What is a Field Goal in Basketball? Best Explanation

Basketball is a high-scoring game. There are also plenty of ways of scoring more than the opposing team.

Some count as one point, while others come from two or even three points. The single-point score is earned from the free-throw line, while the two- or three- points are scored through a field goal.

But what exactly is a field goal in basketball, and how is it scored?

A field goal (FG) is any shot scored during live ball possessions. Depending on the distance from the basket, it would either count as two or three points. Field goals are used to determine how many shots a team/player successfully shot and missed.

With this general information regarding field goals in basketball, let us dig a little deeper.

What is a field goal in basketball?

A field goal (FG) in basketball is any shot scored by an offensive player anywhere on the court during live ball possessions, which, if successful, would either be worth two or three points.

If a basketball player shoots from inside the three-point line or the arc, those shots would be worth two points, while those scored outside the arc are worth three points. 

While a field goal is traditionally worth two or three points, some leagues and competitions use another scoring count for a field goal, such as the following:

  • FIBA and Olympic 3×3 Basketball shots made inside the arc are worth one point, while shots beyond the arc are worth two points.
  • BIG3 Basketball League has four-point shots for successful shots from designated areas on the court beyond the standard three-point line.

Why is it called a field goal in basketball?

While there is no official mention of the term field goal in the original 13 Rules of Basketball made by the inventor of basketball himself, James Naismith, a possible explanation for basketball’s use of the term field goal may originate when the playing area of basketball was called ‘field of play,’ and the basket was still called a ‘goal.’

The term field goal in basketball also often confuses fans since it is similar to American Football.

What is considered a field goal in basketball?

The NBA Official Rule Book states that a legal field goal shall be scored when the ball from the playing area enters through the basket from above and remains in or passes through the net.

A successful field goal can be worth two or three points depending on the area where a shot was attempted, which we will dive deeper into later.

Though the offensive team aims to score a field goal during possession, there are rare instances when a field goal is scored accidentally by the defensive team, usually during defensive rebounds.

If that happens, the field goal will be credited to the nearest opposing player closest to the defensive player who caused the accidental basket.

What is a field goal attempt in basketball?

A field goal attempt (FGA) is a shot attempted by an offensive player into his basket for a field goal.

A field goal attempt starts from the act of shooting. 

A jump shot’s act of shooting begins as a player brings the ball upward for a shot, while a drive to the basket attempt’s act of shooting starts as a player gathers the ball and continues moving towards the basket.

Tapping the ball during live plays that direct the ball toward the rim is also considered a field goal. Field goals attempted after the shot or game clock buzzer sounds do not count even if they enter the basket. 

What is a 2-point field goal in basketball?

A two-point field goal (2FG) is a successful shot attempt taken on and inside the three-point field goal line and counts as two points. While there are several moves a player can take to score, as long as a shot was made inside the arc, it will still be worth two points.

Here are various ways to score two-point field goals:


Layups are shots an offensive player takes by running toward the rim, then jumping from the floor before releasing the ball using one hand and laying it up towards the basket. These are the most basic and efficient shots utilized in basketball.

A player can utilize various ways, levels of difficulty, and styles to score using a layup. Some variations include reverse layups and finger rolls. Some players who display spectacular layup variations are Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Tony Parker.


If a player is tall enough or with sufficient leaping ability to reach the rim while holding the ball may perform a higher percentage and breathtaking dunk shot.

Dunks are a variation of layups, but instead of laying the ball up towards the rim, a player throws down the ball into the basket.

Some of the strongest players in NBA History used their strength to throw down dunks over their opponents when talking dunks; Vince Carter, Shaquille O’Neal, Blake Griffin, and Michael Jordan are names that quickly come to mind.


Floaters are high-arching shots commonly utilized by smaller players to shoot above taller defenders. Also called teardrops or runners, these shots are the go-to shots of some of the best point guards like Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Trey Young, and Stephen Curry.

Hook Shots

Hook shots are the common shot-of-choice by post players. This shot commonly starts from the low post position with a player’s back towards the basket. Upon receiving the ball, the post player positions his body sideways with his shooting hand further away from the basket.

As he jumps, he steps his foot closer to the basket and, with a sweeping motion, brings the ball up above his head and releases the ball with a flick of his wrist. 

Contrary to floaters that point guards commonly utilize, hook shots are best employed by the centers and power forwards. Some of the best hook shots also come from some of the best players in NBA history, most notably Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Skyhook and Dwight Howard’s Jump Hook Shot.

Mid-range Jump shots

While advanced stats and analytics often criticize mid-range shots as inefficient and should be avoided, it remains one of the most dangerous shots in basketball.

