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Nothing But Game: Basketball 101

By Amy Hernandez

In the words of Kurtis Blow, “They’re playing basketball. We love that basketball.” I’m super excited to discuss basketball because it is probably my favorite sport. I love and follow a lot of sports, but basketball is dear to my heart. With the new NBA season approaching, I thought now is the perfect time to talk about basketball. It’s been confirmed that the 2020-2021 NBA season will begin on December 22, 2020, and the preseason will begin on December 11th. The preseason refers to the few games played before the start of the regular season among teams that don’t count towards a team’s record and are more like practice. There are currently 30 teams in the NBA, and they are split into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.

NBA season normally starts the last week of October and ends in the second week of June. However, because of the pandemic, there have been many changes, and we’re still learning how this upcoming season will be played. Although the 2019-2020 season ended halfway through October, the players and the commissioner (Adam Silver) agreed that the season would start by December 22nd. This news made fans all over the world happy because it means we will have Christmas day games! Every year on Christmas day, the NBA plays games from morning to late at night. This year we’ll be treated to five games starting at 10:00 a.m (EST) and ending with the last game starting at 10:30 p.m. (EST). If you’re ready to get into basketball and start watching games, here are the basics.

How the Game is Played:


  • An NBA game is made up of 4 quarters

  • Each quarter is 12 minutes long

  • There is a 15-minute halftime break between the quarters

  • Teams get 7 timeouts per game

  • Timeouts are 75 seconds long

  • There is a 24-second shot clock, which refers to how much time players have to shoot the ball once they gain possession

  • Players get the ball out of the backcourt (moving the ball into the frontcourt, which is the half of the court where the team with possession is looking to score) and 5 seconds to inbound the ball, meaning bring the ball inside the court when it goes outside it


  • Players score points by shooting the ball through the basketball hoop

  • During regular play, a shot made outside the 3-point line is worth three-points, and a shot made inside the three-point line is worth 2 points

  • Free throws, which are uncontested shots taken at the free-throw line after a foul has been called, are worth 1 point

  • The number of free throws a player gets after a foul is based on the kind of foul called

Player Positions:

Only 5 players for each team can be on the court at any one time. The five player positions are:

  • Center– The center is usually the tallest player on the court for teams because they play near the basket. Their role on offense is to score on close shots like layups or rebound the ball when a team member misses a shot that hit the rim and bounced inside the court. On defense, they try to block shots from the opposing team and rebound their missed shots.

  • Power Forward– Players in this position do many things done by the centers, such as playing near the basket and guarding taller players, except power forwards are expected to take longer shots.

  • Small Forward– The small forward plays against small and tall players. They play all over the court and have the ability to score for close or far distances.

  • Shooting Guard– Shooting guards are often the best shooters in their team and can make shots from far distances. They’re also skillful dribblers.

  • Point Guard– Point guards are usually the team’s best passer and dribbler because they run the offense. The point guard also defends the opposing team’s point guard and attempts to steal the ball.

I should note that these positions are fluid since, time and time again, we have seen players break the mold of what these positions mean, and oftentimes players become hybrids of the different positions.

Shot Types

Layups– These shots are pretty basic. Players get close to the basket and bounce the ball off the backboard (the board behind and above the rim) with an overhand or underhand motion.

Dunks– Dunks are difficult but very exciting. Players have to elevate above the rim and then slam the ball into the net to dunk.

Jump Shots– Jump shots refer to when a player jumps into the air while releasing the ball from his hands.

Hook Shots– A hook shot is an overhand shot, usually with one hand. It’s called a hook shot because a player’s hand looks like a hook when shooting the ball into the net.

Free Throws– The player stands at the free-throw line and must keep his feet on the ground until releasing the ball. It’s like a jump shot but without the jump, and it’s called a free throw because the shot cannot be defended.

Elite Players in 2020:

LeBron James (Lakers)– I have to give credit where credit is due. Although I’m not a LeBron fan, the man is undeniably elite. At the age of 35 and after 17 seasons, there is no stopping him. He also won his fourth championship in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers. Although I think Michael Jordan is still the GOAT, so many fans argue that James is the best player of all time.

Nicknames: The King, King James

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)– WARDELL STEPHEN CURRY II IS MY FAVORITE PLAYER. Many will agree that he’s the best shooter, definitely the best 3-point shooter of all time, and he is just so much fun to watch. Along with his teammate, Klay Thompson, they are known as the “splash brothers” because they are scoring machines, and their shots usually go in without hitting the rim or backboard, sounding and looking like a splash.

Nicknames: Baby-Faced Assassin, Chef Curry, Splash Brother

Anthony Davis (Lakers)– At 6’10, Anthony Davis is an elite power forward/center. He is an explosive offensive and defensive player, which is why he is so valuable. He is a huge reason why the Lakers won the championship in 2020, and at 27 years old, he has a lot left.

Nicknames: The Brow, AD

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)– Giannis is 26 and already a back-to-back Most Valuable Player (MVP). He won the MVPs in 2019 and 2020. Like Anthony Davis, he is “a big” that is so difficult to defend. He is not as strong a shooter as AD, but he makes it up with everything else he does.

Nickname: The Greek Freak

James Harden (Rockets)– James Harden is currently with the Rockets, but he might be leaving soon since there have been talks that Harden wants to be traded to another team. Like the other names mentioned, Harden is one of the best offensive players to ever play in the NBA. He is a master of the Euro step and the step-back 3-pointer.

Nickname: The Beard

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kevin Durant

  • Kawhi Leonard

  • Luka Dončić

  • Klay Thompson (sadly, he won’t play this season because he suffered a torn Achilles)

  • Kyrie Irving

  • Joel Embiid

  • Damian Lillard

Amy Hernandez is an editorial intern dedicated to researching and writing about all things skincare, film, and fashion.

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