When it comes to entertainment value, there may be no better sport in the world to bet on than basketball. Games are fast-paced and don’t have a lot of stoppages, possession of the ball can change in a flash, and the extremely high-scoring nature of the sport means that no lead is ever safe. As long as it takes a team to build a comfortable advantage, a flurry of 3-pointers by the opposition can make that lead quickly disappear.
But having fun is just one reason to bet on basketball. Another reason that may interest you more is the opportunity to make big money wagering on the NBA, college basketball, the WNBA, or international competitions. We’re not saying it’s easy to turn a profit betting on the hardcourt, but many professional and even amateur bettors do. You just need to have a plan and know what you’re doing.
After all, one of the biggest keys to success betting basketball, or any sport for that matter, is to have a strong understanding of the game. That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide to basketball, from how the sport began and has changed over the years to the various leagues and major events that are regularly contested. We’ve even included a list of the most popular ways to bet on basketball and the benefits of each approach!
It doesn’t matter how good you are as a basketball bettor if the gambling sites you’re using stiff you on your winnings, don’t offer you the best betting odds, or have a limited selection of games and bet types.
Before you start making basketball bets, it’s important to make sure you’re using the best sites to bet basketball online, but with so many gambling sites on the internet, that’s easier said than done. Let our years of experience in the betting industry work for you by choosing one of the sites that we recommend based on their strong payout histories, a variety of bet types, games offered, and more!
In order to be a successful basketball bettor, it’s critical to understand how the sport is played, as well as its evolution from its early days to the way the game is played today.
The origins of basketball trace all the way back to the late 1800s in Springfield, Massachusetts, when phys-ed teacher Dr. James Naismith created an indoor, low-contact game for his students to play during the cold winter months. Naismith’s initial version of basketball involved peach baskets nailed to the gym balcony at each end of the floor, with the objective being to throw the basketball into the basket. Each successful shot into the basket was worth 1 point, players were not allowed to run with the ball at all, 9 players per team were allowed on the court at one time, and 3 consecutive fouls by either team resulted in the awarding of a point to their opponent.
Basketball has come a long way since those humble beginnings. Among the major changes were the reduction of team sizes to 5 per side; adding the ability to advance with the ball while bouncing it (dribbling); metal hoops, nets, and backboards replacing the peach baskets; scoring being adjusted to award 2 points for a normal basket and 1 for a free throw; and rules being put in place to prevent guarding of the basket, such as the 3-second rule and goaltending.
The game was revolutionized in the mid-1950s when the National Basketball Association introduced a shot clock in order to prevent stalling tactics by teams who had the lead and simply kept the ball away from their opponents instead of attempting to score. Another major change to the way basketball is played took place in 1967 when the now-defunct American Basketball Association added the 3-point shot, putting a greater reward on successful shots taken from further away from the basket. FIBA, the governing body of international basketball, adopted the 3-point shot in 1967, while pro and college leagues added the 3-point shot by 1980.
Though basketball’s standard rules have remained relatively unchanged since then, the game still continues to evolve. Thanks to information obtained through the study of analytics, teams have placed a greater priority on the 3-point shot, recognizing the extra value of getting 3 points for a made basket rather than 2. That has led to more focus on the perimeter game and on developing players with the ability to shoot the ball adeptly from all over the court, and it has also made traditional big, slow centers (such as Shaquille O’Neal, who dominated the NBA in the 1990s) much less effective.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the top men’s professional league in the world, featuring 29 teams from the United States, as well as 1 from Canada. After an 82-game regular season that lasts from late October to mid-April, the top 8 teams in both the Western and Eastern conferences advance to the playoffs, where 4 rounds of 7-game series eventually decide that year’s NBA champion.
NBA games feature 4 quarters that are 12 minutes long and utilize a 24-second shot clock to ensure the pace keeps moving at a fast rate to keep fans excited and engaged. It’s quite common for the winning team (if not both) to score more than 100 points, and the high-scoring nature of NBA basketball makes it easier for superstars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry to shine brightly.
The biggest criticism of the NBA, especially lately, is how the same players and franchises tend to dominate the sport. As of 2017, the Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Spurs, Heat, Pistons, and Warriors had combined to win 34 of the last 37 league championships. However, bettors can work this to their advantage on the NBA futures odds, narrowing their focus to those franchises and giving themselves a better chance of predicting this year’s NBA champion.