A mid-range jump shot is any jump shot taken outside the free-throw area but inside the three-point line.

Some of the best players in the NBA often have a mid-range shot in their arsenal, like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki.

What is a 3-point field goal in basketball?

A three-point field goal (3FG) is a successful attempt from any area outside the three-point arc and shall count as three points.

The three-point distance varies between different leagues and competitions.

The NBA’s three-point arc and line distances are the farthest, while FIBA, WNBA, and NCAA have shorter distances.

The three-point field goal line was introduced in the late ’60s and waited some time before it took off and has become the most critical shot in a basketball game.

Today, it is common to see all the five players of a team shoot three points which was almost unthinkable a few decades ago. 

The three-points have become one of NBA teams’ primary offensive weapons, averaging just around 2.8 three-point field goal attempts with only 0.8 made attempts in the ’79-’80 season. Golden State Warriors is the best case study for the three-point era, which won several championships through the help of the “Splash Brothers” and 3-point specialists Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

What is the field goal percentage?

The field goal percentage (FG%) in basketball is the ratio between the field goals made and the field goals attempted, multiplied by 100. Simply,

((field goals made FGM)/(field goals attempted FGA)) x 100 = field goal percentage

This ratio is the combined number of shot attempts and made shots for the two-point and three-point field goals.

Although, there are also different statistical categories to represent two-point field goal percentages (2FG%) and three-point field goal percentages (3FG%).

What is a good field goal percentage in basketball?

A good field goal percentage in basketball is above 0.500 (50%) because this means that half of the shots took successfully went in. However, this reference point does not apply to every position.

A center or power forward who attempts most of his shots near the rim using dunks usually has a higher field goal percentage than a point guard who needs to work his way to the basket for contested shots resulting in a lower field goal percentage.

This is why Shaquille O’Neal has a higher percentage than Michael Jordan.

Another statistic you should look at is for a three-point shooter, where a three-point field goal percentage of 40% is desired.

For efficient shooters, the NBA has an informal statistic called the 50-40-90.

For a player to be included in this elite club, they should have a field goal percentage of 0.500 (50%), a three-point field goal percentage of 0.400 (40%), and a free-throw percentage of 0.900 (90%). 

In NBA History, there have been only nine people ever to achieve this feat. Larry Bird (2x), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (4x), Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Malcolm Brogdon, and Kyrie Irving.

What is the true shooting percentage?

True shooting percentage (TS%) is an advanced statistic that aims to measure a player’s shooting efficiency by considering the total field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws.

Some players with the highest true shooting percentages include Rudy Gobert, Stephen Curry, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Nikola Jokic.

What is the effective shooting percentage?

Like true shooting, effective shooting percentage (eFG%) is also an advanced statistic.

This stat takes the fact that a three-point is more than two points using the formula: (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA

Most of the players with the highest effective shooting percentages are centers, with DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert, and Clint Capela leading the way.

Best tips for scoring more field goals

A basketball player must take higher percentage shots with good shot selection to score more field goals. Here are some tips:

Take your shot closer to the basket

In an interview, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA’s All-Time Leader in Points, once stated that fewer and fewer young players are playing with their back to the basket because kids today want to shoot three points because it is cooler.

He then continued to say that these young guys don’t realize that more of your shots would go in if you get closer to the basket.

If we look at the players with the highest field goal percentages, many are centers and power forwards. As they move closer to the basket, the shot efficiency is higher.

Always follow through

Always holding on to your follow-through can solve shooting problems to improve shooting. It is a basic shooting technique that can do wonders to increase your shooting percentage.

Be mindful of your shot selection

Good shot selection means you are taking high percentage shots. It may not always enter the basket, but it is still a good shot if it is the best offensive option for your team.

Great players know when to shoot the ball, when to move away from the ball, and when to pass the ball. Mediocre players only know how to shoot – regardless if it is a low-percentage shot.

NBA career field goals leaders

There are only five players in the NBA’s long history to reach 12,000 field goals made, and most of them are also in the NBA All-Time Leaders in Points, save for one. They are:

NBA Player Career Field Goals Made
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar15,837
2. LeBron James13,543
3. Karl Malone13,528
4. Wilt Chamberlain12,681
5. Michael Jordan12,192

Of the Top 5 All-Time Leaders in Points, only Kobe Bryant missed the Top 5 in FG Made. 


Field goals in basketball are only some of the ways to put points on the board. A team can either shoot threes or do their damage inside the arc.

However, since basketball is a battle between who can score the highest before the time runs out, it is only imperative to choose the right shots at the right time. Doing this will drastically improve shooting percentage.

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