Basketball is absolutely central to The Crossover, so here is a brief primer on how to play this sport for readers who may not be as intimately familiar with it as the novel's characters are.
Basketball is a team sport. There are two teams of five players (though the teams are made up of six, with one player remaining on the bench who can swap out with another player on the court) and they are trying to score by shooting the ball into a ten-foot-high hoop. The rectangular, 91-by-50-foot court is divided by the midcourt line into two sections. At the beginning of the game, each team is assigned one of the baskets to defend, and this switches at halftime.
Players move the ball down the court by dribbling or passing. The team with the ball is the offense and the team without the ball is the defense. The defense tries to steal the ball, interrupt passes, or get rebounds. The basic rules according to Rules of Sport are these: “After the ball goes into a team’s half and they win possession back the ball must then make it back over the halfway line within 10 seconds. If the ball fails to do so then a foul will be called and the ball will be turned over. Each team has 24 seconds to at least shot at the basket. A shot constitutes either going in the basket or hitting the rim of the basket. If after the shot is taken and the ball fails to go in the basket then the shot clock is restarted for another 24 seconds… After each successful basket, the ball is then turned over to the opposition.” When one team makes a basket, they earn two points; if the basket is made outside of the three-point demarcation, then they get three points instead. Free throws are worth one point each and occur when a player is fouled by an opposing player. Fouls include hitting, pushing, slapping, holding, or an illegal pick/screen (an offensive player moving and sticking out a limb to prevent a defensive player from getting in their way).
Other violations on the court include walking/traveling (moving a step and a half without dribbling the ball), carrying or palming the ball, double dribbling (both hands on the ball at the same time), holding the ball, and time restrictions.
The game has two sections. In high school and below, the halves are divided into eight- or sometimes six-minute quarters. A short gap exists between each quarter. Overtime occurs if the teams are tied by the end of the regulation time; in that case, they will have another quarter to try to score points.
To begin the game, a referee will toss the ball into the air and a representative of each team will try to touch it first. That player then tips it off to a teammate.
There are several positions a player can take. The center is usually the tallest player and remains near the basket. As an offensive center, they try to get a pass and shoot as well as block defenders. As a defensive center, they try to stop opponents from shooting. Forwards may play under the wings or in the corner areas, but mostly under the hoop; they can take offensive or defensive roles. The guard dribbles quickly, sees the court, passes, and sets up offensive plays; they can also take on offensive or defensive roles.
The winning team is the one with the most points at the end.