Ask Difference

Handball vs. Basketball — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on October 5, 2023
Handball is a game where players use their hands to hit a ball against a wall. Basketball involves teams trying to shoot a ball into a raised net.
Handball vs. Basketball — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Handball and Basketball


Key Differences

Handball and basketball are both popular team sports that involve the use of hands to maneuver a ball, but the objectives, rules, and gameplay differ substantially. Handball, as played in a team setting (often referred to as team handball or Olympic handball), is a sport where two teams pass a ball using their hands with the objective of throwing it into the goal of the opposing team. Basketball, on the other hand, involves two teams trying to score points by shooting a ball through a hoop, which is elevated from the floor.
The court dimensions for handball and basketball differ. A handball court is usually 40 by 20 meters with goal areas on each end. Basketball courts typically measure 28 by 15 meters with a hoop on each side. While handball goals are surrounded by a 6-meter zone where only the goalkeeper can enter, basketball has a painted or taped arc, called the three-point line, from which shots earn an extra point.
In terms of player positions and roles, handball generally consists of seven players on each side: one goalkeeper and six outfield players who play both offensive and defensive roles. Basketball teams also have five players on the court at a time, categorized as two guards, two forwards, and a center, but players can be substituted more freely in basketball than in handball.
The balls used in both sports are distinctly different. Handball utilizes a smaller ball that fits comfortably in one hand, facilitating easy passing and shooting. Basketball uses a larger, bouncier ball, which players dribble to move around the court.
In summary, while both handball and basketball require agility, strategy, and teamwork, they are distinct in terms of objectives, gameplay, and equipment. Handball focuses on passing the ball and scoring in a ground-level goal, while basketball revolves around dribbling and shooting into an elevated hoop.

Comparison Chart


Throw the ball into the opposing team's goal.
Shoot the ball into the opposing team's raised hoop.

Court Dimension

Usually 40 by 20 meters.
Typically 28 by 15 meters.

Player Positions

One goalkeeper, six outfield players.
Two guards, two forwards, one center.

Ball Size

Smaller, fits in one hand.
Larger, requires two hands for shooting.


Each goal is worth one point.
Field goals worth 2 points or 3 from beyond the arc.

Compare with Definitions


A sport played with a small, round ball on a rectangular court.
Handball requires agility and quick decision-making.


A game where teams aim to shoot a ball through a raised hoop.
Basketball is hugely popular in the United States.


A sport where players can only touch the ball with their hands, aiming to score against a goalkeeper.
She excelled in handball because of her quick reflexes and strong arm.


A sport with five players on each side, competing to score in an elevated net.
The basketball championship drew a large crowd and viewership.


A game in which players avoid dribbling and focus on passing to advance the ball.
In handball, accurate passing is crucial to maintain possession.


A team game with the objective of outscoring opponents by making field goals.
The basketball match went into overtime because of a tie.


Handball (also known as team handball, European handball or Olympic handball) is a team sport in which two teams of seven players each (six outcourt players and a goalkeeper) pass a ball using their hands with the aim of throwing it into the goal of the other team. A standard match consists of two periods of 30 minutes, and the team that scores more goals wins.


A sport played with a large round ball on a rectangular court.
Basketball requires both individual skill and effective teamwork.


Touching of the ball with the hand or arm, constituting a foul
A blatant handball
A penalty for handball


A game in which players dribble, pass, and shoot to score points.
He practiced his basketball shooting technique daily.


A team game with the objective of outscoring opponents by throwing a ball into a net.
The handball team practiced daily to perfect their passes and shots.


Basketball is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court, compete with the primary objective of shooting a basketball (approximately 9.4 inches (24 cm) in diameter) through the defender's hoop (a basket 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter mounted 10 feet (3.048 m) high to a backboard at each end of the court) while preventing the opposing team from shooting through their own hoop. A field goal is worth two points, unless made from behind the three-point line, when it is worth three.


A game similar to fives, in which the ball is hit with the hand in a walled court.


A game played between two teams of five players each, the object being to throw a ball through an elevated basket on the opponent's side of a rectangular court. Players may move the ball by dribbling or passing with the hands.


