Parts of the Basketball Court
Taking a look at a basketball court for the first time can leave you confused, with all the lines, circles and hash marks. The basketball court is divided into two equal sides with the same features. Every line and mark on the basketball court means something during the game, and understanding the various parts of the basketball court can help you learn the game better and understand the rules.
Free Throw Lane
The free throw lane is a rectangle in a team's front court and used to line up players during a free throw. The standard free throw lane is 19 feet long by 12 feet wide. The player shooting the free throw stands at the top of the lane, while other players stand in marked spots along each side of the lane. On offense, players may not stand in the lane for more than three seconds unless they are making a move to the basket with the ball. In the NBA, defensive players may not be in the lane for more than three seconds unless they are actively guarding an offensive player. The free throw lane is sometimes referred to as the “paint” or the “key.”
The three-point line is a semicircle that surrounds the basket area on each team's side of the court. Players who stand behind the line and make a field goal are given three points instead of the standard two points for a regular field goal. In high school and women's college basketball, the three-point line is 19 feet 9 inches from the center of the basketball hoop. In men's college basketball, the line is 20 feet 9 inches away. In the NBA, it stands 23 feet 9 inches from the hoop at the top of the arc and 22 feet at the sidelines.
Sidelines and Baselines
The sidelines and baselines of a basketball court mark the outside boundaries for out-of-bounds purposes. The sidelines run the length of the court and the baselines are behind each basket. All standard basketball courts measure 50 feet in width. For high school, the court length is 84 feet, while in college and the NBA it is 94 feet long.
Center Jump Circle
The center jump circle is where the game action starts and has a radius of 6 feet. All players other than the two jumpers must stand outside the circle until the ball is tipped. The center jump circle is not used at any other point in the game other than the opening tip and if a tip is needed to start an overtime period. Two jump circles located at the free throw line are used in the NBA for held ball situations.
The division line is a line running the width of the middle court that divides it into two equal sections. In high school and college, a team has 10 seconds to get the ball across the division line, also known as the halfcourt line. In the NBA, the time requirement is eight seconds.
The basket -- one on each end of the floor -- is made up of a backboard and a ring that holds a net, which is designed to check the ball as it passes through the basket. The standard basketball backboard is 72 inches wide and is positioned 4 feet inside the baseline. The hoop, or ring, stands 10 feet off the floor and is 18 inches in diameter.
James Patterson specializes in health and wellness topics, having written and produced material for the National Institutes of Health, the President's Cancer Panel and an Inc. 500 Hall of Fame company. He is also a former sportswriter with writing experience in basketball, baseball, softball, golf and other popular sports.