There is usually a painted rectangle area directly under the hoop to the free-throw line on a basketball court. This rectangle area is the key, and the peak of the arch line at the free-throw line is the top of the key. The top of the key is the top point within the 2-point shooting area.
So, what is so special about the top of the key? Should offensive players take many shots from that area during basketball games? How big is this circle on the key? Here is the complete breakdown of the top of the key in basketball.
What is the Key Area on a Basketball Court?
The key on a basketball court is directly under the basketball hoop to the free-throw line. Most courts have the painted area of the court match their team colors. In the NBA / WNBA, the size of the area is 16 feet long by 15 wide. In NCAA college basketball, the key is 12 feet wide.
What Does the Offense/ Defense Need to Know about the Basketball Key?
Offensive players and defensive players need to know that there is a 3-second violation that can occur if they stay in the paint for that amount of time. A 3 second-violation against the offensive team means that they lose ball possession. Meanwhile, a three-second-violation on the defense gives the offensive team to go to the free-throw line to take a shot.
To prevent getting a 3-second rule foul in this area, you need to leave that free throw lane after two seconds constantly not to risk a penalty call. It is best to run a play for the offense, usually with the point guard passing to a center, when they immediately enter the key to get the ball and shoot at the basket.
You want to stick with your defender for the defense whenever they go into the paint to block any easy shot to the hoop. One tip is to be a half step behind them as they enter the key so you won’t get the penalty on your team.
What Makes the Top of the Key Special in Basketball?
The top of the key is the free throw circle on the basketball court. When a player needs to take a free throw shot, they enter this circle and can’t have their feet pass the foul line when they take a shot.
How Many Top of the Keys are on the Basketball Court?
There are two top keys on the back and front court in basketball.
How Many Points Do you Get for Making a Shot in the Top of the Key?
Since the top of the key is in front of the three-point line, any shot that a basketball player makes is worth two points. However, if the ball handler gets fouled after taking a shot and gets the ball in, they get to shoot one additional free throw. That means that taking a shot from the top of the key could be worth three points in total, but it will require a defensive foul.
Is Shooting from the Top of the Key a Good Idea for Basketball Players?
With the three-point line entering the NBA during the 1979-1980 season, taking shots from the key isn’t a good idea. For example, a corner three-pointer next to the sideline is closer than taking a shot from the top of the key. A corner three-pointer is 22 feet from the hoop, while a top of the key shot is 23.75 feet. In FIBA and NCAA basketball games, the top of the key is 22 feet from the hoop, so it is slightly closer than the NBA.
Since taking a shot attempt from a three-point corner is closer than the top of the key and is worth one more point, you should limit the number of top of the key shots you take. In addition to that, the three-point line behind the top of the key is 23.9 inches away. With that being the case, basketball players should take another step back and shoot the ball instead since it is worth more and is roughly the same distance from the hoop.
Is the Top of Key Important for Pickup Basketball Games?
The top of the key is essential when playing a pickup basketball game. Since most pickup games play on a half-court, you use the top of the key as the clear baseline for one side to take over as offense. Typically speaking, the defensive team that rebounds the ball off the backboard or rim needs to dribble back to the key to make a clear to start the offense.
If you are playing a pickup basketball game on a full-court, you don’t need to worry about clearing the ball at the top of the key against the opposing team. Simply passing the half-court line on a full-court is the clear that you need to do.
How Big is the Top of the Key in the NBA + WNBA?
At the top of the key in the NBA and WNBA, the semi-circle is 6 feet.
How Big is the Top of the Key in NCAA College Basketball?
At the top of the key in NCAA college basketball, the semi-circle is 6 feet.
Conclusion: What is the Top of the Key in Basketball
The top of the key in basketball represents one of the furthest two-point shots you can take in NBA, NCAA, WNBA, FIBA, and High School Basketball games. Since shooting from this distance is a two-point attempt, most coaches tell their players to step back and attempt a three-point shot since the distance is similar. You make no additional points from making a shot from the top of the key.
Basketball fans should also understand the importance of the top of the key during pickup basketball games when you only play on a half-court. To clear the ball, players must dribble the ball behind the top of the key to start on offense. After that, it is best to take a shot from anywhere else on the court than that area.