Project Description


Overview & Examples

Basketball is one of the most popular team sports in which students participate on campuses across North America. Basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891 and was originally played with nine players and peach baskets instead of metal hoops. Today basketball is usually played on a court in which team of five players attempt to score points by throwing or placing a ball through a metal hoop.

See All Rules


For 5-on-5 basketball at least two officials per game are traditionally used to enforce rules and administer penalties. However, if possible, three officials per game are preferred to better cover the court. 3-on-3 basketball is usually played on half of a regular sized court and is officiated with one or two officials or self-officiated by the participating teams.

Often a court monitor or supervisor is used to oversee administrative processes and respond to problems and injuries that may occur. Scorekeeper and timer employees and/or volunteers are needed to record points, penalties, and keep time accurately.


Many institutions utilize the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) basketball rules as a basis for intramural basketball rules. Individual programs often modify these rules for their unique participant groups and program requirements. A selection of rules in use at NIRSA member institutions is listed here.

Traditional Formats

5-on-5 men’s, women’s, and co-rec leagues 3-on-3 men’s, women’s, and mixed leagues.

Notes & Variations

Among the most common rule variations is the use of two 20-minute halves of playing time rather than quarters. A running clock may be utilized during portions of each half, the number of timeouts may be limited, and the length of overtime periods may be reduced all to increase the timeliness of games for schedule efficiency.

Co-rec leagues may employ a variety of rule variations to encourage and/or limit participation by particular players.

Other variations are common and often basketball skills challenge games are popular in open recreation and tournament formats.

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NIRSA Intramural Sports Community of Practice