Episode 48: Basketball and the NBA

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 48: Basketball and the NBA

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In the American Football podcast, I told you I was not a football fan. However, I think basketball is very exciting!

James Naismith, a physical-education teacher in Massachusetts, invented basketball in 1891. Famously, he used a peach basket nailed to the wall for the basket. Today, basketball is popular worldwide. It is even an Olympic event.

Depending on where it’s played and what organization controls it, basketball rules are a little different, but not much. For this podcast, I will explain the rules for the American National Basketball Association, or NBA. It’s the most well-known professional basketball organization in the US and possibly the world.

A basketball game is played on a hard court, either indoors or outdoors. The court measures 94 feet by 50 feet (29 meters by 15 meters). On each end there is a ten-foot-high basket with a steel rim and a net. It is mounted on a backboard. This is also called the goal.

Two teams play in a game, with five players from each team on the court at any time. In a game, each team “owns” one of the goals and tries to defend it. The basketball itself is about 9.5 inches (24.13 cm) in diameter. The objective is for the team with the ball (the offense) to throw, or shoot, the ball into the basket “owned” by the other team (the defense). Of course, the defense tries to stop the offense from doing that. If the ball goes into the basket, the offensive team gets two points. One of the most dramatic ways to make a basket is to dunk it, which means to jump up and forcefully push the ball into the basket with one’s hand. If the shooter shoots from beyond the three-point line, the shot is worth three points. The three-point line is an arc painted on the floor 23 feet, 9 inches (7.24 meters) from the goal.

The game is divided into four quarters, and each quarter lasts 12 minutes. However, because there are timeouts and other stops in a game, an NBA game lasts about two hours. Halftime is a period of 15 minutes between the second and third quarters. Teams change goals after halftime.

To advance the ball, players must throw, or pass, it to each other, or bounce it as they walk or run. This bouncing is called dribbling. The offensive team has 24 seconds to shoot the ball toward the goal. This is called the shotclock. If the shotclock runs out, the opposing team gets the ball.

When a player is not playing, he sits on the bench, along with the head coach and his coaching staff. Players wear matching uniforms, consisting of shorts and a jersey that has the player’s name and number on it. They wear basketball shoes, which are high-top sneakers that support the ankle.

Referees (refs) control the game and stop play when there is a foul, or illegal move. Often, the penalty for a foul is that the other team gets one or more free throws or foul shots. A player stands at the free-throw line in front of the basket and is allowed to shoot without anyone trying to stop him. A successful foul shot is worth one point.

There are 30 NBA teams who play 82 games in a season. The season starts in October and ends in April the following year. Teams are divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences. Each conference has three divisions. At the end of the season, the best eight teams in each conference compete in postseason playoffs. The winning team from each conference competes in the NBA Finals. The Finals, also called the championship games, is a best-of-seven-games series. The winners get a big trophy and bragging rights.

In addition to the NBA, almost every elementary and high school in the US, as well as most colleges, have basketball programs. In addition, local recreation centers and churches also organize teams. Boys and girls usually play in separate programs. Professional women basketball players in the US are part of the WNBA. Furthermore, there are many indoor and outdoor basketball courts available for unofficial, or “pickup” games.

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That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

Don’t forget to download the FREE Bonus Material on the podcast’s Patreon page this month! Visit Patreon.com/slowamericanenglish to download the PDF file containing common American English idioms that come from the world of sports. Learn to understand and to use these everyday phrases properly with definitions and examples.

For a free transcript and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn and any other podcast feed reader.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.