How Many Players Are Allowed On A Basketball Court At Once?


Basketball is a fairly easy game to understand but a more difficult game to play,  basketball has a lot fewer players on the court than a soccer or football game would have on the playing field. But just how much?

How many players are allowed on the basketball court at once? The game of basketball is played with five players versus five players on the court which is a total of 10 players at any given time playing at the same time. There are many forms of basketball with one to five players on the court from each team.

We can take a look at the different formats and games that we see playing in today’s game and how it compares with each other.

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When the game was first invented by James Naismith in 1891 it was played with 9 vs 9.  This was due to the number of students that were in Naismith’s class, in which he was instructing new candidates in a leadership role for the YMCA. Naismith was told by his superior to come up with a game that would keep the students busy as it was too cold to go outside and play. The rest was history…


Players And Formats

There are many forms and games of basketball that players can play but are not considered mainstream, these formats include one on one, two on two, three on three, four on four and the five on five

Almost all professional basketball leagues and associations worldwide play five-on-five basketball full court. The three-on-three is the only other format in which there are leaves and associations surrounding that format but it just played half-court only the 515 and 3 on 3 have professional leagues


 Amount Of Players On a Team?

The amount of players on a team will be dependant on the league but in general, on a basketball team there can be but not recommended five players all the way up to 15 players on a team. 


What happens when there are too many players on the court?

Sometimes during a basketball game, there can be some miscommunication in which players substitute on the court and which players need to be subbed off the court. This can lead to a team with less than 5 players on the court and or more than 5 players on the court. if the referees catches it on time this is considered a violation that will result in a technical foul if there are more then 5 players on the court by one team. If there are 4 players there is no violation but some referees will not allow you to run onto the court upon noticing only 4 and you may have to wait till next whistle.

Some situations will arise that teams may not have the number of players to start a basketball game. The rule is 5 players on the court to start. I’ve seen firsthand team starting with five with one of those 5 being an injured player then coming off the court with the team playing now with four. This happens lower levels of basketball leagues and has never happened in a professional game. Though a similar story happen that involved the Golden State Warriors.


 Golden State Warriors

One of the most bizarre games the NBA has ever witnessed took place on April 14, 2010 when the Golden State Warriors took on the Portland Trailblazers. The Warriors Coach at the time was Don Nelson, finishing out the last game of the season for both teams in which the outcome had no effect on the current standings in the Western Conference as both teams are in the West. The Warriors were already out of the playoffs but the blazers had secured a spot but even with the win, it would not matter.

Warrior’s roster suffered from many players with injuries which they only had 6 players to start the game and those players were:

  • Stephen Curry
  • Monta Ellis
  • Anthony Tolliver
  • Reggie Williams
  • Chris Hunter
  • Devean George

Anthony Morrow and Ronny Turiaf were injured and suited up as there must be 8 to start the game in the NBA. Within the first 5 minutes of the game the warriors center, Chris Hunter became injured, leaving 5 players to play the remainder of the game.

Where things get interesting is when Devean George fouled out towards the end of the game. Don Nelson was left with the decision to put one of three injured players to play the game, but would not put their careers on the line for a meaningless game. The refs would not budge there was a delay in the game, and Nelson pleaded with the refs to let Devean George to play the remainder of the game. Nelson the genius that he was found a loop hole in the rule book which states:

Section I—Team

  1. Each team shall consist of five players.  A player is disqualified from the game when he receives his sixth personal foul. No team may be reduced to less than five players. If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been dis-qualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly.
  2. In the event that there are only five eligible players remaining and one of these players is injured and must leave the game or is ejected, he must be replaced by the last player who was disqualified by reason of receiving six personal fouls.  Each subsequent requirement to replace an injured or ejected player will be treated in this inverse order. Any such re- entry into a game by a disqualified player shall be penalized by a technical foul.
  3. In the event that a player leaves the playing court while the ball is in play, play will continue until the next stoppage of play and the player will be replaced if he is not ready to return. No technical foul will be assessed, but the incident will be reviewed by the league office for a possible fine and/or suspension.

Basically the injured players checked in and pretended to get injured on the court, they were subbed out while leaving the game to the locker room.  Devean George came back into the game, the crazy thing about this game is the Warriors managed to win. I’m sure that didn’t help Portland’s confidence going into the playoffs.


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