How to Get Started in Basketball | A Complete Guide for Beginners

Written by Austen Lenihan | 02 October 2021

Two basketball players playing on an outdoor court with the sun going down.

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This is the complete guide to basketball for beginners.

If you’re looking for information on:

  • How to get started in basketball
  • What the benefits are
  • Examples of how to utilize the skills
  • Videos and images to demonstrate what to do

You’ve come to the right place.

Let’s jump into it.

Contents:

What is Basketball?

Basketball is synonymous with excitement. It has something for everyone; technical in its nature, yet simple enough to be enjoyed on many levels.

Basketball is diverse, an attractive quality that draws people in. The idea of throwing a ball into a hoop has widespread appeal, where even beginners can get stuck in and have fun.

Regardless of the level of competition you face, or your level of commitment/involvement with the sport, it’s enjoyment you should seek above everything else.

That’s all well and good, but where should you begin?

How to Get Started in Basketball

One of the most appealing things about Basketball is its get-up-and-go nature. You can even play on your own, meaning it’s a self-sufficient sport that’s even more endearing when you add more players to the equation.

But what should you do to prepare yourself for getting out there and playing?

Get the Correct Gear

Though it’s tempting to simply lace up and play in whatever you happen to be wearing, it’s vital for you to dress for the occasion.

Basketball is tailor-made for loose clothing, where allowing your body a free range of movement and the ability to breathe will enhance your game dramatically.

Here are some of the most important apparel items to consider:

Shoes

Basketball is a high-impact sport, so it’s important you have the right feet and ankle support. Your shoes should be tight enough to be supportive, but not so tight that your feet feel squeezed in.

There are various options at your disposal, including low-angle, mid-ankle and high-tops.

The lower the shoes sit down on your foot, the less covered your ankle will have.

When starting out, it’s best to choose a trainer which covers your ankle to protect you from rolling it. Click here to find a pair of high-top basketball shoes on Amazon.

Over time, you can determine whether trainers with optimum ankle support are right for you or not.

Freedom and range of movement is a contributing factor to success, so if you feel somewhat restricted by your footwear you can by all means change to a low-ankle pair.

It’s important to note that low-ankle trainers can provide adequate support for your feet, but they can increase the chances of spraining your ankle.

Consider all of the options available to you before making a decision that suits your individual preference.

Shorts

Basketball is an active sport where you’re often on the move. As such, you’ll need shorts that allow you to move and to breathe freely as you sweat profusely.

Basketball shorts are designed to come down to your knee, providing they’re secured around your waist to ensure they don’t fall down.

Opt for a secure pair of shorts that provide maximum comfort. Click here to see basketball shorts on Amazon.

Equipment

Remember to get your hands on a decent Basketball.

After all, it’s hard to practice the game without a ball.

It’s also helpful to purchase a pump to keep your ball inflated.

Click here to see a great basketball that comes with a pump on Amazon.

Joint Support

Though not absolutely necessary, joint support can be highly useful when you’re carrying an injury or experiencing a level of soreness to a given area.

Knee and ankle supports are among the most popularly used, as a proactive prevention method that promotes longevity and durability.

You may also consider leg sleeves, arm sleeves, tape, and other items to fit your unique physical needs.

Having purchased all of the correct gear, you’ll be ready to take to the court.

As a beginner, you’re probably best to start on an outdoor rim, where you can get a feel for the game and practice the basics of shooting and dribbling.

If you introduce a friend to the mix, you can practice passing and eventually get into some 1-on-1 scenarios to ease your way into competitions.

But before entering any type of game scenario, it’s important to warm up correctly, even if you’re young.

Warm Up Correctly

As is true with most sports, it’s important to warm up your muscles beforehand.

In basketball, this is often more important because of the fast-twitch movements and changes of direction which are often required.

A simple 20-minute warm-up period, where you stretch your muscles out and get your joints loose, will ensure you’re poised and mentally and physically ready to go. (See an example of a good dynamic warm-up here.)

It isn’t uncommon to think you won’t need to warm up, in fact many of you will consider yourselves young and deem it unnecessary.

In actuality, warming up will prepare your body to reach maximum performance, as you zone into your basketball goals relevant to the situation at hand.

As you ease yourself into starting from scratch, you’ll soon realize how truly active Basketball is. It requires aerobic and anaerobic endurance, so to reach your full capacity it’s important to ensure your body is ready.

Exercise Regularly Outside of Basketball

Though nothing can quite prepare you for the game like actually playing it, there’s certainly no harm in getting your fitness up as you begin to play.

Basketball is a physically demanding sport, where being in good physical condition is an advantage.

If your body can support fast movements and constantly be on the move, you’ll be one step closer to enjoying the time you spend playing.

Establishing some common exercise routines will ensure you’re poised and physically competent enough to compete later down the line.

For example, you could focus on running around 2 miles per day to develop your cardiovascular system so it can support your physical efforts.

You can always walk a few miles per day or take an even longer cycle if that’s more suitable.

If the impact begins to take its toll on your knees, you can consider lower impact exercises at home until your knees are battle-tested.

This way you can save your running exploits for when you get out on the court.

Work on Your Shot

Alongside embracing a team ethic, defending with intensity, and rebounding, shooting is one of the leading aspects of the game.

