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Rules for the 2012 Summer Olympics Basketball: Some Differences from the NBA

Yahoo Contributor Network

The 2012 Summer Olympics basketball tournament will be starting for the women July 28 and the men July 29. The first Olympics featuring basketball were the Berlin Games of 1936, and the first to allow professional players were the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Both the men's and women's tournaments now see players from the NBA and WNBA peppered throughout. It's a development that has merit as well and negatives, but for the most part it has served to put the Olympic basketball events in a brighter light. It's important to note there are differences in the rules.

FIBA (Federation Internationale de Basketball) is the governing organization of international basketball. There are differences between the NBA and WNBA that don't carry over to the international game.

Game time

The Olympic quarters are 10 minutes long as opposed to 12 for the NBA, and two 20 minute halves in the WNBA. The shot clock is set at 24 seconds like the NBA, and the women have to adjust because it's 30 seconds in the WNBA. Olympic and NBA rules call a backcourt violation after 8 seconds, in the WNBA it's 10.

Personal and team fouls

FIBA rules only allow for five personal fouls before a player is benched. The NBA and WNBA require six. In the Olympics, teams are in the bonus after five fouls in a quarter. In the WNBA, it's eight per half. In the NBA, five in a quarter.


If you've ever watched a pro game, or even an NCAA contest, and been exasperated by the excessive timeouts, you're in luck. The FIBA rules say timeouts cannot be called by players, are 1 minute in duration, and most importantly, can't be called by a scoring team after a basket with 2:00 minutes or less on the clock. FIBA limits them to one time out through the first three quarters and two in the fourth.

Jump ball

In FIBA rules there is no jump ball except for the opening tip. From there, they follow alternating possession. The jump ball during play after a held ball doesn't happen.

Zone defense

It's legal in FIBA and the WNBA, and there is no three second violation in the key. The area (key) in FIBA basketball is a trapezoid.


There is no penalty in FIBA rules for goaltending, a player can smack the ball back without penalty as long as it is not in the cylinder.

Three point line

In FIBA rules the three-point line is 6.25 meters, the same as in the WNBA. In the NBA, it's 7.24 meters at the top of the arc, with sidelines that are 6.7 meters away at their closest point.

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