Guide to Basketball

May 26, 2021
Welcome to the world of basketball, where superstars reign supreme and everyone is just looking to build the next dream team.
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Guide to Basketball


Professional basketball is made up of four quarters lasting 12 minutes each. Five players on each team are on the court at the same time. The point of the game is to shoot a basketball through a hoop to earn the most most points. A basket counts as either two or three points, depending on how far the shooter was from the basket when they hit the shot.

Courtside seats gives fans unprecedented access to the players, so basketball brings out celebrity sightings like no other sport. Just check out the dynamic combo of Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Tracy Morgan and Leslie Jones catching a NY Knicks game. Can we get in on that or what?

How is it organized?

The highest level of the sport is the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). Let's start with the NBA: The league's 30 teams (29 in the U.S. and one in Canada) are equally divided into two conferences (East and West), and each of those conferences are further divided into three divisions.

The best of the best

There are two teams tied with the most championships in NBA history: Both the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers have snagged a whopping 17 (!!!) titles. And while the Celtics haven't hoisted that hardware since 2008, the Lakers claimed their most recent crown during the NBA’s historic 2020 bubble season played at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

As for the game's greats, LA Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been the league's MVP more than any other player in history, winning the award six times — but Chicago Bull icon Michael Jordan has an edge in the GOAT debate: MJ was named MVP five times, but the award's current hardware is literally the Michael Jordan Trophy. All hail.

Current NBA superstars include four-time MVP LeBron James (LA Lakers). three-time winner Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets), and the Milwaukee Bucks' two-time titleholder Giannis Antetokoumpo (pronounced YAWN-is ah-deh-too-KOOM-boh). Don't sleep on these hoopers.

When is the NBA season?

The NBA's regular season, where each team plays 82 games, runs from October to April, with postseason play extending into June. Eight months of basketball? Yes, please.

Play like a girl (it’s better that way)

The WNBA, one of the best women's professional sports leagues in North America, features basketball bosses getting airtime on top sports networks. The women's regular season runs from mid-May through mid-September, with each of the 12 teams playing 40 games. The playoffs can stretch into late October, though, so cosplaying your fave hooper for Halloween is always a bucket.

Leading the charge for the ladies? Retired three-time MVP winners Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), Lisa Leslie (LA Sparks), and Lauren Jackson (Seattle Storm). And two current ballers to watch have already bagged that title twice: the Las Vegas Aces' A'ja Wilson and the NY Liberty's Breanna Stewart.

Wow! Can I get more info on the WNBA?

Absolutely! The league has actually been around since 1997, though only three teams remain from inception: the New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury. Go deeper on how the league is organized here.

These women still have a long way to go before reaching parity with their professional male counterparts. But thanks to fresh generational talents like Caitlin Clark (Indiana Fever) and Angel Reese (Chicago Sky) drawing major audiences, women's basketball is the moment — and it's one you don't want to miss.