center is the pillar of the defense strategy. This player is often the tallest and quite imposing. They hold a fort around the basket, grab rebounds, and distribute passes to teammates in the open. While driving the offense, the center should dominate the basket area.

  • Small Forward

Adaptability is the key to the success of a small forward. Star players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James can score and play defense. They should be aware of in-game proceedings to create space and steal passes from opponents. It would be best if you honed your short and long shots to exploit a fast-paced game.

  • Power Forward

These guys trail the center in height and strength. They are mostly inside the 3-point line and take advantage of rebounds. While on defense, their size allows them to block shots. Also, their position means they have to confront the other team's center. 

  • Shooting Guard 

The best way to stand out on your team is to score the most points. The shooting guard is always active on the business end of the court. They are also great shooters and can knock in 3-pointers without hesitating. 


The shooting guard also has top-notch dribbling skills to move the ball around. You'll be expected to drive towards the basket during offensive plays. A shooting guard should also be great at defense, particularly against the opposing side's shooting guard. 

It's not easy to cover players who make accurate long shots. However, a tight defense and even an important steal can stop the other team from winning.

  • Point Guard

You must have heard about Stephen Curry's exploits on the court. He's one of the most celebrated point guards in the league.

In general, a point guard must be good at long-range shots. Doing so gives his team more room to move around and convert to gain maximum points when needed. Also, they orchestrate plays with long passes and force the other defenders to spread out.

Shooting is not the only area point guards excel. They are good dribblers and use both hands to conduct the game and get by the defense.

Generally, a point guard is not the most imposing player on the court. However, they make up for their size disadvantage with skill and superior decision-making. Point guards run the offensive plays and pick out open players.

How The Points are Awarded

Generally, points are awarded every time you put the ball inside the basket. For example, you’ll get two points if you shoot from within the 3-point arc and three points outside of this line. After you score, the other team gets the ball.

Free throws are only worth a single point. However, the foul position will determine how many throws you get. Anything beyond the 3-point arc attracts three free throws.

Avoiding Fouls

After fouling another player while shooting, the referee will award a free throw. Generally, it would be best if you watched your plays to avoid giving away easy points. There are different types of fouls, and the most common are personal fouls.

Personal fouls involve dishonest physical contact between two players. The consequences range from the team getting a free throw to an inbound.

You will commit a technical foul if you do not observe the rules and etiquette of the game. The coach and players are at risk if they use offensive language or obscene gestures.

Basketball demands respect from all stakeholders, and you have to play by the rules. Even the warm-up session shouldn't be used for dunking and showmanship.

Related: What is a Reach-In Foul?

Basketball Gear And Equipment

Now that you've got a good idea of how basketball works, you need to get ready to hit the court. Big league players and amateurs alike use similar equipment. Here are the three most important things you'll need while playing basketball.

  • Shoes

You are going to be running across the court for most of the game. Therefore, your feet need to be comfortable enough to prevent sores and injuries. Wearing the wrong sized shoes can severely affect your performance during jumps and dribbling past opponents.

  • Basketball Shorts

It is easier to run in shorts than in trousers. However, you don't necessarily need an extremely short pair. Instead, get something that secures your waist and extends to your knees. Lastly, the material should be light enough to dissipate sweat.

Here are some of the best basketball shorts.

  • Basketball

When playing basketball for beginners, there are different ball sizes. The smallest has a 25.5" circumference. It is often used by younger boys and girls between the ages of five and eight. Further on, the balls get bigger.


The NBA and college leagues use balls that are 29.5" round and weigh 22 ounces. Ideally, you should put in some hours of practice with this size to go professional. 

You will develop the correct handling and shooting technique. Moreover, you are likely to quit playing if you use an incorrectly sized ball. 

Here are some other basketball training aids to help you get better in the game.

The Takeaway

We all love a game of ball on a lazy weekend. However, you must first learn basketball for beginners to enjoy a session with your pals.

As a team sport, understanding basketball means understanding the position and role you want to play during a game. Also, you need to combine your interests and strengths to become a well-rounded athlete. 

Naturally, it takes time to master the game. However, consistent practice will improve your overall ball-handling skills. 

Your physical performance is enhanced because you'll constantly be running and jumping. Weight training is also key to your speed. Eventually, you will get better at making quick decisions during the game.

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast