Olympic basketball is set to begin on July 25 and there are a few notable rules differences compared to NBA competition.
One of the marquee events in the Olympics is the basketball tournament. While a lot of attention in the United States will be on an unusual-looking men’s team, it’s important to remember that there are some major rules differences between what basketball looks like in the NBA compared to the Olympic stage.
International competition is held according to FIBA rules, which are different in several key areas. Let’s break down the major differences to watch for as you settle in to watch the Olympic basketball tournament.
Major rules differences in Olympic basketball
The first thing fans will notice is that the spacing on the court is different in the Olympics than on an NBA court. FIBA courts are smaller, 49 x 92 as opposed to 50 x 94, which will reduce the space available to move along the court.
The three-point line is also closer to the basket as well, with the international line 21.65 feet in the corner (as opposed to 22 feet in the NBA) and the straightaway three 22.15 feet away (as opposed to 23.75 feet in the NBA). That should prove to be advantageous for the USA’s roster, which features superior athletes that can cover the ground quicker and make shorter threes.
Goaltending rules are also significantly reduced since a ball coming off the rim isn’t subject to offensive interference, which can lead to some crazy scrums around the basket. There is also no defensive three-second rule in FIBA competition, so teams can station one big in the middle of the paint to serve as a rim protector.
Game times are shorter in the Olympics as well with contests scheduled for four ten-minute quarters as opposed to the NBA’s four twelve-minute quarters. One significant change that comes with the shortened game is the foul limit, which reduces from six in NBA play to five internationally, which also counts technical fouls against a player’s personal foul count.
The other noteworthy rule difference is the number of timeouts, which are divvied up differently than they are in the NBA. Olympic competition allows two timeouts in the first half and three in the second, but only two of those can be used in the final four minutes of the game. This does help to speed up the end of the game, which can become interminably long in the NBA.
There is also one timeout for an overtime period, with no remaining timeouts from regulation carrying over. Only the coach can call a timeout from the sideline, so players on the court can’t call for time.
Group stage rules for Olympic basketball
The Olympics divide their 12 teams into three groups, with each team playing one game against each team in its group. The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout round with the two-highest rated third-place teams earning the final spots.
The top four teams from the group stage will be seeded with the rest unseeded ahead of a draw for the knockout bracket. From there, the tournament will follow the bracket to set up the medal round games.