Different Levels of Basketball Teams

From recreation leagues to college basketball and professional leagues, basketball continues to be one of the most popular sports in the United States and around world. Different levels of basketball teams and leagues have different rules that govern play based on skill as players try to improve their skills in order to move up from level to level.

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Youth Leagues

In the United States, recreational youth leagues are available for children and teenagers to learn basketball. These leagues are usually run by private organizations as well as city recreation departments. These leagues have rules designed to involve kids of all different skill levels learn the game. For example, some leagues prohibit full-court presses in order to help players learn how to advance the ball across the division line and set up a half-court offense.

High School

Players who excel in youth leagues often go on to play high school basketball. Teams are usually organized into junior-varsity teams, which consist of players in lower grade levels, and varsity teams, consisting of upper class and more advanced players. Teams play other high school teams from their area and, based on regular-season success, may go on to play for area and state championships. The National Federation of State High School Associations governs the rules and general play in high school.


After playing in high school, the best players many times have the opportunity to play college basketball. Schools large enough to have competitive teams recruit players out of high school, who usually commit to a certain university during their last years of high school. College teams compete against other universities at different division levels as part of the NCAA, which governs collegiate basketball games and teams. The NCAA divides schools into different divisions, with Division I being the largest, its games regularly being televised, and its annual championship tournament being one of the most popular sporting events of the year.


The NBA is comprised of 29 teams in the U.S. and one in Canada. The most elite players in college are selected by teams in the NBA in an annual "draft" where teams select individual players in order based on a draft lottery. The most elite professional players in the world also often compete in international competitions such as world championships as well as the Olympics. The WNBA consists of 12 teams across the United States.

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