Multiple Teams · Basketball Primer #1

The winter sports seasons are upon us and with Basketball, Soccer and Swimming taking up the Kempner Sports Calendar I felt it was a good time to start with some winter sports primers.  These articles as I can produce them will start with the fundamentals of the sport including basic terms and as many images as I can find, to help clarify things.

The first part of the series will cover the court itself and some things that as parents/fans you can look for.  The length and width of the court is set based upon the level of competition as the table below show.

Court Dimensions High School College International NBA WNBA
Court Length 85′ 94′ 28m/(91’10”) 94′ 94′
Court Width 50′ 50′ 15m/(49’2.5″) 50′ 50′
Lane Width 12′ 12′ 4.9m/(16′) 16′ 12′
Three Point Line 19’9″ 19’9″ 6.25m/(20’6.1″) 23’9″ 19’9″
Period Time (Number of Periods) 8min (4) 20min (2) 10min (4) 12min (4) 10min (4)


Beyond that every court will have the following lines and markings

  1. Sidelines
  2. End Lines/ Baseline
  3. Mid Court Line
  4. Three Point Line
  5. Free Throw Line
  6. Free Throw Circle
  7. Free Throw Lane/Lane
  8. Center Circle


So a brief description of each marking

  1. The sidelines are the two boundaries lines running the length of the court. Their location is determined by the width of the court, which is normally 50 feet wide. Along with Baseline and End line they establish the size of the playing area
  2. The Baseline/Endline runs from sideline to sideline behind the backboard at the ends of the court.  They are located four feet behind the basket, and normally have a width of 50 feet. Baseline and Endline are interchangeable terms depending upon which team has ball position. Baseline is used for the offensive end of the court. Endline is used for the back court or defensive end of the court.
  3. The mid court line divides the court in half. Offensively, once the ball crosses the Mid Court Line, it becomes a boundary line reducing the offensive playing area to just half of the court. Also, on most levels, the offensive team only has 8 to 10 seconds to advance the ball across the mid court line.
  4. Field Goals made from outside this Three Point Line or arc count as three points. The distance of the three point line from the basket varies according to the different levels of play.
  5. This line is used as a boundary line when shooting free throws. It is fifteen feet away from the backboard. On a free throw attempt, the shooter cannot step on or across this line until the ball strikes the rim. The free throw line is also used in defining the three second area.
  6. The free throw circles have a diameter of 12 feet. They come into play on free throws and jump balls. During a free throw attempt, the shooter must remain inside the free throw circle. On jump balls, non-jumpers must remain outside the circle until the ball is tapped by one of the jumpers.
  7. Lane lines are boundaries running from the free throw line to the baseline. The width and shape of the lane lines vary on different levels of the game. The lane lines also contain lane spaces markings used to align and separate the non-shooters. The first lane space, on both sides of the basket, are occupied by the opposing team from the free throw shooter. Non-shooters cannot step into the three second area until the ball leaves the free throw shooter’s hand.
  8. The Center Circle is a 12 foot diameter circle located in the center of the court. It is used to start the game and other jump ball situations. On jump balls, non-jumpers must remain outside the circle until the ball is tapped by one of the jumpers.  There are times where the circle is replaced by a team logo.  Kempner actually does both, the logo is sitting inside the center circle, thus allowing the function and identification of the court.

In the next article we will take a look at the court in greater detail and then move on to things like offensive and defensive strategies and player positions.