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Basketball

Learn about this Summer Olympic sport

April 27, 2012
JED JACOBSOHN—GETTY IMAGES

United States athlete Dwight Howard goes to the basket against Spain's Rudy Fenandez and Pau Gasol in the gold medal game of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Canadian James Naismith invented basketball in 1891. The original game used peach baskets as goals. The sport was added to the Olympic roster in 1904. It was considered an exhibition sport until it made its official debut as a medal sport at the 1936 games in Berlin, Germany.

Rules of the Game

Olympic basketball rules differ slightly from the National Basketball Association's (NBA) rules. Instead of four periods that last 12 minutes each, there are two periods that last 20 minutes each. The shot clock is set at 30 seconds instead of 24. And if needed, the overtime period lasts for only five minutes. In Olympic basketball, the rim and net are about three inches lower, and the 3-point line is shorter, making it easier for players to score 3-point shots.

Twenty-four international teams compete in the Olympic Games. Men and women compete in separate tournaments of 12 teams each. The 12 teams are divided into two groups of six teams. Each team is labeled either "A" or "B". Each team plays against the other five teams in its group. The four highest-ranked teams on each side move on to the quarterfinal round. In this round, team A1 goes up against team B4, team A2 against team B3, team A3 against team B2 and team A4 against team B1. The winning teams move on to the semifinal round. The two winning teams from the semifinal round shoot for the gold medal.
The two losing teams from semifinals play against each other for bronze.


Click here to read about beach volleyball at the Olympic Games.

Click here to go back to “Summer Olympic Games.”


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