Thirteen Rules of Basketball - James Naismith

Inventor Creates Rules that Survive Today

Basketball is an original American game invented by Dr. James Naismith in 1891. He designed it with rules of its own. These are the rules published in January, 1892 in the school newspaper where he instituted the game.

The rules set out a game that is a non-contact sport played indoors. They are familiar enough that those who enjoy basketball over 100 years later will recognize it as the same sport.

While there are other, newer rules, these still form the heart of the game.

Original 13 Rules of Baskeball by James Naismith

1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
Current rule: This is still a current rule, except that now the team isn't allowed to pass it back over the midcourt line once they have taken it over that line.

2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands, but never with the fist.
Current rule: This is still a current rule.

3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man running at good speed.
Current rule: Players can dribble the ball with one hand as they run or pass, but they can't run with the ball when catching a pass.

4. The ball must be held by the hands. The arms or body must not be used for holding it.
Current rule: Still applies, it would be a traveling violation.

5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, striking or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitution shall be allowed.


Current rule: These actions are fouls and a player may be disqualified with five or six fouls or get an ejection or suspension with a flagrant foul.

6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violations of Rules 3 and 4 and such as described in Rule 5.
Current rule: Still applies.

7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls it shall count as a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).
Current rule: Instead of an automatic goal, sufficient team fouls (five in a quarter for NBA play) now award bonus free throws attempts to the opposing team.

8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do no touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
Current rule: In the original game, the basket was a basket and not a hoop with a net. This rule evolved into the goaltending and defense pass interference rules. Defenders can't touch the rim of the hoop once the ball has been shot.

9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field and played by the first person touching it.

In case of dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on them.
Current rule: The ball is now thrown in by a player from the opposite team of the player who last touched it before it went out of bounds. The 5-second rule is still operative.

10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.
Current rule: In NBA basketball, there are three referees.

11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time.

He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the goals, with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.
Current rule: Timekeepers and scorekeepers now do some of these tasks, while the referee determines ball possession.

12. The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.
Current rule: This varies by the level of play, such as high school and collegiate. In the NBA, there are four quarters, each 12 minutes long, with a 15-minute halftime break.

13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner. 
Current: The winner is now decided by points. In the NBA, five-minute overtime periods are played in case of a tie at the end of the fourth quarter, with the point total at the end determining the winner. If still tied, they play another overtime period.

More: The History of Basketball and Dr. James Naismith