What is a Field Goal in Basketball 2024? Experts Explain

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Score points with my expert breakdown: what is a field goal in basketball? Understand the different types of field goals and how they contribute to scoring.

What is a Field Goal in Basketball? Basics

Definition and Importance

In basketball, a field goal is any shot a player takes during a game, except for free throws. Successfully making a field goal earns your team points.

The importance of field goals lies in the fact that they are the primary means of scoring; the team with the most points at the end of the game wins. Each shot attempt contributes to a player’s and team’s statistical data, helping measure proficiency in scoring.

Types of Field Goals

  • Two-Point Field Goal: A two-point field goal is when you score from anywhere inside the three-point arc. This can be a layup, a slam dunk, or a jump shot close to the basket.
  • Three-Point Field Goal: A three-point field goal happens when you score from beyond the three-point line. It requires precision and often comes from a jump shot.

Scoring Mechanics

A basketball sailing through the air towards the hoop, with the net and backboard in the background

Two-Point Field Goals

Two-point field goals are your bread and butter for racking up points in a game. These are any shots made from within the three-point arc.

Standard two-point shots include layups and dunks, which are taken close to the basket, often driven by a player moving toward the basket with speed and control.

The two-point shot is frequently seen as a reliable source of scoring — not as risky as three-pointers but still significantly contributing to your team’s score.

Three-Point Field Goals

Your ability to score from a distance beyond the three-point line adds a layered strategic element to the game. Three-point field goals award you three points and are a game-changer when your team is trailing in the score.

The challenge lies in the increased distance; a successful shot requires precision and often happens under heavy defensive pressure. Hitting these long-range shots not only boosts the score but can also boost your team’s morale.

And-One Opportunities

Sometimes, fans cheer for an “and-one” when a player is fouled while making a shot. If the basket counts, you’ll get the points from the initial shot — either two or three, depending on where it was taken — and then have a chance to score an additional one point from the free-throw line. It’s a thrilling chance to put an extra point on the scoreboard, making the most out of a foul situation.

Field Goal Percentage

A basketball flying through the air towards the hoop, with the net in the background

Field goal percentage, often abbreviated as FG%, is a crucial stat that reflects your shooting efficiency by comparing the number of successful field goals (FGM) to the total attempts (FGA).

Calculation and Analysis

To calculate FG%, you’ll divide the number of field goals made (FGM) by the field goals attempted (FGA). Mathematical representation is as simple as:

FG% = (FGM / FGA) x 100

This percentage gives you a clear idea of how effectively a player or team scores from the field during a game. A higher FG% indicates better accuracy and selection of shots. For instance, a player with a FG% of 50% has made half of their shot attempts, which is considered quite proficient.

When analyzing a player’s FG%, context matters. A center might have a higher FG% than a guard, partly due to proximity to the basket.

Factors Affecting FG%

Several factors can influence FG%, and it’s beneficial for you to consider them:

  • Distance: Generally, the further away from the basket, the more challenging the shot becomes, potentially lowering FG%.
  • Defenders: A proficient defender can reduce the FG% of an offensive player by effectively contesting their shots.
  • Shot Selection: Wise shot choices, often taken closer to the basket or in rhythm, can result in a higher FG%.
  • Offensive Strategy: A team’s approach on the offensive end of the court can create higher percentage shots for its players.

Remember, FG% alone doesn’t tell the whole story of a player’s shooting abilities. Advanced stats like Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) take into account the extra value of three-pointers. However, FG% remains foundational in understanding a player or team’s shooting success.

Records and Notable Players

A basketball hoop with a ball going through the net, surrounded by a court and spectators

Historical Achievements

Wilt Chamberlain set a record that still stands out today; he scored an unbelievable 100 points in a single NBA game. This high-scoring feat reflects his number of field goals (FGs) made during that game. Another name synonymous with basketball greatness, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, holds the all-time NBA record for career field goals made, with a staggering 15,837 FGs.

Top Field Goal Scorers

The leaders in field goal scoring have shown consistency and skill in putting the ball through the hoop. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads the pack in historical FGs made. Close on his heels are other NBA phenomenons such as Karl Malone, who scored 13,528 FGs, and LeBron James, with an ever-increasing tally that stands strong at 12,682 FGs as of the latest. Thanks to their scoring prowess, players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are among the top.

Rules and Regulations

A basketball hoop with a net attached stands at the end of a court, with clear markings indicating the three-point line and the free-throw line

Gameplay Rules

When you’re on the offense, a field goal attempt is any shot taken from anywhere on the court during live play. However, it’s essential to be aware of the shot clock, a timer designed to encourage prompt play by limiting your team has time to attempt a shot.

For most leagues, once you have possession of the ball, you’ll have 24 seconds to take a shot that at least touches the rim to reset the clock.

Additionally, there are rules to prevent camping in the key areas. For instance, the three-second violation occurs when an offensive player remains in the key for over three seconds without attempting a shot. Also, avoiding traveling is essential, where you can’t take more than a step and a half without dribbling the ball.

Field Goal Restrictions

A field goal can be a two or three-pointer, depending on where the shot is taken relative to the three-point line. If you shoot from inside this line, you will score two points upon a successful attempt; beyond this line, you’ll score three. A shot is only legal if you release the ball before touching the ground if jumping during the effort—this includes dunks and jump shots.

It’s also important to note that your shot won’t be a valid attempt if you’re fouled during the shooting process and the ball doesn’t go in—it turns into free throws instead. Another key rule is that you must attempt your shot without it being illegally interfered by a defender which would result in a goal-tending violation and the basket being awarded to your team. Remember, play fair and understand the rules to make every attempt count!

Techniques and Strategies

A basketball is being kicked or thrown towards a hoop, with the intention of scoring points. The hoop is elevated and has a net attached to it

When you step onto the basketball court, mastering various techniques and strategies can significantly enhance your ability to score field goals.

From choosing the right shot to understanding how offensive plays interact with defensive setups, the nuances of these elements can make a big difference in your game.

Shot Selection

Selecting the right shot is crucial for any player, whether you’re a guard, forward, or center. For two-point field goals, your proximity to the basket and the position of defenders dictate whether you might go for a hook shot, a floater, or even a powerful slam dunk. When considering three-point shots, assessing your success rate from different distances and the arc of your shot is essential. Remember that every attempt matters, and a higher field goals made to attempted ratio boosts your team’s efficiency.

Offensive and Defensive Tactics

Offensive players need to have a strategy for dealing with the defender from the opposing team. Quick passes and movement without the ball can open up space for a player to take a shot. Conversely, on defense, understanding the tendencies of the offensive player can disrupt their possession and shot attempt. For example, if you know your opponent has a strong three-pointer, closing the distance quickly and raising your hands can reduce their field goal chances. Constant communication with your teammates helps everyone to stay aligned on both ends of the court.


Do 3 pointers count as field goals?

Yes, 3-pointers count as field goals in basketball. A 3-pointer is a shot made from beyond the three-point line, and it is worth three points if successful.

What is considered a field goal?

In basketball, a field goal refers to any successful attempt to score made during regular play, excluding free throws. This includes shots made from inside or outside the three-point line, such as layups, jump shots, and dunks.

Does a foul shot count as a field goal?

No, a foul shot does not count as a field goal. Foul shots, also known as free throws, are awarded after a player is fouled during shooting or when a team accumulates a certain number of team fouls. Free throws are taken from the free-throw line and are not considered field goals.

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Leave me a comment and make sure to also check out How to Win a Basketball Game.

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Fabian Kühar
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