Basketball has come a long way since it was invented by a Canadian - Dr James Naismith - in Springfield, USA, in 1891 as a means to keep his gym class active on a rainy day.
John Amaechi, BBC Sport
"Basketball is accepted as having the most well-rounded athletes in the world. It's a quick game, and you can be fooled into thinking it's easy to score, but I can tell you it isn't. For Team GB, Luol Deng is the man to watch, but it is going to be a real struggle for the women. For the US men's team, Kevin Durant could emerge as someone to watch as if it is just the 'Kobe Bryant and LeBron James Show', they will fail."
Star players in the American National Basketball Association (NBA) such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are now some of the most recognisable and highly-paid athletes on the planet.
Men's basketball was introduced to the Olympics in 1936, with women given their own competition in 1976. In 1989, basketball's governing body Fiba voted to allow NBA stars to compete in the Olympics.
Great Britain will field men's and women's teams at London 2012 - the first time they have competed at the Olympics since London last hosted the Games in 1948. Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng is expected to be the star British performer.
Why is it good for you?
Basketball is a fast-moving game, where an hour's play can burn between 630-750 calories.
The sport's mixture of running, jumping, pivoting and twisting helps improve balance and build endurance.
It is also an excellent way to boost coordination and balance through dribbling, passing and shooting the basketball.
As it is a team game, basketball is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people.
Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.
More than 300,000 people are estimated to play basketball each month in the United Kingdom.
It is a cheap game to set-up, with only a hoop and basketball required for a rudimentary match. Thousands of outdoor courts can be found across the country in parks and recreation areas where you can play for free.
For people looking to receive coaching, play as part of a team and compete in a league, there are approximately 1,000 clubs in the UK which can be found in sport centres, schools, colleges, universities and gyms.
London 2012: Basketball at the Olympics explained (Part one)
Find your local club by using the
Basketball Northern Ireland,
club finders. The
is giving people of all ages throughout the country the chance to play the sport, with many sessions costing nothing to take part in.
campaign is looking to help people aged 25+ who previously played the sport and want to get back to playing again, with
designed to help universities, colleges, schools and clubs set-up inter-mural leagues.
Basketball Wales run a number of
leagues and coaching courses
for both children and adults, while
provide detailed training for under-14 players through their
Basketball Northern Ireland
run a number of
for boys and girls aged 8-18 who are looking to improve their skills.
More on the British Basketball website
Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?
'Join In Local Sport'
aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on
18/19 August, 2012
- the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.
More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.
As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.
Find an event
The competition format at London 2012
Can you compete?
Get your performance under pressure analysed in just 20 minutes by four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson
- From Saturday 28 July to Sunday 12 August, 288 athletes in 24 teams (12 men's, 12 women's) will compete in the basketball competition.
- The Basketball Arena in the Olympic Park will host the preliminary round and the women's quarter-finals. The North Greenwich Arena will host the men's quarter-finals, semi-finals, third-place play-off and final, plus the women's semi-finals, third-place play-off and final.
- Both men's and women's Olympic tournaments consist of 12 teams playing in two pools of six in the preliminary round.
- The best four teams from each pool will qualify for the quarter-finals.
- The semi-final winners will play for gold and silver, the semi-final losers for bronze.
More on the London 2012 website
The rules at London 2012
Two teams of five (with seven substitutes) compete on a court that is 15m wide and 28m long, with baskets that are 3.05m above the ground at either end. A game is 40 minutes long, consisting of four 10-minute quarters.
Great Olympic moment
The 1972 final saw the USSR beat the previously undefeated USA 51-50 amid huge controversy. The US had celebrated victory only for three seconds to be added to the clock, allowing Sasha Belov to score a dramatic winning basket. Coaches and officials debated the result on court afterwards (above).
The team with the most points at the end wins. If the score is tied at the end of playing time for the fourth period, the game shall continue with as many extra periods of five minutes as is necessary to break the tie.
There are unlimited substitutions and teams can call time-outs, where play is stopped for up to one minute. Two timeouts can be called per team in the first half of the game, three in the second half, and a further one timeout each extra time period.
Points are scored by shooting the ball into the basket from either inside the three-point line (two points), outside the line (three points) or, in the case of fouls and penalties, from a specified spot straight in front of the basket (one point per shot).
Once a team is in possession of the ball, they have 24 seconds to shoot or they lose possession to their opponents.
Players are not allowed to hold the ball or use two hands while running, and must 'dribble' it by bouncing it from one hand to the floor and back again. If they hold the ball for more than two stops while moving, it is called 'travelling', and possession is conceded.
If a player commits five fouls they must be substituted and cannot return to the game.
More on the Team GB website
Ones to watch
Team GB's men have been strengthened by the addition of NBA All-Star
but they finished 13th at the European Championships and have little chance of winning a medal.
The women made an encouraging debut at EuroBasket last year but the players themselves say they are not going to medal.
The USA's men, with NBA stars like
will be red-hot favourites to win gold but expect Spain and Argentina to push them close.
USA's women's team are as dominant as their male counterparts - they top the world rankings and are reigning world champions. Australia and Russia will challenge.
The popularity of basketball spread quickly following Dr Naismith's invention of the sport in 1891, with students from abroad who had studied in Springfield taking the game far and wide.
Did you know?
The silver medals won by the USA's men at the 1972 Olympics remain in a vault at the IOC as the team refused to accept them following the highly-controversial defeat by Russia in the final (which ended their 63-match unbeaten run at the Games). US captain Ken Davis has a clause in his will stating that a member of his family will never be allowed to go and collect his medal.
The first game involved a football and two baskets normally used to carry peaches as the target. Someone would retrieve the ball after every basket, with the bottom only removed in 1906 to create the hoop now used today.
An Olympic demonstration sport as early as 1904, the first international games were played in the 1920s and men's basketball was introduced to the Olympics in 1936
By 1950, the first World Championship for men was held in Argentina. Three years later, the first World Championship for women took place in Chile, with the opening Olympic competition following in 1976.
Over 450 million people now play basketball at a competition and grassroots level, and the sport
claims to be closing on football as the world's most popular.
More on the IOC website