Basketball guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

Your complete guide to basketball ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Photograph: Basketball via Shutterstock

Converted: Some of the world’s biggest sports stars, in more ways than one, hold court for one of the hottest tickets of the Games.

Confused: I’d rather watch the NBA.

RECOMMENDED: See our full list of London 2012 Olympic sport guides

Basketball - The essential guide

Photograph: © Getty Images

Street cred: The likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are bona-fide A-list millionaires.

Who’s good? The USA, invariably referred to by a clumsy nickname including the word “team” such as The Dream Team (1992), the Nightmare Team (2004) or the Redeem Team (2008).

The basics: Two points for getting the ball through the hoop, or three if you do it from a long distance and one from a free throw. There are no extra points for slam dunks.

Athlete to watch: The USA women’s basketball team are even more successful than the men and haven’t lost an Olympic match since 1992. Look out for Candace Parker, one of an elite band of women who can dunk.

As seen in: Lots of (mostly bad) films – few can match the gritty sporting realism of ‘Teen Wolf’, starring Michael J Fox as the eponymous adolescent furball.

Almost useless fact: Basketball was invented in 1891 but was played with a football until 1929.

Do say: ‘Team USA can’t afford to be complacent because Spain, Argentina and China can play a little, too.’

Don't say: ‘White men can’t jump, which is bad news for the Lithuania team.’