By Matthew Berry, "The Talented Mr. Roto," www.talentedmrroto.com

Death.

Taxes.

The NBA.com Fantasy Basketball League Manager.

Only three things in this crazy life are guaranteed and, I'm not gonna lie to you, kid, two of them aren’t a lot of fun.

Which is why I am here instead of a coroner or IRS agent. Now you can play fantasy basketball the way it was meant to be played. One-hundred percent Free. With free live scoring. On the Official - and, let’s face it, best site for professional basketball. In the world. [To skip straight to the game, click here.]

So I am your maitre’d for your meal at the table of fantasy goodness and as such, it’s my duty to welcome you, explain what’s on the menu and give you a few hints as to how to best enjoy your time with us. May I take your drink order?

IF YOU’VE NEVER PLAYED BEFORE:

And you’re thinking about it. What’s all this fuss you keep hearing about fantasy sports? How do you play it? Why is everyone snickering behind my back at work? Well, the fact that you’re asking questions one and two have a lot to do with question three. It was time someone told you.

If you’ve played before but just want to know the specifics, feel free to skip down five paragraphs. There, we get into the nuts and bolts of how to join a league and has some easy to read charts and graphs. And who doesn‘t like them? Why, USA Today has made a fortune off it!

Okay, for the uninitiated, fantasy sports, boiled to it’s simplicity, is thus: You draft real life NBA players for your fantasy team. How well those players do statistically in real life NBA games is how they also do for your fantasy team. Your goal is assemble a collection of players that perform better in a variety of statistical categories than your opponent. So simple a monkey could do it. I’m serious. I once spent a summer interning at a testing facility and finished fifth.

A big night for Kobe? A big night for Kobe's fantasy owners.
Chris Birck/NBAE/Getty Images

To give an example: Say you own Kobe. And Kobe goes for 30 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals against the Mavericks. Well, those 30 points he scores not only count for the Lakers, they count for your fantasy team. See? Simple. The appeal is that by either “owning” or competing against every significant player in the NBA every single game has interest to you. You think you love the NBA now? Wait ’til you play fantasy basketball!

When you play fantasy hoops on NBA.com League Manager, you not only get to draft your own team of real NBA players - you take on the role of owner and coach. As the coach of your fantasy Basketball team, you're responsible for the day-to-day decisions like trades, free agent acquisitions and who to put in the starting lineup.

Personally, I also enjoy deciding on the menu at the concession stand, what wacky bloopers to play during time-outs and hold dance squad tryouts for your imaginary stadium. Then again, I have no life.

There are TWO main styles of play. First is the NBA.com Fantasy Basketball League Manager way - detailed below. The second way is NBA.com Fantasy Basketball Salary Cap Challenge, which is also a blast. Learn more about that by clicking here.

JOINING or CREATING A NBA.COM FANTASY BASKETBALL LEAGUE:

League play is simply that - a league. You and your buddies/co-workers/internet strangers form a league of 10 teams. You hold a draft, everyone forms their teams and you compete against each other in either “Rotisserie Style Scoring” or “Head to Head” scoring.

I’ll explain both quickly, then we’ll talk about how to join a league that suits you the best.

Rotisserie Scoring

In NBA.com Fantasy Basketball League Manager with Rotisserie scoring, fantasy teams are ranked from first to last in each of three, five or eight statistical categories. (I’ll give you the categories in a second).

Points are then awarded according to the order of finish in each category. For example, in a 10-team league, the top-ranked team in a statistical category (i.e., blocks) receives 10 points, the second-ranked team receives 9 points, and so on with the lowest-ranked team in the category getting 1 point.

Each category will look like this in the standings:

Rebounds Standings
TeamTRBPoints
Team A16310
Team B1059
Team C908
Team D867
Team E816
Team F755
Team G704
Team H643
Team I622
Team J561

Okay, so say your team has the most blocks. You get ten points. Your buddy Fred has the second most blocks. He gets nine points. Now, you look at assists. You have the second worst team in assists. You get two points. You now have a total of 12 points. (10 points for blocks plus 2 points for assists). Fred has the best team in assists as well. He gets 10 points for that.

So Fred has nine points for blocks, 10 for assists for a total of 19. You continue doing that for all the categories you score in. Blocks plus assists plus three pointers plus rebounds, etc., etc.

After the last day of the League Style Fantasy Basketball season, the cumulative totals are calculated, and the team with the most total points in the eight categories is declared the League Winner and gets fame, riches and a dream date with Regis.