A game that is played, often on a four-walled court, by two or more players who alternately hit a small rubber ball against the front wall with the hand, with play stopping if the ball bounces twice on the floor or does not reach the front wall.


The inflated, spherical ball used in this game.


The ball used in this game.


A sport in which two opposing teams of five players strive to put a ball through a hoop.


Team handball.


(countable) The particular kind of ball used in the sport of basketball. Basketball


Often hand ball A violation of the rules in soccer in which a player other than the goalie inside the penalty area carries, strikes, or propels the ball with the hand or arm. A hand ball is usually called when the hand or arm is away from the body and touches the ball.


To play basketball


(uncountable) A team sport where two teams of seven players each (six players and a goalkeeper) pass and bounce a ball trying to throw it in the goal of the opposing team.


To throw in a similar way to when shooting a basketball


(countable) The medium-sized inflated ball used in this sport.


A ball game, usually played indoors in an area called the basketball court, in which two opposing teams of five players each contest with each other to toss a large inflated ball (the basketball) into opposite goals (baskets) resembling baskets, each typically a cylindrical mesh suspended from a circular rim which is held ten feet above the court. A goal scored by passing the basketball through the basket may count from one to three points, depending on the situation in which it was thrown.


The offence of a player other than the goalkeeper touching the ball with the hand or arm on the field during play.


The inflatable ball used in the game of basketball.


A sport in which players alternately strike the ball against a wall with their hand. Irish and American variants have slightly different rules.


A game played on a court by two opposing teams of 5 players; points are scored by throwing the basketball through an elevated horizontal hoop


The small rubber ball used in this sport.


An inflated ball used in playing basketball


An act of passing a football by holding it with one hand and hitting it with the other.


A schoolyard game in which a tennis ball is struck with the hand, played on a improvised court on the asphalt or pavement.


To manually load or unload a container, trailer, or to otherwise manually move bulk goods (often on pallets) from one type of transport receptacle to another.


(soccer) To illegally touch the ball with the hand or arm.
If the defender handballs in the penalty area, a penalty is awarded.


(Australian rules football) To (legally) pass a football by holding it with one hand and hitting it with the other.


To insert a hand into someone's anus.


A small ball, usually made of rubber, thrown or struck with the hand in various games.


A game played with such a ball, as by players striking it to and fro between them with the hands, or, when played in a walled court or against a single wall, striking it in turns against a wall, until one side or the other fails to return the ball.


A small rubber ball used in the game of handball


A game played in a walled court or against a single wall by two or four players who strike a rubber ball with their hands


A game where players use hands to throw a ball into an opponent's goal.
The European Handball Championship attracts teams from all over the continent.

Common Curiosities

Is dribbling allowed in handball?

No, in handball, players pass the ball to advance it, unlike basketball where dribbling is essential.

Can basketball players use their feet to play the ball?

No, basketball players cannot use their feet to touch the ball.

What's the primary objective of handball?

The main objective of handball is to throw the ball into the opposing team's goal.

Are handball courts bigger than basketball courts?

Yes, standard handball courts are larger than standard basketball courts.

How many steps can a handball player take without passing or shooting?

A handball player can take a maximum of three steps.

Is there a three-point line in handball like in basketball?

No, handball doesn't have a three-point line, but basketball does.

Are the balls used in both sports similar?

No, basketballs are larger and bouncier, while handballs are smaller and firmer.

How many players are on a basketball team during a game?

A basketball team has five players on the court at a time.

Can handball players bounce the ball like in basketball?

Handball players can bounce the ball, but it's not as prevalent as in basketball.

What's the main defensive objective in handball?

In handball, defenders aim to block shots and prevent passes to the goal area.

How high is a basketball hoop from the ground?

A basketball hoop is 10 feet (3.05 meters) high from the ground.

How long is a standard basketball game?

A professional basketball game, like in the NBA, has four 12-minute quarters.

Which sport is older, handball or basketball?

Versions of handball date back centuries, while basketball was invented in 1891.

Can basketball players score from anywhere on the court?

Yes, basketball players can shoot from anywhere, but points vary based on distance.

Are there professional leagues for both handball and basketball?

Yes, both handball and basketball have professional leagues around the world.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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