Intro to Basketball

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When your little one says he wants to be the next LeBron James, do you think, "Who's that?" LeBron is a small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the biggest name in basketball since Michael Jordan. But now you have to know what to do about your child's interest.

The good news is that basketball is widely accessible. All you need to get started is a good pair of high-top basketball shoes, a ball, and a local playground. Many schools include basketball as part of their physical education curriculum or have a team that your child can try out for. There are also recreational, club, church, or synagogue leagues.

Basketball season is in the winter, but if your child's interest level is higher, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) probably has both girls' and boys' teams near you that play in tournaments all year round.

The bad news is that basketball is not easily mastered. Even though it began simply enough, when Dr. James Naismith nailed a peach basket to a balcony, it has evolved into a sport that demands not just athletic skill but also a willingness to practice and a grasp of its many rules.

Intro to Basketball

Here are the basketball basics:

  • Two teams of five players play on a court 94 feet in length. At each end of the court there is a rim and net attached to a backboard 10 feet off the ground.
  • The game gets started with a jump ball, when the referee throws the ball into the air and two opposing players try to tip it to their team.
  • A basket is when the ball goes through the rim, and each basket counts for one, two, or three points, depending on where on the floor the shooter is. Each team tries to prevent the other from making baskets.
  • Once a team has scored, it runs to the other end of the court to play defense.
  • The five positions on the floor can vary but usually consist of:
    • a point guard (who runs the offense)
    • a shooting guard (who plays on the perimeter)
    • a small forward (who also plays on the perimeter)
    • a power forward (who plays near the basket)
    • a center (who plays near the basket)
  • A rebound is when a shot is missed and a player, on defense or offense, grabs the ball.
  • An assist is when a player passes to a teammate who then scores without dribbling the ball.
  • A steal is when a defensive player takes the ball from an offensive player.
  • A blocked shot is when a defensive player knocks away an offensive player's shot.
  • A foul is an overly physical action against an opponent that a referee whistles; if a player accumulates five such fouls, he is ejected from the game.
  • Depending on the level of play, there are either two halves or four quarters in a game.

There are more complicated nuances of basketball, but you will pick them up quickly as your child becomes more active in the sport. Your child may not become the next LeBron, but that shouldn't stop him — or you — from enjoying the game.

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