Compare and Contrast Football and Basketball

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This study aims to examine the differences and similarities between football and basketball. Both of these ball games are widely known worldwide and have been played for many years. To gain a deeper understanding, let’s take a closer look at how these two sports are played.

Football is a rugged outdoor game played on a rectangular field by two teams using an inflated ball. In general, high school football follows the college rules. The differences between high school and college football, and to a lesser extent between college and professional football, stem partly from rule changes designed to protect the players from injury. Below the high school level, the rules are further modified to provide additional safeguards.

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On the other hand, basketball is a game in which players on two opposing teams try to score points by throwing a ball through a raised hoop called a basket. The team with the higher score wins.

Basketball can be played both outdoors and indoors all year round, but it is primarily an indoor winter sport. In the United States, it is widely played by grade school, high school, college, church, business, and other amateur teams. Additionally, there are professional teams in most large cities of the United States organized as the National Basketball Association (NBA).



The origin of football-type games is unknown. Some scholars believe that the ancient Chinese were the first to play a game in which a ball was kicked, while others credit the ancient Egyptians or Greeks with developing the first kicking game. By the 11th or 12th century, the English played futebale—a no-holds-barred game in which two opposing groups each tried to kick a ball over the other side’s goal.

During the 19th century, this English game evolved into two separate games—soccer and rugby. Soccer is a kicking game in which ball-carrying and passing are prohibited, while rugby involves ball-carrying, passing, and kicking (Colls, 2007).


Unlike football, the origin of basketball is well-defined. In 1891, Dr. James Naismith, an instructor at International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts invented basketball. Dr. Luther Gulick, the college’s athletic head noticed that interest in physical training lagged among students during winter months between football and baseball seasons since calisthenics were boring. To address this issue, Gulick asked Naismith to devise a new indoor activity which led him to experiment with adaptations of existing games before inventing basketball.

In the first demonstration match, the players used a soccer ball and two peach baskets. Basketball was an instant success and soon adopted by numerous YMCA’s, colleges, high schools, and other organizations. In some parts of the country, only girls took up the game at first (Harper, 2000).


Equipment, Players, and Officials

Football is played on a field that is 100 yards (91.4 m) long, including two end zones that make it 120 yards (109.7 m) in total length, and 53 1/3 yards (48.8 m) wide. The field has white stripes called yard lines that run across it at intervals of 5 yards (4.6 m), which gives it a grid-like appearance and the nickname gridiron”. Two inbounds lines are marked by hash marks, which are short stripes, and they separate the main playing area from the sidelines. The ball must be between these inbounds lines whenever it is put into play. Each end of the field has an end zone that is 10 yards deep between the goal line and the end line (Colls, 2007).

The goalposts are centered on the end line. In professional football, the goal is a wishbone-shaped structure with two poles, called uprights, connected by an 18 ½-foot-long crossbar. The uprights extend a minimum of 30 feet above the crossbar and are set behind the end line. A single pole centered under the crossbar curves forward to bring it above the end line. On the other hand, traditional college football goals consist of two poles set 23 1/3 feet apart and connected by a crossbar that is 10 feet above ground level. The two poles extend to at least ten feet beyond the crossbar. However, many colleges use professional-type goals built to college dimensions (Colls, 2007).

Additionally, a football team usually consists of 20 to 60 players. During the game, each team is permitted to have 11 players on the field at any given time. The liberal substitution rules allow for a two-platoon system where one group of players is used for offense (when the team has possession of the ball) and another group for defense (Colls, 2007).

Moreover, the play is supervised by four to seven officials. Both college and professional games use a referee, an umpire, a linesman, and a line judge. In college football, a back judge, a side judge, and a field judge are optional but required in the professional game. Each official is primarily responsible for watching plays from a specific area of the field. Additionally, the referee supervises the other officials and has overall control of the game (Colls, 2007).


A basketball court is rectangular, with maximum dimensions of 50 feet by 94 feet. However, for high school, the maximum dimensions are 84 feet. The floor is usually made of wood. At each end of the court, ten feet above the floor, there is a mounted basket – a metal hoop that measures 18 inches in diameter and has an attached open cord net. Each basket juts out from a vertical surface made of glass, plastic or wood called a backboard.

The ball is round and inflated with air. It has a diameter of nine inches and weighs between 20 to 22 ounces. The court is divided by a center line, where the frontcourt refers to the half of the court with a team’s own basket. Unlike other sports, a team’s own basket is the one they shoot at rather than defend. The other half of the court, where the opposing team’s basket is located, is known as the backcourt (Fox, 2004).

A team consists of five players: two guards, two forwards, and a center. The guards typically play in the middle of the court, while the center – usually the tallest player – is positioned near the baskets and the forwards are positioned near the end lines. Although a player with special skills may be utilized more in some particular offensive or defensive aspect of the game, all team members try to prevent their opponents from scoring. A player who has been replaced by a substitute can return to the game unless they have been disqualified (as explained later) (Harper, 2000).

In amateur basketball, there are one referee and one or two umpires who officiate the game by ruling on baskets, fouls, violations, penalties, and other matters. The referee holds more authority than the umpire. On the other hand, professional play has two officials; both are referred to as referees but one has seniority over the other. Timers and scorekeepers assist these officials (Harper, 2000).


In conclusion, football and basketball are the most popular sports among people. These games have many similarities and differences in terms of gameplay, equipment, players, and officials. However, both sports have defensive players who may commit unintentional or nonflagrant personal fouls. In most cases, the opposing team is awarded possession of the ball.


  1. Colls, Robert (2007). The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Football.” History Today, Vol. 57.
  2. Fox, R.A. (2004). “Basketball: The Complete Handbook of Individual Skills,” Prentice Hall, pp. 123-126.
  3. Harper, Timothy (2000). “Best Pickup-Basketball Player in America: The Man Any True Basketball Devotee Wants to Play with or Against.” The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 285.

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