Scoring in basketball is the backbone of the game and serves as a primary measure of a team’s success. The objective of the sport is to score points by shooting the ball through the opposing team’s hoop. With various ways to score, basketball offers an exciting and dynamic experience for both the players and the fans.

There are three primary methods for scoring in basketball, which include free throws, two-point field goals, and three-point field goals. Free throws earn a player one point, while two-point and three-point field goals depend on the location from which the player shoots the ball.

Understanding the different ways to score and how points are tallied is crucial for grasping the fundamentals of basketball. As players strive to maximize their scoring opportunities during a game, fans can appreciate and enjoy the tactical maneuvers and highlights that make basketball a thrilling spectator sport.

Basics of Scoring in Basketball

Points System

In basketball, the points system consists of three main ways to score:

  1. Two-point field goal: A basket scored from inside the three-point line, which grants the team 2 points.
  2. Three-point field goal: A basket scored from outside the three-point line. As the name suggests, this grants the team 3 points.
  3. Free throws: These are awarded in certain situations, such as fouls, and result in a player attempting unopposed shots from the free-throw line. Each successful free throw grants the team 1 point.

Types of Shots

There are various types of shots a player can attempt during a basketball game to score points. Some of these include:

  • Layups: A close-range shot where a player attempts scoring by shooting the ball close to the basket, typically using the backboard to angle the shot.
  • Jump shots: A shot taken while the player is mid-air, usually after a jump or hop. These can be attempted from various distances, both inside and outside the three-point line.
  • Dunks: A high-percentage shot where the player jumps and slams the ball forcefully into the basket, usually requiring a significant level of athleticism.
  • Hook shots: A one-handed shot where the player shoots the ball with an extended, sweeping motion, often utilizing their body as a shield against defenders.
  • Fadeaways: A shot taken while jumping backward, creating separation between the shooter and defender, making it harder for the defender to block the shot.
  • Bank shots: A shot that uses the backboard to bounce the ball into the basket, typically only used for mid-range or close-range attempts.

In summary, basketball scoring relies on a points system with various shot types contributing to a team’s overall score. Teams can secure points from the field through two-point or three-point attempts or free throws in specific situations.

Methods of Scoring

Jump Shot

A jump shot is a common method of scoring in basketball. It occurs when a player jumps into the air and releases the ball toward the hoop with one or both hands while at the peak of their jump. The ability to make accurate jump shots from various distances is a crucial skill for players, especially guards and small forwards.


A layup is another fundamental scoring technique in basketball that is performed when a player is close to the hoop. During a layup, the player lifts the ball up with one hand and shoots it off the backboard in a gentle, arcing motion. A successful layup typically relies on proper footwork, timing, and positioning.


A dunk is a high-flying and crowd-pleasing method of scoring in basketball. It involves a player jumping and slamming the ball directly through the hoop, usually with one or both hands. Dunks are often associated with centers and power forwards, who are generally taller and have a greater vertical leap.


The three-pointer is a valuable and long-range scoring method in basketball. Players earn three points for their team by successfully shooting the ball from beyond the designated three-point line on the court. Three-pointers require great shooting accuracy and skill, making them a vital weapon for team offenses.

Free Throws

Free throws are opportunities for players to score points without any interference from the opposing team. They are typically awarded after a personal or technical foul committed by the opposing team. During a free throw, the player stands at the free-throw line and aims to shoot the ball into the hoop, earning one point for each successful shot. Free throws can play a significant role in determining the outcome of close games, making it essential for players to practice and develop their free-throw shooting abilities.

Scoring Strategies

Offensive Sets

Offensive sets in basketball are designed to create scoring opportunities for the team. These strategies aim to maximize the individual skills of the players and create efficient scoring chances. Here are a few common offensive sets:

  • Pick and Roll: This play involves one player setting a screen to block a defender, allowing their teammate to move towards the basket with an open shot opportunity.
  • Isolation: In isolation plays, the team’s best scorer is given space on the court to face a single defender. The aim is for the scorer to beat their defender and create their own shot.
  • Post-Up: A post-up play involves a dominant big man (typically a center or power forward) positioning themselves close to the basket, with their back to the defender. The player then receives the ball and uses their size or skills to score a basket or draw a foul.
  • Ball Movement: Ball movement strategies emphasize quick and accurate passing to create open shot opportunities for teammates. This can include aspects like the ‘Triangle Offense’, which involves constant movement of the ball and players to maximize scoring opportunities.

Individual Moves

Aside from team strategies, individual players must possess a variety of moves in their offensive arsenal to be effective scorers. Some notable individual moves include:

  • Crossover Dribble: This move involves quickly shifting the basketball from one hand to the other in front of the body, causing the defender to lose balance and create space for the player to score or pass.
  • Pull-Up Jump shot: When a player is driving towards the basket, they can utilize a pull-up jump shot to quickly stop, elevate, and shoot a jump shot, catching the defender off-guard.
  • Euro-Step: The Euro-Step is an offensive move in which the player takes two wide lateral steps around the defender while driving to the basket, often resulting in a layup or dunk.
  • Fadeaway Jump Shot: The fadeaway jump shot involves a player jumping backward, creating space from the defender, and shooting while fading away towards the court’s baseline. This move can be difficult to defend, but also challenging to master.

In summary, basketball scoring strategies involve a mix of offensive sets and individual moves designed to create high-percentage scoring opportunities. With an understanding of these techniques, players and teams can optimize their offensive potential on the court.

Notable Scoring Records

Individual Players

Several NBA players have achieved remarkable scoring milestones throughout their careers. A few notable records include:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar currently holds the record for the most points scored in NBA history, with a total of 38,387 points.
  • Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game on March 2, 1962, which remains the highest-scoring individual performance.
  • Michael Jordan holds the record for the highest career scoring average, with 30.12 points per game.

Team Records

In NBA history, there have been high-scoring games and team records that stand out:

  • The highest-scoring regular-season game took place on December 13, 1983, when the Detroit Pistons defeated the Denver Nuggets with a combined score of 370 points (186-184 in triple overtime).
  • The highest-scoring playoff game in regulation occurred on April 26, 1983, when the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Denver Nuggets with a combined score of 285 points (152-133). In that game, Spurs’ George Gervin scored a game-high 42 points.
  • The lowest-scoring game in NBA history is a Fort Wayne Pistons win over the Minneapolis Lakers on November 22, 1950, with a score of 19-18. This game took place before the implementation of the shot clock, which has since increased the pace and scoring of games.