College basketball, governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), is wildly popular not only in the United States but across the world. There are 3 divisions of college basketball, but nearly all the attention of fans, media, and bettors is paid to Division 1, the highest league in NCAA basketball that features 351 schools spread across 32 different conferences.
Although conference championships are awarded in both regular-season and tournament play, the main objective for any NCAA Division 1 basketball team is qualifying for the March Madness national championship tournament. Approximately half of the field (32 spots) in March Madness is determined by teams that won their conference playoff titles, while the remaining 36 spots (including 8 teams that compete in play-in games) are selected by the NCAA selection committee.
Besides the fact that its players are amateur and younger than the pros, college basketball varies from NBA basketball in several other ways. The regular season is much shorter, and games consist of a pair of 20-minute halves (not 4 quarters that are 12 minutes long), and the shot clock is 30 seconds (not 24). Due to the shorter games, more time to shoot, and the amateur status of the athletes, college basketball games are lower-scoring than the NBA, with scores usually in the 60s or 70s.
The limited eligibility of college athletes (4 seasons) also leads to much more roster turnover than the NBA, preventing the same players from dominating year after year. However, powerhouse programs such as North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, and Kansas still tend to be the top contenders every season.
The Women’s National Basketball Association was founded in 1996 as a way for women to enjoy the similar professional basketball opportunities men have in the NBA and in various European leagues. Featuring 8 teams in its inaugural season, the league has expanded over the years and had 12 member clubs as of 2018.
Rather than compete for attention with the NBA and college basketball, the WNBA wisely begins its season in May as the NBA playoffs are winding down. The regular season lasts 34 games, followed by an 8-team playoff in which the top seed in each conference receives a double bye and the second seeds advance directly to the second round. The third- and fourth-place finishers in each conference play a single-elimination game for the right to advance to the best-of-5 semifinals, where the winners go on to play in the WNBA Finals, also a best-of-5.
WNBA games feature 4 quarters that last 10 minutes each, although the league’s 24-second shot clock is similar to that used by the NBA. Since the women are not generally as tall or as physically dominant as the men, the WNBA’s premium on shooting and passing delivers a skilled game that delights many basketball purists.
The NBA Finals isn’t just the most popular event in basketball; it’s also among the most-watched sporting events in North America every year. More than 30 million viewers tuned in to watch Game 7 of the 2016 Finals between the Cavaliers and Warriors, numbers that rival the audiences that the Super Bowl, Olympics, World Series, and national college football playoff attract.
Right behind the NBA Finals on the list of major events in basketball is the March Madness NCAA tournament. Millions of people enter bracket contests every year in the impossible chase of correctly picking every game in the tournament, and the first 2 full days of March Madness (when 16 games are played in a 12-hour span on each day) are must-see action for sports bettors and basketball junkies alike. Although excitement in the tournament wanes a bit as more teams are eliminated, people watch the Final Four in droves, with an average of 16 million tuning in to watch the semifinals from 2015-17.
Other than the NBA Finals, March Madness, and the WNBA Finals, there are always some international events that get basketball fans excited as well. The FIBA Basketball World Cup is held once every 4 years (the next one is scheduled for 2019 in China), giving us a chance to feel some patriotic pride as our country goes up against the best basketball nations from across the world.
The Olympics are also another major basketball event, as men’s hoops is always among the most-watched competitions in the Summer Games (slated next for 2020 in Tokyo). That’s especially the case after the Olympics began allowing professional athletes to participate, as American “dream teams” filled with NBA superstars have won the gold in 6 of the last 7 Olympic tournaments. And if you’re a fan of international basketball, you won’t want to miss the Eurobasket championships that are held in odd-numbered years and see 24 nations battle for European supremacy.
Just as basketball has evolved and improved over the years, so too have the ways that you can bet on it. Options for betting on the NBA, college, and international basketball were once limited to the traditional moneylines, point spreads, and over/unders, but the age of the internet opened up a world of more possibilities for those wanting to wager on the hard court.
Here’s a quick list of some of the various ways to bet on basketball, along with a brief description of each method: