Complete Guide to Basketball Courts
Time to read 10 min
Written by: Chris Hungerford
Time to read 10 min
Basketball is an exciting sport that began its popularity and dominance in the United States and has expanded globally. It’s one of the easiest and most economical games to take part in. Grab a ball, find a court and a few buddies and you have yourself a pickup game. There are numerous types of court surfaces to play on, depending on your venue, league, and location. From the youth leagues through high school, college, NBA, or another professional league, there are several commonly and not-so-commonly used materials used for basketball courts. Let’s take a look at some of the basketball court surfaces, their pros and cons, and how to properly maintain them.
This is by far the most widely used surface for indoor basketball courts, and can be seen in most NCAA locations and NBA arenas. Made of hard maple, this dense wood is packed tightly with its thin fibers. It produces a very smooth surface that provides great durability, is easy to clean, and requires little maintenance.
The flexibility of the wood floor makes it easy on the joints. On the downside, hardwoods can leave dead spots if not properly installed, and they are expensive. In addition, hardwoods such as oak and maple are poor for outdoor basketball courts because the natural weather conditions are likely to warp and damage the wood.
Dirt Basketball Court
This is the worst of all the surfaces to play on. The ball won’t bounce truly and consistently, the footing is difficult and the ball gets slippery from the dirt, making it difficult to grip and shoot properly.
In addition, the vast majority of dirt basketball courts have undulations, making finding one smooth and level an arduous task. It’s better than not playing basketball at all, but only choosing a dirt court if nothing else is available.
A large majority of youths first play basketball at their local outdoor parks or playground, and many of those basketball courts are made of asphalt. It’s still an extremely common surface because of its durability and ability to deal with the most brutal weather conditions. They are easy to maintain and relatively inexpensive to install and provide consistent bounces. On the downside, asphalt is very hard on the joints and can lead to significant injuries if knocked off your feet onto the surface.
Known also as “sport courts” this kind of basketball floor is inconsistent in terms of playability. Some are fantastic, while others rank as some of the worst. These floors are assembled in pieces in the same fashion as a puzzle.
This type of surface becomes a slippery hazard when wet, have poor traction, and very inconsistent dribbling. Poor traction leads to difficulty cutting and jumping. A positive is that they are easy to assemble, inexpensive, and great for quick, temporary usage.
Becoming increasingly popular is the basketball court made from multi-purpose plastic. The foundation is a solid slab of concrete topped with the plastic squares of any variety of shapes, sizes, and colors that are snapped together. Mainly used outdoors because of their versatility and durability to tolerate any weather condition, they are also be used indoors without fear of lack of performance required for a quality basketball game. Traction on this surface is top-notch, falls are forgiving on the body, and the bounce of the ball will be true.
Some companies that produce surfaces for basketball courts have advanced surface features to improve overall responsiveness and ease of play. Flooring with a rubber layer between a foundation made of concrete and the plastic playing surface may be used. This helps create less sound from the bouncing ball and increased shock absorption. In addition, some multi-purpose basketball courts feature a polyurethane coating over the plastic floor. This is designed to increase durability and decrease the amount of moisture.
The rolled vinyl basketball court is good for indoor play. It has the appearance of real wood that comes in a vast choice of styles and colors and is inexpensive. Its coating resists dirt and is very slip resistant. On the downside, it has a relatively short lifespan and requires more repairs and maintenance than many of the other basketball court surfaces.
A rolled rubber court offers great rebound off the floor and is available in a wide range of thicknesses. The pad & pour polyurethane is visually appealing, relatively inexpensive, quite durable with above average quality, and easy to maintain and clean.
As is the case with any structure, a basketball court and its floor surface require regular, proper, and timely maintenance. Some of the surfaces involve watering, sweeping, rolling, and more. The idea of regular cleaning it so decreases the chances of wear and tear, slowing the rate of deterioration. For outdoor courts, the sources of deterioration include bird droppings, leaves, dirt, and other tree and plant debris.
After a heavy rain or cleaning with water, the basketball court surface must be properly dried down before resuming use. When watering down to remove dirt and grime, the edges should never be overwatered to avoid damage. Ideally, courts should be cleaned once per month. To remove mold, mildew, and minor stains, regular household cleaners can be applied. For tougher stains, industrial stain removers may be required.
Basketball is played on a wide variety of court surfaces for both indoor and outdoor play. While court surfaces differ, so do court dimensions and features, depending on whether playing in high school, NCAA, NBA, WNBA, or international leagues. Before we delve into these differences, let’s take a look at some distinct basketball court parts.
Only the players that are contesting a jump ball may be inside this circle before the tipoff. Generally, this will be between the two tallest men on the court. They will jump as soon as the referee tosses the ball in the air in an attempt to tap the ball to a teammate to obtain possession.
This is typically referred to as the space between the free-throw line and the three-point line. Players that successfully make shots from this part of the court are said to have “hit from mid-range" or “hit from the perimeter”.
Very much a part of today’s NBA game, the three-point shot is any shot beyond a line that separates the two-point are from the three-point area. The line forms an arc around the court, and in fact, sometimes shots made from this distance are known as “shots hit from beyond the arc”. If a player’s foot is on the three-point line, the shot counts only as two points if made.
The key refers to a rectangular section of the court from the free-throw line to the baseline. Its area is painted and for the NBA is 16 feet wide and 15 feet long. A circle is drawn beyond the free throw line and is used if a jump ball situation ensues. The FIBA used to have a trapezoidal key until 2010 and since has changed to the rectangular used in the NBA.
