Basketball Betting & Sports Guide

basketball hoop and ballTwo teams go head-to-head in attempt to outscore each other by putting a ball through a net at the opposite end of a court to where they start the match. That’s the quick summary of basketball, though in reality it’s actually far more convoluted than that. It’s one of the fastest games out there, making it a thrilling one to watch.

The NBA is the sport’s governing body and sees 30 teams go up against each other over the course of a season. They are in two conferences and the top 8 from each goes into the Play-Offs at the end of the season to decide the overall winner.

Best Basketball Bookie



Basketball is a global sport these days and so you have a lot of choice compared to some other sports.  That being said there are still a few sites that stand out, and for us Unibet is the best overall for betting on the sport.

They have one of the biggest depths of market with good vlaue prices, but becuase they are a little more European compared to many UK-only bookies it means they cover all the world leagues in as much detail as the American leagues.

Unibet are also one of the only online bookmakers to consistently offer promotions for Basketball.

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Betting On Basketball

The Term What It Means
Point Spread This is essentially a handicap imposed on one of the teams to make it fairer. The team that is considered the favourite will ‘give’ a number of points to the underdog.
Totals or Over/Under What will the combined score of both teams be? That is what you’re betting on here. Usually you’ll have a chance to bet ‘over’ or ‘under’ a certain scoreline.
The Money Line This is a bet on who will win the game without the Point Spread. Sometimes you can bet on more specific things like who’ll win the 1st quarter.
Player Bets Most bookmakers will offer you odds on the likes of how many rebounds a player will score, what a player’s total score will be and so on.

Compared to some of the other American sports, basketball is actually relatively easy to bet on. There’s still some stuff that you’d benefit from knowing before you go to place your wager, however. The table above takes a look at those key terms:

Obviously that’s more of a look at the type of bet that you can place on basketball rather than specific ones, but it gives you an idea of the sort of wagers you can look to be placing if you want to.

If it still seems a little bit confusing then another way of thinking about it is that the Points Spread is a handicap, the Over / Under is a bet on how many ‘goals’ will be scored, the Money Line is like football’s Match Winner bet and Play Bets are reasonably self-explanatory.

The History Of Basketball

James Naismith

basketball james naismith stampInvented by a Canadian named James Naismith, basketball was originally created as a gentler alternative to American football that would lead to less injuries and keep players fit during the winter. He came up with the game using peach baskets as the goals and soccer balls as the thing the players needed to score with.

He codified his rules in 1891, but the game didn’t really start to take off until the National Collegiate Athletic Association was formed in 1909 and then the Basketball Association Of America, which would become the National Basketball Association, in 1946.

The Game’s Formative Years

RulesIn the beginning there were just thirteen rules to Naismith’s game. These were as follows:

  1. The can be thrown with one or both hands in any direction
  2. You can use one or both hands to bat the ball in any direction
  3. You can’t run with the ball, instead having to throw it from where you’ve caught it. Some leeway is given to players who catch it when on the move
  4. Neither the arms nor the body can be used to hold the ball, only the hands
  5. Pushing, tripping, shouldering, striking and holding of an opponent is a foul. The first infringement of this rule will be called as a foul, whilst the second will result in the player being disqualified until a goal is scored. If there’s a serious intent to injure the player will be ruled out for the rest of the game
  6. Violations of any of the previous rules or the striking of the ball with the fist will be deemed a foul
  7. 3 consecutive fouls will see the opponent given a goal
  8. A goal requires the ball to be either batted or thrown from the ground into the basket without it coming back out. If the ball rests on the edge and the basket is moved deliberately then it’s no goal
  9. If the ball goes out of play it will be thrown back in by the person first touching it, with the umpire throwing it in cases of dispute. Throwers will get 5 seconds and if they take longer than that it will go to the opposition. If a team keeps doing this in an attempt to waste time it will be a foul
  10. Umpires will be the judge of play and keep track of fouls, informing the referee after 3 consecutive fouls
  11. The referee is the judge of whether the ball is in-play, which team is in control of it and whether a goal has been scored. He keeps track of time and the number of goals scored
  12. The match lasts for halves of 15 minutes with a 5 minute break between them
  13. The winning team is the one with the most goals at the end of the match. If it’s a draw, the two captains can decide to play on until a deciding goal is scored

Because the game involved throwing a ball into boxes that were nailed to the lower railing of a gym’s balcony, the janitor had to come out with a ladder to retrieve the ball any time a goal was scored. This eventually led to the removal of the bottom of the fruit basket.

