How Basketball Game Rules Are Different In North Korea

Kim Jong-un is a huge fan of basketball. His unusual friendship with American ex-basketball player Dennis Rodman has been the subject of a great deal of public scrutiny. And, according to Business Insider, Kim even attempted to gain access to famous American basketball players as part of the denuclearization talks that North Korea conducted with the United States in 2019. (It didn't work.)

Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Il-sung, was also a big basketball fan; he installed regulation basketball courts at most of his palaces, and at one point asked America to send Michael Jordan to North Korea. (That didn't work either.)

It might seem odd that a famously anti-American country like North Korea would embrace the sport of basketball, which was founded by the American-Canadian educator James Naismith in 1891. But, partly as a result of the Kim dynasty's personal love of the sport, basketball has become a national pastime in North Korea.

However, basketball is played a little differently in North Korea. A number of special rules — primarily regarding how the score is tallied — have been added to the North Korean version of the game, presumably in an attempt to make it more exciting to fans.

North Korean basketball games are scored completely differently

According to the Herald Sun, North Korea follows most of the traditional basketball rules, but has rolled out its own system for how points get scored. Slam dunks — worth two points in American basketball — are worth three in North Korea, encouraging that country's basketball players to attempt more dramatic plays.

Similarly, shots from the three-point line are worth four points if the basketball doesn't touch the rim as it goes in — a reward for greater accuracy among players. Oddly, though, missing a free throw actually makes your team lose a point... so, if you don't want the fans to erupt in rage, you better not mess that one up.

Finally, and most dramatically, North Korea has completely altered how the game gets scored in the final moments. According to the Herald Sun, a field goal (i.e. any basket besides a free throw) is worth a grand total of eight points when scored in the last three minutes of the game. But Foreign Policy, quoting from Chinese media, reports that this eight-point rule actually applies to field goals scored in the last three seconds of the game.

Which of these is the real North Korean rule — three minutes or three seconds — is unclear. But, regardless, North Korean basketball fans must certainly be on the edge of their seat at the end of every game. If the United States wanted more dramatic sporting events, perhaps it could learn a thing or two from the North Korean scoring system.