Story: Basketball

Page 1. Game and structure

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The game

Basketball is a fast-moving team sport played indoors on a rectangular court divided in half by the midcourt line. Two teams of five players each attempt to score by shooting a ball through a hoop (which is 3.48 metres high and mounted on a backboard) at either end of the court. These are called baskets, which they originally were.

Players move the ball down the court by dribbling (bouncing) or passing (throwing) it to a team-mate. The team with the ball is called the offence; the other team is the defence. The defence tries to steal the ball by intercepting passes, contesting shots and winning rebounds (shots that rebound off the hoop or the backboard). Each team defends their own basket and scores in their opponent’s basket. When a team makes a basket (the ball falls through the hoop), they score two points and possession of the ball passes to the other team. If a basket is made from outside the three-point arc, it is worth three points. Free-throws, awarded for a foul and taken from the free throw line, are worth one point.

Each game is usually divided into halves and then quarters of between six and 12 minutes. The gap between the halves is longer than between the quarters. If the game is tied at full-time, overtime periods are played until a winner emerges.

There is no limit to the number of substitutions allowed. Once a player has incurred five fouls they are ejected from the game.

Basketball New Zealand

In 2012 New Zealand basketball was managed by Basketball New Zealand (BBNZ). It comprised 36 associations in four zones: the upper North Island, mid-North Island, lower North Island and South Island. Wheelchair Basketball New Zealand was an associate member.

Basketball scholarship

In 2012 Lincoln University extended its sports scholarship programme to include basketball. This was a result of increased public awareness and interest in the sport as well as recognition that increasing numbers of scholarship recipients were very strong basketball players.

Competitive basketball

National teams

The New Zealand men’s basketball team is called the Tall Blacks. The national women’s team is the Tall Ferns. There are 10 other national teams, including the Junior Tall Blacks and Junior Tall Ferns.

New Zealand Breakers

An Auckland-based professional men’s team, the New Zealand Breakers, joined the Australian National Basketball League in 2003.

Men’s and women’s competitions

In 2012 men’s basketball comprised two leagues: the first-division National Basketball League (NBL) and the second-division Conference Basketball League (CBL). Women’s basketball did not have a national league. Instead, regional teams played in the Women’s Basketball Championships (WBC), three three-day tournaments around the country.

Secondary schools

In 2012 BBNZ together with local associations hosted Junior Premiership Tournaments (years 9 and 10) and Senior Premiership and National Championship Tournaments.

Participation rates

A 2008 SPARC survey placed basketball as having the 17th-highest participation rate among various sport and recreational activities, with 6.3% of New Zealand adults having played the game over a 12-month period. Of adults who played the game:

  • 72.2% were men
  • 58.3% were aged 16–24
  • 48.4% were European, 24.5% Māori, 12.1% Pacific and 19.2% Asian.

The game particularly appealed to men and young adults. The high rate of Māori participation may be due to early Mormon influence on the game – a relatively high proportion of Mormons are Māori.

In 2018 basketball was the second most popular sport in secondary schools, behind netball.

How to cite this page:

John Saker, 'Basketball - Game and structure', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 28 October 2021)

Story by John Saker, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Oct 2015