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Differences Between NBA & Olympic Rules - By Matt Blair - March 17, 2004

Most of the same rules apply to all basketball leagues: traveling, scoring, fouling, and so on. However, fans of the NBA must familiarize themselves with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules in order to fully understand the differences between NBA rules and FIBA rules. Here are the main differences:

Time Periods: The NBA has 4 periods of 12 minutes each. The Olympics will have 2 20-minutes periods.

Shot Clock: The NBA has a 24-second shot clock; however, the Olympics have a 30-second shot clock window in which offensive players must touch the ball to the rim.

Times-Outs: Each team will have 2 time-outs per half that last only 1 minute each. There are no "TV" time-outs.

Overtime: If both teams score the same amount of points at the end of the 2nd half (or at the end of an overtime period), a 5 minute overtime period is played. Each team may have only 1 time-out during overtime.

Team Fouls: Both teams will have 8 fouls before they are "over the limit." Starting with the 9th foul of a given half, the opposing team will attempt 2 free-throws.

Personal Fouls: In the NBA, players are given 6 fouls before leaving the game. In the Olympics, players will leave the game after they commit 5 fouls.

Lane or Key: Most court dimension differences are not notable to the average NBA fan, with the exception of the lane and the 3-point line. The lane under FIBA rules is in the form of a trapezoid, taking away the advantage that many centers have when they "camp out" near the basket. Players may not be in the lane for more than 3 seconds. Click here for a court diagram (the FIBA lane is in blue). This gives an advantage to shooters and quicker players, rather than slower, bulky players.

3-Point Line: FIBA rules put the 3-point lane 20'6" from the rim. In the NBA, it is 23"9'. The shortened 3-point line makes the game very exciting, allowing for higher-scoring offenses.


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