Cheerleaders perform at during a LA Lakers gam...

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So girls, what is Basketball? To our immediate eye… Extremely tall guys in oversized baggy shorts playing netball but being able to run with the ball? Ok, there is some truth to that, but add in, bouts of athleticism, a whole lot of drama and stamina our own Paula Ratcliffe would be proud of!

These are the real reasons to why basketball is one of America’s and now Europe’s most popular and lucrative sports.

The NBA (National Basketball Association) was founded in 1946 and consists of thirty teams, of which twenty-nine are located in the United States and one in Canada. The NBA is one of the four major North American professional sports leagues, which include Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL). Teams you may be familiar with could include.. LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, to name a few!

The season runs generally from late October to late April, only pausing in February for the NBA All Stars Game, where the best players from the Eastern conference (or league), play the best from the Western. Each team plays every other team in their conference during the regular season at their home ground and also away. Each team hosts and visits every other team at least once every season.

The NBA Playoffs begin in late April, with eight teams in each conference going for the Championship (like the playoffs in The Championship with English football). Each team plays each other in a seven match playoff – the one winning the first 4 games continuing in the tournament. The final playoff round, a best-of-seven series between the victors of both conferences, is known as the NBA Finals, and is held annually in June. This is a huge event in the US sporting calendar and basically takes over the country on game days.

So an important part of learning about the game is knowing a few of the most famous players. Probably the most famous and influential player to grace the courts is Michael Jordan.

You know those trainers with the air bubble in the sole? Well they are the Air Jordans, named after a move invented by the most successful and talented player the game has seen – Michael Jordan.

He played for the Chicago Bulls and with his help they won near enough everything for about 8 years on the spin. Jordan now has clothing lines, starred in adverts, films – the lot. Present NBA stars include, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant who both played for the LA Lakers (basketball’s equivalent of Manchester United) and have had numerous product endorsements. Like Football’s (Soccer’s) David Beckham, these basketball stars didn’t take long to become world wide super stars.

Basketball attracts a very varied crowd from families to groups of guys to A-List celebrities. How many photos of Leo DiCaprio, Owen Wilson, Jay-Z and Beyonce have you seen where they are enjoying the sport? That’s because it is an easy sport to grasp and even easier to enjoy.

There are 5 people per team (Centres, Forwards and Guards), it is played on a court, is divided into four 12 minute quarters time wise and each team must score by throwing, shooting or dunking (unfortunately no donuts!!) the ball through the basket. Each basket is 10 feet off the floor which means that although the men are normally very tall who play it – a running jump to put it into the hoop or slam dunk is common.

The game starts with a ‘tip-off’. The official will toss the ball up between the two teams, who nominate a player to take on someone from the other team to win the ball. The player that gets his hands on the ball will tip it to a teammate and then play begins.

The most obvious difference between netball and basketball, is that you can run with the ball in. You have to bounce the ball basically all the time that you are walking and running with it. You can still pass the ball as in netball, but you can only hold it for more than 5 seconds and if you walk/run and do not take a bounce for a step and a half and– you will commit a foul. This is called “Travelling” and is a big no-no girls.

The court is divided into two main sections by the mid-court line. If the offensive team puts the ball into play behind the mid-court line, it has ten seconds to get the ball over the mid-court line. If it doesn’t, then the defense gets the ball. Once the offensive team gets the ball over the mid-court line, it can no longer have possession of the ball in the area in back of the line. If it does, the defense is awarded the ball.

The ball is moved down the court toward the basket by passing or dribbling. The team with the ball is called the offense. The team without the ball is called the defense. They try to steal the ball, contest shots, steal and deflect passes, and go for rebounds to score.

When a team makes a basket, they score two points and the ball goes to the other team. If a basket, or field goal, is made outside of the three-point arc, then that basket is worth three points. A free throw is worth one point.

You girls, may have seen basketball in films such as Love and Basketball and White Men Can’t Jump you will therefore know that after foul play a basket must be sunk from a static position, similar to that of a penalty in football. This is known as a free throw.

Fouling a shooter always results in two or three free throws being awarded the shooter, depending upon where he was when he shot. If he was beyond the three-point line, then he gets three shots. Other types of fouls do not result in free throws being awarded until a certain number have accumulated during a half. Once that number is reached, then the player who was fouled is awarded a ‘1-and-1’ opportunity. If he makes his first free throw, he gets to attempt a second. If he misses the first shot, the ball is live on the rebound. Being rough with other players, “charging” them, “blocking”, swearing from the touchline and over questioning the referee are also, all considered fouls, and will all result in free throws.

Games are normally very tight score wise and very exciting. More and more teams are now playing games in the UK for the BBL (British Basketball League) and the rest of Europe in order to expand the popularity of the league. UK teams that are currently top of their game include, The Newcastle Eagles and The Mersey Tigers. Keep an eye out for them!

So girls – if it’s good enough for Miss Beyonce Knowles – it’s good enough for us!!!


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