images of Basketball

Olympic Sports


Fast breaks, free throws and the full-court press are all features of basketball, which never fails to excite at every edition of the Olympic Games


Basketball is played by two teams of five players on an indoor court that is 28 metres long and 15m wide. Points are scored by shooting the ball into your opponents' net (or 'basket'), which has a diameter of 450-459mm and sits on a backboard 3.05m above the floor.

Two points are awarded for a regular shot from open play; one point for each successful free throw (following an opposition infringement); and three points for a shot from distance (beyond what's known as the three-point line, 6.75m from the basket). Games last for 40 minutes, split into four 10-minute quarters.

The sport was invented by Dr James Naismith, a Canadian physical education teacher who wanted to create a game that could be played indoors during the winter by his students at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA.

The first match, which took place in December 1891, used peach baskets for goals. From these humble beginnings, basketball has grown into one of the most exciting team sports in the world.

Men's basketball first appeared on the Olympic programme at the Berlin 1936 Games, with the women's competition introduced at Montreal 1976. Professional players first competed at Barcelona 1992, when the famous USA 'Dream Team' won gold in the men's event. Since then, American teams consisting of successive generations of NBA stars have grabbed the attention of sports fans worldwide.

3x3 Basketball, contested by teams of three players each, has been added as a new event at the Tokyo 2020 Games. This means teams will be competing for a total of four Olympic gold medals.
International Federation: International Basketball Federation (FIBA)(Open in a new window)

Event Programme

  • 3x3 Basketball
    8-team tournament (Men/Women)
  • Basketball
    12-team tournament (Men/Women)


The ultimate in entertainment

In basketball, the ball is moved constantly up and down the court by passing or dribbling. The team with the ball is called the offense. The team without the ball is the defense. They try to steal the ball, contest shots, deflect passes and gather rebounds to gain possession themselves. A limit on the time allowed to take a shot contributes to the fast pace that is part of the sport's appeal.

3x3 basketball has long been a basketball format played informally in streets and gyms across the world. Since the 1990s, the number of 3x3 Basketball events and competitions has been steadily growing and the format boasts more than 400,000 players globally. Its inclusion at Tokyo 2020 reflects a desire for the Games to include more youthful and urban sports.

3x3 Basketball is played by teams of three on a half-court with one basket. Games last 10 minutes or until a team scores 21 points. The three-point line in conventional basketball serves as the two-point line in 3x3 Basketball, with shots made outside the line earning two points and those inside it one (free throws also earn a single point).


Ending the American dream

The USA has won 15 of the 18 men's Olympic Basketball competitions in which it has participated, and won eight of the ten women's competitions. This level of dominance shows no sign of diminishing and the USA comfortably beat Serbia in the gold medal match at Rio 2016.

European countries like Spain, Serbia and France are perennial contenders in both men's and women's competitions, while Australia's women's team have won a medal in five of the last six Games.

Top-ranked men's teams in 3x3 Basketball include Serbia, the Russian Federation, while the women's teams from People's Republic of China and Ukraine are prominent. However, international rankings in this format of the sport can change quickly, adding to the excitement surrounding its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.



How many points are scored if a player shoots from 'downtown'?


A: Three points. 'Downtown' is a popular term for the area outside the three-point line. It refers to how far away the player is from the basket and is sometimes used by broadcasters to describe any long-range shot.

As of 1 Dec. 2018

Competition Venues

  • Saitama Super Arena
  • Aomi Urban Sports Park

Olympic Sports

Paralympic Sports