What Are the Differences in Football & Basketball?

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant(L) and Chicag

American football and basketball are the two most popular sports in the United States. Each day, millions of young football players and basketball players watch and idolize their favorite teams and favorite players in the NFL and NBA, dreaming of one day being that professional basketball or football star who is playing their favorite sport in front of packed stadiums.

While many young athletes play both football and basketball, the two sports could not be more different. So, what exactly are the differences in football and basketball?

Football vs. Basketball Balls

Both basketball and football are played with leather or composite leather balls, but the similarities end there.

Key differences:

  • Basketballs are round and give a good true bounce every time
  • Footballs have an oblong shape and take some weird bounces when they hit the ground
  • The football's shape is designed to fly better in the air and be easier to catch
  • Basketballs are larger and heavier than footballs

Size and Type of Playing Surface

Basketball courts are much shorter and narrower than football fields.

  • Regulation basketball courts used in the National Basketball Association measure 94 feet by 50 feet
  • Professional football fields are 120 yards by 53.3 yards, or 360 feet by 160 feet

Indoor basketball courts usually are made of wood, while football fields use natural grass or a synthetic.

Arizona Cardinals vs Green Bay Packers - October 29, 2006

Number of Players

Both basketball and football are considered team sports since there are several players playing at once, making teamwork a commonality between these otherwise very different sports.

  • Basketball teams are permitted to play with five players on the court at one time, meaning there will be 10 players on the court at any given time between the two teams
  • Football teams play with either 11 offensive players or 11 defensive players on the field, meaning there will be 22 total players on the field at any given time between the two teams

Basketball teams usually have between 12 and 15 players on the roster, while football rosters can range from 50 in professional play to 85 in college games.

Style of Play and Point Systems

Football and basketball have decidedly different styles of play based on the rules.

  • Football is a full-contact sport, with tackles and physical confrontations and collisions on every play
  • Basketball is considered a non-contact sport and by rule physical contact in basketball is a violation that can result in a foul
  • Basketball games are generally more high-scoring than football
  • Basketball teams are awarded only 2 or 3 points for a made field goal and 1 point for a made free throw
  • Football grants 6 points for a touchdown when a player reaches the endzone, 3 points for a field goal and 2 points for a safety, but scoring is much less frequent than in basketball
Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

Length of Games

Football games are played for significantly longer times than basketball games.

  • Football games at the professional and college level have 60 minutes of game play, while high school football plays 48-minute games
  • Basketball plays 48-minute games at the pro level, 40-minute games in college and 32-minute games in high school

It is important to note that both football and basketball games have several stoppages due to timeouts, fouls or penalties and halftime, which means both last much longer than the game play time.