Olympics 2012: how to get involved in basketball


A sport handed on to humanity by giraffes, basketball requires you to fling a huge bouncy ball through a hoop placed at roughly the height of a first-floor window. More than once. Surprisingly, it has caught on and is now a hugely popular game worldwide. The best thing for you is that, with the large numbers of free courts available across the UK, you can practise at night without anybody watching.

The basics

Two teams of five try to score in the opposing team’s hoop while defending their own. A “D” surrounds either basket; it’s two points for a shot scored from within it and three from outside. You can dribble or pass to move the ball around, but cannot walk without bouncing it (“travelling”) or carry on dribbling after taking it in both hands (“double dribble”). Obstructive physical contact results in a foul and a set number of free shots from a line inside the D.

Wheelchair basketball operates along pretty much the same lines, except that “travelling” occurs when a competitor touches his or her wheels more than twice after gaining possession. Able-bodied athletes in chairs are allowed to compete at every stage other than international level, but the game operates a disability classification system to ensure a level playing field. Find out more about that here.

Health benefits

The quickfire nature of basketball play means it’s great for burning calories and CV conditioning, as well as improving balance and coordination. You can play indoors or out, meaning fresh air in summer and survivable temperatures in winter. Meanwhile, if US sitcoms are to be believed, shooting hoops over a chat in front of your suburban garage is a good way of resolving your problems.

Equipment, costs and practicalities

A decent ball can be had from about £8. Basketball shoes come in a range of prices but when you’re starting out normal trainers are fine. Due to the prevalence of free courts there’s no real pressure to join a club straight away, but if you fancy a challenge, or haven’t got any mates, find your local club here and inquire about sessions for beginners.

The same goes for wheelchair basketball, although it might be more of a struggle to rock up at a court and find people to play with. Luckily on the Wheelchair Basketball Association’s homepage there’s a club finder – or you can give the office a call on 01509 279 900 to find your local.

Trendiness rating: 9/10

The game of urban America, basketball has always been one of the world’s coolest sports. Looking cool playing it, though, takes a bit longer.

Inside line

Stephanie Gagne of the GBWBA on wheelchair basketball: “There are lots of opportunities for people to play wheelchair basketball across the country at all different levels. It’s a fast, fun and competitive game and offers massive social and fitness benefits to all those looking for a new sporting challenge. The game accommodates a wide range of the disabled, including paraplegics, amputees, and those with spina bifida, brittle bones, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. You don’t even need a sports wheelchair or even to be in a wheelchair everyday to go along and try the sport. Clubs will be more than welcoming for anyone new to come in and have a go and will normally have spare wheelchairs for those wanting to try it out.”

Find out more

England basketball – the website for the sport’s governing body in England.

Basketball Scotland

Basketball Wales

Basketball Northern Ireland

British Wheelchair Basketball

NBA – the official website of the world’s glitziest basketball league.

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Over to you

Do you play basketball? Help us build up this resource by sharing tips, videos, links to clubs and anything else that beginners might find useful

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