What are the differences between basketball and volleyball? (answered)

Basketball and volleyball are both popular sports. They have some similarities but also some key differences. Let’s take a look at some of the differences and similarities between these sports.

Differences between basketball and volleyball

1/ Basketball is a contact sport

In basketball players can push each other and set a screen to block the other player.  This is why a lot of basketball players spend a lot of time in the gym. You can’t push players too hard or you will get a fault. This is not possible in volleyball as both teams are on different sides of the net. Therefore there is no physical contact between players of both teams. Some players enjoy taunting the opponent and this can be harder to do if there is no physical contact. For some people, this reduces the appeal of volleyball. 

2/ Basketball has a goal

In volleyball, you only have a net and you score by pushing the ball to the ground in the court of the other team. In basketball, you have a goal. You score by putting the ball inside it. This requires more precision as the goal is smaller than the court in volleyball. 

It is quite easy to make a makeshift net as you can just use a cord. Making a basketball goal on the fly is harder.

3/ Volleyball has a limited amount of passes per attack

Basketball has the shot clock and limits attacks to 24 seconds each. Volleyball doesn’t have a time limit but since you can’t hold the ball and you are not allowed to dribble it either and only 3 passes per attack are allowed, attacks don’t last that long. In general, attacks take a long time in basketball than in volleyball as you can pass around a lot in basketball. You can also dribble and walk slowly.  

4/ Volleyball matches don’t have a time limit

Basketball is played in 4 quarters to limit the matches. The team that has the most points at the end wins. Volleyball works differently. Instead of a time limit, there is a scoring limit. Since you only have 3 passes per attack and can’t hold or dribble the ball, there is a natural time limit on volleyball matches. Once players get tired, they drop the ball more often. That being said, volleyball matches (1-2 hours) often last longer than basketball matches (40 minutes)

5/ The scoring system is different: sets versus points

In basketball, you can score 2 points if you stand close to the basket, 3 points if you score from outside the main perimeter around the basket. In volleyball, you get 1 point per successful attack. The scoring system in volleyball is different as the points are not added continuously but instead, matches are played in sets. To win a set you need in general 25  points. The first team that wins two (women) or three (men) sets, wins the match. Even if one team won the set by 25-0, they can still lose the match later on as this set only gave 1 point of the required 2 (women) or 3 (men) to win the match. If you are 25 points ahead in a basketball match, it would be a lot harder to lose. 

This can result in very spectacular comebacks in volleyball:

6/ 5 players in basketball and 6 in volleyball

There are 5 basketball players per team, in volleyball you have 6 players on the court at the same time.  

Volleyball players also have to take their position on the court into account. Courts are divided into 6 parts and players have to rotate during the match so that they have had each spot on the court during the match. There is also one player (the libero) that can replace back row players at any point during the match. This player wears another colored jersey than the rest of the team. 

7/ It is not allowed to touch the net in volleyball

This is a small point but if you touch the net in volleyball, the other team is going to get a point. This can be quite challenging as players go over the net when they block the ball. In basketball, it is often not a problem if you touch the net with the exception of goaltending where a player disrupts the downward trajectory of the ball. 

8/ Basketball is more popular in the USA

Volleyball is mainly popular amongst women in some states in the USA. Basketball is popular amongst the whole USA. NBA basketball players are well-respected athletes. There is not even a professional volleyball league in the USA at the moment and players have to go to places such as Brazil, Italy, or Japan if they want to be professional volleyball players. Hopefully, volleyball will become more popular in the years to come.

Similarities between basketball and volleyball

1/ It is both team sports

You have to work together as a team in both sports if you want to win. You have Michael Jordan in basketball but he also had other great players in his team such as Scottie Pippen. MJ wouldn’t be as successful without his team. The same is true in volleyball. You can’t win on your own.  

2/ They both have a referee

A referee has to make sure that the rules are being followed. They are both fast-paced sports and it can be quite hard to officiate them. Therefore referees have to follow special training sessions so that they know what they are doing. The rules often have a lot of nuances and learning them can take a long time.

3/ It is played on a court

Indoor volleyball and basketball are both played in a sports arena. Beach volleyball is becoming more popular lately and this is played in an outdoor court on the sand. 

4/ It are both ball sports that are played with the hands

You need a ball to practice both types of sports. In basketball, it is not allowed to touch the ball with your feet. In volleyball, it is allowed to do so but it doesn’t happen often as it is quite hard to control the ball in this way. Both sports require a lot of training so that you can develop your ball-handling skills.

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

5/ Players have specific roles

In both basketball and volleyball players have specific roles in the attack and defense. This allows teams to develop strategies and systems to defeat the other team. Players spend a lot of time developing this particular skill. 

6/ Players can be substituted during the match

During the match, it is possible to substitute players in both sports. There is a cap on how many times a substitution is possible in volleyball with 15 per set. In basketball, there is no such cap and players can be substituted through the game once the referee allows it.

7/ Timeouts are allowed

Timeouts are allowed to discuss the strategy. In volleyball, each team gets 2 per set. In basketball, each team gets six timeouts per match. It is possible that there are differences per country and level of play. 

8/ It are both Olympic sports

Volleyball and more recently beach volleyball has been added as Olympic sports. Team USA has performed well during both basketball and volleyball events. Especially the female volleyball team has done really well and this can inspire new players to pick up this sport.

To conclude, we can state that basketball and volleyball have a lot of similarities but there are also some key differences. These make it both unique and interesting sports that can attract a lot of players. You can try both and see which one you like the most.

We have discussed why ballet is a sport here.