This is the section of the court that is closest to the basket which is generally where the biggest men play. Those adept at low postplay can grab many rebounds and score numerous points per game. Having a great jump shot is not necessary for playing in this region of the court.
Inside the low post area is a semicircular generally 4 feet radius from below the center of the basket. This is referred to as the “no charge zone” above the high school level. This means that defenders cannot draw a charge unless standing outside this zone. Originally this was a 3-foot radius at the NCAA level but has since been moved to a 4-foot radius, matching the other prominent collegiate and professional leagues in North America.
At the half-court line on NBA courts, there are two lines that reach beyond the playing region. This is where players who have come off the bench wait before being allowed to enter the game.
Two lines appear 28 feet from the end lines on an NBA court along each sideline. This area is for the coaches and the bench and the end of the line shows how far a coach can stand without being assessed a technical foul.
Along the end lines close to the key are two hash marks, which designate a region where a defender can draw a charge. This can occur if a player on the opposing team gets the ball within that region.
Court dimensions vary based on the level of play. In the NBA, WNBA, NCAA men, and NCAA women, the length of the court is 94 feet, the width is 50 feet, the free throw distance is 15 feet, the rim height is 10 feet, no charge zone is 4 feet, 12-foot center circle diameter, and the free throw distance is 15 feet. In the FIBA, the court is 91.86 feet in length, 49.21 feet in width, 4.10 feet in no charge zone, and 11.81 feet in center circle.
The three-point line for the NBA is 23.5 feet and 22 feet from the corners. The FIBA and NCAA men’s three-point line is 22.15 feet and 21.65 feet from the corner. The NCAA women shoot three-pointers from a uniform 20.75 feet. The WNBA’s main three-point arc is the same as the FIBA with corner distance the same as the NBA.
The key is 16 feet in width for the NBA, FIBA, and WNBA, and just 12 feet for NCAA men, women, and high school level. High school courts are 84 feet by 50 feet with a three-point distance same as that at the collegiate level.
Rucker Park, located across the street from where the legendary Polo Grounds was on 155th Street and Douglass Boulevard is the Madison Square Garden of outdoor courts. This street basketball court in Harlem is noted as the stomping grounds of legends Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Heading from New York to Philadelphia’s 16th and Susquehanna, this court is considered the Rucker Park of Philadelphia and is rated one of the top courts in the Northeastern USA. Hank Gathers and the legendary Wilt Chamberlain got their start on this court.
Although very laid-back in appearance, the Venice Beach court is very competitive. Before or in between games, one can relax and enjoy this scenic venue. Venice Beach court has been used in movies, most notably, “White Men Can’t Jump”.
Heading north to Oakland to Mosswood Park for this legendary court that goes back to the 1950s. This court, which has been used in the video game NBA Street Vol 2 was once the home court for Bill Russell, Jason Kidd, and Gary Payton.
Dyckman Park rates second only to Rucker Park in New York. The likes of Kemba Walker, DeMar DeRozan, and Kevin Durant got their start on this court. Also worth noting is The Cage in Greenwich Village, New York because of its size (smaller than regular), 20-foot high surrounding fence, and very intense play with huge crowns to watch the action.
The Matthew Knight Arena, the home of the Oregon Ducks, has a very distinct floor design that has drawn controversial reviews. The design, which is called “Deep in the Woods” features silhouettes of tree lines. The appearance from the stands is that of looking from the forest towards the sky, but many fans complain of the glare emanating from the court. Another feature is one of the largest scoreboards in all of college basketball, measuring 36 by 32 feet.
The Brooklyn Nets have one of the most unique, yet beautiful courts in the NBA. Its herringbone pattern on the hardwood court at the Barclays Center is extremely visually appealing. This all occurred when the Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn and in the process attracted top players over the years such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Deron Williams.
New York’s Madison Square Garden is widely regarded as one of the most esteemed arenas in the NBA. The building, located between 31st and 33rd streets has held numerous events outside of the sports realm, including theater and music. Although the Knicks have not had great team success in their home arena, some individual moments occurred there, including Michael Jordan’s 55-point performance shortly after ending his baseball pursuit in 1995. Other great performances included Carmelo Anthony’s 62, setting a Knicks scoring record, and Kobe Bryant’s 61 in 2009.
In Los Angeles, the Staples Center hosts both the Lakers and Clippers, having the distinction of being the only arena in the NBA to host two different teams. With numerous celebrities at every contest, which is 82 times a year in the regular season, to go along with the slew of Hall of Famers that have played there, and you can see why the Staples Center is one of the top courts in the NBA.
No list of top indoor courts is complete without mentioning the Boston Garden. Home of the most championship banners of any franchise with 17, the Garden is one of the most recognizable courts in the world with its parquet floor and classic Celtic green borders and lanes. Legendary coach Red Auerbach, as well as players Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Bob Cousey, and Larry Bird, among others, have made their mark at the Boston Garden.
Had it not been for Michael Jordan, Chicago’s United Center would not be on this list. But Jordan made his mark and much like old Yankee Stadium being “The House That Ruth Built”, the United Center is “The House That Jordan Built”. Chicago has had its share of great sports moments, but Jordan brought 6 NBA titles to Chicago, making the United Center one of the top basketball courts in NBA history.
This site requires cookies in order to provide all of its functionality.