Scoring is highly rewarding, especially when you’re a beginner. Seeing the ball go through the hoop can be very satisfying.

Defense might win championships, but without scoring, you’d never be able to win a game.

As you begin shooting around, your natural form should dictate your general shooting motion.

It might not be pretty, but over time your shooting form should manifest into a comfortable release.

As a beginner you should pick a couple of spots on the floor you feel comfortable shooting from and learn by repetition.

Practice shooting from the same few spots for at least 15 minutes a day.

The more practice you do, the more progress you make.

This is a great way to ease yourself in, where over time you’ll sharpen your shooting skills as things start to feel more natural.

You might miss a lot of shots early on, but keep your spirits high and use your potential to be successful as your motivation.

Continue working on your hand-eye coordination, releasing the ball from the fingertips of your main hand as your off hand holds/guides the ball.

As you become comfortable shooting from your assigned spots, you should mix things up and focus on some other positions.

It’s great to practice shooting from the other side of the court in the same spot, learning different angles along the way.

You can also work on the art of the layup, practicing with both hands from either side of the basket.

A simple layup is a great way to consolidate the type of basketball motions you’ll use later, involving footwork, dribbling, and shooting.

Coordination is everything, and you’ll slowly unlock your natural prowess and further sharpen your skills with practice.

Work on Your Dribble

Dribbling is one of the more glamorous areas of the game, though perhaps overused and overrated.

Conventional basketball preferences a pass and move mentality, but as you start out playing in smaller groups or even on your own, dribbling will become one of your top priorities.

In a game setting you should probably be thinking pass first, but there’s nothing quite like mastering the art of the crossover.

Dribbling can be fun once mastered, and can be used to beat a defender or to reach certain areas of the court, for example.

You’ll probably feel comfortable dribbling with your main hand, but through practice, you should embrace a two-handed approach where you’re strong dribbling both ways.

It simply takes time and dedication to get better. The more you dribble, the more doing so will become second nature.

Begin by dribbling between each hand. One dribble with the right, one dribble with the left and so on. By going back and forth you’ll develop some continuity and get a feel for the ball.

As you become comfortable handling the ball, you can begin running down the court (or wherever you’re practicing) using the alternating pattern previously mentioned.

As a beginner, you should focus on your weak hand.

Doing so from the jump will ensure you maintain consistency and develop the same strengths on either side.

If you improve with both hands at the same rate, you’ll have fewer weaknesses and mental restrictions moving forward.

What’s great about dribbling is you can practice in the ways which feel comfortable to you.

You can work with either hand, and as you develop you can even work on more advanced dribble moves like through the legs and around the back.

You’ll discover that most dribble moves are interlinking and connected.

They can be combined to bamboozle your defender.

Practice Defense

As you start to come to terms with the basics, you’ll be ready to embrace something a bit more challenging.

When you start playing competitively, whether it’s a 1-on-1 with a friend, 3-on-3 at the park, or a full 5-on-5 scrimmage, it’s crucial you understand the importance of defense.

Thinking on your feet is everything, and if you can suffocate the opposition with killer defense you’ll be primed for success.

As the old basketball adage goes, defense leads to offense, despite many perceiving it to be the other way around.

Defense isn’t always about watching the wall, but keeping a close eye on the opposing player you’re guarding.

You should watch their shooting mechanics, observe the direction of their hips, and ultimately grasp their movements to inhibit their natural tendencies.

Maintaining the correct defensive position is everything, a slightly crouched, sideways position where shuffling somewhat like a crab can ensure you stay in front of the opposing player.

In some regards, you should act like a wall, a wall that’s open to the concept of moving.

Never reach for the basketball, rather predict where you think it will go if you ever decide to take a swipe at it.

Defending is all about foreshadowing your opponent, where if you read the game well this will naturally lead to things like interceptions and ultimately putting your opposition in a stranglehold (figuratively speaking of course).

In basketball, you’re entitled to your position on the court once it’s been established.

You should focus on keeping your hands straight up or jump straight up when someone shoots, to contest the area in order to make their life more difficult.

If you make contact with the offensive player, it’ll likely be a foul, but only when you reach in and make contact by interfering with their already established space.

You should focus on defensive drills outlined in guidance videos online.

These will help you work on the intensity you’ll need to be a solid defender.

What Are the Benefits of Playing Basketball?

Here are some of the leading benefits of playing Basketball:

  • Improved Muscular Endurance
  • Improved Balance
  • Boost Heart Health
  • Reduces Stress
  • Improves Self-Confidence
  • Develop Fundamental Movement Skills

Discover more benefits of playing basketball here.

Conclusion

Thank you for reading this comprehensive guide on Basketball basics and I hope you have enjoyed it.

Now I would like to turn it over to you:

How long have you been playing basketball for?

What did you find most interesting about this guide?

Perhaps you have a question?

Let me know by leaving a comment below or by sending a direct message on Instagram.

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Austen Lenihan

Austen is an experienced Basketball player who has competed at various levels throughout his sporting life. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned player, Austen aspires to share actionable content with those looking to learn more about the game. Austen's motto: "Unlock your true potential and don’t settle for anything less than greatness!" Learn more about Austen here. Here are a few clips of Austen playing basketball