Basketball Development

basketball chart and whistleThe first ever game of basketball was played on the 21st of December 1891. It saw 9 players take on 9 others and someone originally suggested that it be called Naismith’s Game. Naismith, however, was far more magnanimous and suggested that the rather more obvious name of ‘basketball’ be given to it. The game ended 1-0, with the goal scored by William R. Chase; a far cry from modern day basketball!

In 1906 it was decided that the peach basket should be replaced by a metal hoop, with nets and backboards also introduced. This was around the same time that the soccer ball used in the first games was replaced by a Spalding that more closely resembles what players today would recognise as a basketball.

The Game Spreads

basketball international matchThe spread of basketball as a sport came from a somewhat unlikely source. The Young Men’s Christian Association used the game as a means of entertaining the young people in its care, seeing it played through the US and Canada.

The sport went international in 1893 when Mel Rideout played it with Europeans in Paris. At the same sort of time a game was organised in China by Bob Gailey, India by Duncan Patton, Persia by C. Hareek and Japan by Genzabaro Ishikawa.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the game’s movement around the world was the outbreak of the First World War. Numerous physical eduction teachers, who had learnt Naismith’s game to teach their pupils, joined the American Expeditionary Force when the United States joined the war in 1917.

They took basketballs with them and played with the rest of the troops, introducing them and the locals to this new sport.

Basketball Becomes Professional

basketball arena

Six teams took place in the first professional league when it was founded in 1898. The Trenton Nationals were the first winners of the newly formed division, though it only lasted 6 years before being abandoned.

Even so. The desire to play the game on a competitive level had been proven, so small championships popped up all over the place. The Original Celtics, typically considered to be the ‘fathers’ of the game, required players to sign contracts to play for them. They soon became the strongest team around until ownership issues caused its disbandment in 1928.

Nevertheless, the sport continued to grow, including the formation of the first all African American professional team, the Rens, in 1922. They even won the first World Professional Basketball Tournament when it was formed in 1939. More leagues and tournaments sprang up around America throughout the 1920s and 1930s, but it was the continued development of the game and its popularity at the college level that saw it truly become one of America’s most popular sports.

The Formation Of FIBA

basketball fiba logoThe game’s popularity grew and grew, not least of all in Europe where it became the sport to play in the likes of Italy and France. It got to such a point that it was felt that a proper international organisation was needed in order to help coordinate the matches and tournaments being played.

The Fédération internationale de basketball amateur was created on the 18th of June 1932, formed by representatives of Switzerland, Romania, Argentina, Latvia, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, Italy and Greece. FIBA was a huge part of the reason that basketball was included in the roster of sports for the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936, with games being played on an outdoor clay court and won by the US team.

The NBA Is Formed

NBA CityPerhaps the most influential moment in basketball’s history came about in 1946 when a basketball league was formed under the moniker of the Basketball Association of America. In 1949 it merged with the National Basketball League and changed its name to the National Basketball Association, which go on to become the world’s most important professional league in the sport.

Back in its formative years, however, the NBA saw some opposition, most notably in the form of the American Basketball Association. The ABA offered a different attitude to the sport when compared to its more poplar alternative, including some different rules.

The ABA was all about excitement and entertainment, including promotions and three-point shots. The NBA wasn’t so stuck in its ways as to refuse to realise that the ABA had something, The result was a merger of the two competitions in 1976, with four of the ABA teams joining the NBA.

Basketball Rules And How To Play

basketball graphicWhilst it looks chaotic, a basketball game is actually a very structured affair and has a similar aim to most sports: for one team to score more points than the other. It is played on a rectangular court that has a basket at each end, with the two teams attempting to get the ball through the net at the end of the court that the opposition is defending.

