How to Bet on Basketball

Basketball is one of the most exciting sports on the planet and we’re on hand to give you everything you need to know about how to bet on basketball.

The sport is played all over the world but the pinnacle of basketball is the NBA in America. There is also big competitions in Europe — such as the continent-wide Euro League — and Asia is seeing a major growth in the sport in recent years.

Of course, the Olympics remains the gold standard for international basketball and there is also a World Cup staged every four years. But at club level the NBA is the big draw and attracts fans from all over the world.

Basketball betting is one of the most straightforward markets in sports gaming. In this guide we’ll take you through how to bet on basketball, what are the most popular odds and details of live streaming.

Read the guide below and become an expert in basketball and NBA betting.


Basketball rules

Basketball is one of the easiest sports to follow — and therefore one of the most exciting! The rules are very straightforward. Two teams of five players face each other on a court and the aim is to score points by throwing the ball through the opposite side’s hoop.

Teams earn two points for a successful throw inside the immediate area of the hoop, with three points — often referred to as a ‘three-pointer’ — earned for throws outside of that zone. Teams can also throw one-point shots when there has been a foul, which leads to two ‘free throws’ at the hoop.

Players must bounce the ball every two steps they are in possession and there is a shot clock to make sure both sides attack. Basketball is meant to be a non-contact sport but there is always some jostling for position when teams are on the attack.

Matches take between 120 and 150 minutes. There are four quarters each with 12 minutes of action. But because of stoppages, breaks and timeouts, matches run for much longer.

Most popular basketball betting markets

Basketball is in the top 10 most popular and fastest growing sports in the world, both in the number of fans and players. It’s an extremely intense sport, where over 1000 matches are played in one season in the NBA alone.

In a basketball game, there are numerous chances to score points – much more than in other ball games like football or hockey. Because more points are scored, it lowers the randomness factor of the game when compared to, say, betting on football.

It’s also why the better team wins in basketball more often than in football. And it’s also why the best teams are likely to reach the NBA Playoffs at the end of the season.

How to bet on NBA games

Most basketball betting fans who are just starting out will likely make bets on the outcome of a match. These match bets simply offer the punter the chance to back a winner. Because there are no draws in basketball, this is the easiest way to get used to basketball betting. You either back the home team (1) to win, or the away team (2).

Games that finish level after the fourth quarter go to overtime, where a winner will be decided. Therefore, basketball betting markets will usually offer players a match bet including overtime, to cover for that eventuality.

Handicap betting is huge in basketball because of the way the scoring works. A handicap can work in two ways: either the underdog team is given hypothetical extra points at the beginning of the game, or the favourite has points taken off their tally. Doing this evens out the odds and makes betting on an uneven match far more competitive.

Let us give you an example:

In a match between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers we offer you a ‘Handicap – Including Overtime’ bet, where Golden State will win by at least six points (-5.5) or the Lakers don’t lose with more than five points (+5.5). If you bet on the Warriors with the handicap, and they win by seven points, you win — it’s as simple as that. Handicap betting gives the player a chance to get higher odds, or make a risky bet a safer one.

Over/under bets are also hugely popular in NBA betting. Again, this is because there are sometimes over 220 points scored in a single game. It means players face little chance of predicting the correct score, or the total number of points. So an over/under market is offered instead.

In over/under bets, a player bets on whether or not the game will produce more or fewer points than a specific target. So, you could bet on a Pistons vs Bucks game yielding +190.5 points. If 191 points are scored, you win your bet. As the average number of points scored in an NBA game is around 180 and 220, most over/under bets have odds around these points.

You can also bet on the first quarter result, as well as the first half result. So if you think a team will start brightly but may not have enough to secure the win, then this is the sort of bet where you can improve your chances of winning a bet. It works like a match bet, where you back the team (1 or 2) you think will be leading at the first quarter or at half time.

Player specific bets are also big in basketball — usually because each team has one star man. For example, you may wish to back Luka Doncic to top score for his team during a specific game. Doncic is a formidable point guard and the Slovenian’s odds on top scoring in a match could be very low indeed. Top scorer betting remains popular in basketball and is a great way to follow a player you like, even if you don’t support their team!

Long term basketball betting

There are also numerous long-term bets you can place on NBA and basketball each year. Here at Unibet we offer markets on season-long bets such as the NBA Championship winner, the NBA MVP award and the Rookie of the Year.

Some players can carry a team through an entire season but it is usually a star from the NBA Championship winning team that claims the MVP award. Therefore, be sure to keep an eye on which teams look good to make the NBA Finals before placing a bet on this market.

Equally, the Rookie of the Year betting market is one that fluctuates throughout the season. Rookies arrive in their first year of the NBA usually from college and most take time to adapt to their professional surroundings. Yet some earn the Rookie of the Year award and go on to become legends, such as LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

International basketball

But we don’t just offer odds in the NBA. European basketball is huge and especially the Euro League — which is basketball’s equivalent to the Champions League in football. Here, Europe’s best teams from the likes of Spain, Turkey, Russia and Italy collide each week.

Eurobasket is the big international tournament in basketball and takes place every four years. This is where the big basketball nations such as Russia, Serbia, Spain and Slovenia converge to battle it out for continental glory.

Basketball is also played at the Olympics and has its own World Cup, which is staged every four years. The USA have won the World Cup five times and boast 15 Olympic gold medals.

Live stream basketball and betting in-play

Did you know you can live stream basketball from around the world here with Unibet? We offer fans the chance to watch and bet on the biggest matches in world basketball, direct to your smartphone, tablet or computer.

Live stream NBA with Unibet and bet in-play on every match of the season. This service is available to new and current customers. Now, many NBA games are played during the UK’s night because of the time difference with the USA. But weekend games are often enjoyed in the afternoons and evenings. It means you can follow the best teams on the planet each week without having to set an early alarm clock!

You can also live stream Euro League and bet in-play on all the action from this tournament. The best teams on the continent compete in Euro League, which runs from autumn to spring each year.

Bet on basketball