As soon as the game gets underway, the offensive team has 8 seconds to get the ball across the mid-court line. If the offensive side fails to manage that then possession of the ball switches to the other team and the original side then becomes the defending team. Players can move the ball up the court either by passing it to a teammate or by dribbling it, which requires them to bounce the ball rather than carry it.

The defensive team will attempt to get the ball for themselves by ‘stealing’ it, which they can do by deflecting passes, contesting shots or getting hold of a rebound. The court is labelled with numerous markings, the most important of which is a semi-circular arc that indicates the 3-point line. Net a basket from within the line and you will earn your team 2 points, whilst a basket scored outside the line is worth 3 points.

A foul outside the line is rewarded with 3 free shots, whilst a foul committed inside the line will see the offensive team receive 2 free shots. A player can then attempt to score a basket without being interfered with by the defensive team, with each free shot being worth 1 point. Ties can’t happen in basketball so overtime is played if the score is level at the end of the game.

  • Length: 48 mins plus stoppages
  • Intervals: 4 quarters (12 mins)
  • Players: 10 (5 / Team) Plus 8 subs
  • Draws Possible: No

The Development Of The Rules

basketball tatics

The rules have developed over the years, with the original game devised by Naismith offering no specific advice on how many players should be in each team. The decision to have 5 players on each side as standard came about in 1900, with players who were substituted off not allowed to reenter play. That changed in 1921 when they were allowed to come back on once, then in 1934 it moved to twice.

The rules on subs were abolished in 1945 and instead became limitless. 4 years later and coaching was allowed for the first time, with coaches allowed to speak to their players during time outs. The disqualification of players committing 2 fouls moved to 4 in 1911 and then 4 in 1945. That has remained the case in games of 40 minutes, but in games of 48 minutes, such as in the NBA, that is extended to 6 fouls.

The rule on needing to get the ball past the halfway point was originally based on a time limit of 10 seconds, with FIBA reducing this to 8 seconds in 2000 and the NBA joining them the flooding year. The 10 second rule is still used by the NCAA and women’s basketball, as well as US high schools.

The 3 second rule, prohibiting players from remaining near the opposition’s basket for longer than 3 seconds, was introduced in 1936. The same rule was applied to defensive players in 2001 after the NBA began allowing zone defensive play.

basketball game

The shot clock, which is one of the most exciting aspects of basketball in many people’s eyes, came about in 1954 with the aim of speeding up the play. Teams had to have a shot within 24 seconds of them taking possession of the ball, with the clock resetting when the ball touched either the rim of the basket or the backboard. FIBA decided on a 30 second shot-clock in 1956, with the clock being reset when a shot was even attempted, adopting the NBA’s rules in 2000.

Perhaps the biggest change to basketball came with the introduction of dribbling in 1901. It wasn’t allowed during the initial rules and even when it was introduced it had limits; players could only bounce the ball once and were not allowed to shoot after dribbling. That changed in 1909 and running with the ball was no longer a foul in 1922, becoming a violation that resulted in the loss of possession instead.

Basketball Main Competitions & Leagues

basketball competitions

There are a virtually limitless number of basketball competitions around the world, depending on how seriously you want the organising body to be. Here are some of the biggest ones:

  • National Basketball Association
  • Women’s National Basketball Association
  • National Basketball League
  • British Basketball League
  • FIBA Europe Cup
  • Basketball Champions League
  • EuroCup Basketball
  • EuroBasket

Basketball Statistics

basketball player slam dunkThe most successful team in NBA history at the time of writing is the Boston Celtics, who have won 17 titles. In the women’s game the title is shared between the Houston Comets and the Minnesota Lynx, who have racked up 4 leagues apiece since its foundation in 1996.

In terms of players, it’s worth having a look at some of the most successful in NBA history. In terms of pure titles won, Bill Russell won 11 with the Boston Celtics, setting the record. He did so across just 13 seasons in the division, which is a remarkable success rate.

Whilst the likes of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are some of the best-known names in the business, the most successful player of all time when it comes to points scored is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He achieved 38,387 points during his career when he played for the Milwaukee Bucks between 1969 and 1975 and the Los Angeles Lakers between 1975 and 1989.