Now, if you decide to play with all eight statistical categories, you’ll be using:

Free Throw Percentage (FTP)
Field Goal Percentage (FGP)
Points (PTS)
Three Pointers Made (3PT)
Assists (AST)
Blocks (BK)
Steals (ST)
Total Rebounds (TRB)

Now, if you only use five categories, we take away the percentage and three-pointers categories, so it looks like this:

Points (PTS)
Assists (AST)
Blocks (BK)
Steals (ST)
Total Rebounds (TRB)
Finally, if you just wanna dip your toe in the proverbial pool, play with the three main ones:

Points (PTS)
Assists (AST)
Total Rebounds (TRB)

BUT WHAT IF I WANT TO PLAY HEAD TO HEAD?

Well, the short answer is… you can! Similar to fantasy football, a lot of folks enjoy this way as it is allows you play just one opponent each week and really talk smack.

Here’s how you play head to head:

Each week your team will play one series against another team in your league. The series will begin on Monday of each week and end on the following Sunday. Your players statistical totals from the NBA games played during that week will be tabulated from your starting roster and they will be totaled for each category your league is using.

At the end of the series, the totals for each category will be compared with the totals of your opponent’s for each category - the same eight, five or three categories that we described above.

The team with the higher total in a particular category will receive a win for that category, while the team with the lower total in a particular category will receive a loss for that category.

So say you and "Good Ol’ Fred" are going at it. Your team gets 45 total assists for the week while Fred only gets 43 total assists. You get a well earned win for assists for the week, Fred gets a bitter loss and probably turns to the bottle.

The wins and losses are then entered into the league standings and are tracked throughout the regular season. At the end of the fantasy basketball season, the top team in each division and wildcard team(s) (the best record amongst non-division winners) will advance to the playoffs to compete for the League Championship. The remaining teams will compete in the consolation bracket.

See the NBA.com Fantasy Basketball League Manager Home Page for more details on things like tie-breakers, playoffs for head to head leagues and anything else no answered here. Except how I feel about you. Because you know what? I love you.

There.

I said it.

I HEAR YA! I WANT IN! HOW DO I SIGN UP?

Super simple. Just go to the NBA.com Fantasy Basketball League Manager and click the “Join a League” link. You’ll be given three options:

1) Join a public League

From the League Index, search the list of available leagues. Now that you know what kinds of categories and scoring are available to you. Find one that suits your schedule and/or interests. Make sure you pay attention to when the draft is, what kind of draft it is and if you can make it. We’ll talk about various draft options in a bit.

Once you’ve established the parameters of the league you would like to join, if a league meeting those parameters is not currently available – you will be given the option to create a new league using those parameters or to search for a new league under different parameters.

2) Join an existing private League

Enter in the league ID number and league password, provided to you by the person who invited you to the league.

3) Create a New League

For those of you that do not want to join an existing league, you may create your own league and invite your friends, co-workers, or other fantasy game players with similar interests and skill levels. To create your own league, simply click the "Create League" link.

You will then be asked to provide the following information:

League Name (New leagues only!): You must create a unique league name
Team Name: You must create a unique team name

League Level Beginner: You have never played fantasy basketball, but are eager to get in the action and have fun. Or, you are a total pro who likes beating the new and un-informed, much like a sixth grader who makes third graders eat paste.

Expert: You're a seasoned veteran. You will check your team as much as possible and are always looking for ways to improve your team. When someone asks “Who's the Man?” You answer “I am.” And you mean it.

Some other FAQ’s we get a lot:

What’s the League Size?

All leagues consist of 10 teams. Ten-team leagues are divided into two divisions consisting of five teams apiece.

What are the roster limits, starting lineups, all that stuff?

Your total team will look like this:

10 Total Position Players
4 Guards
4 Forwards
2 Centers
3 bench
1 Injured List

Clearly, your starting lineup must consist of a total of ten (10) players at all times, and meet the following positional requirements: Four (4) Guards, Four (4) Forwards and Two (2) Centers.

In addition, you have a three person bench. Much like an NBA coach, it's up to you to decide what your bench strategy is and what combination of Forwards, Guards or Centers you want to carry. You will also have one injured list (IL) spot to stash an injured player.

You mentioned you’d get to How to Draft. That happening anytime soon, sailor?

Easy now. Here’s what you do. Select a draft day and time from the list that best meets your schedule.

You can participate in a Live Draft, Email Draft, or Auto Draft.

Personally, I think there’s nothing better than a Live Draft. You can talk smack, interact with your entire league and make fun of the guy who drafts Reggie Miller (retired).

For the live draft, we put you in a "draft room" with the owners of your league and you'll participate in a real-time draft.

But hey, you’re busy. Who isn’t? If you’re league can’t find a time that all ten can be online at the same time (and it’ll take a few hours, so make sure you have some time) then we give you the option of an e-mail draft.

How it works is just like it sounds. The team with the first pick makes its selection. An email is sent to the team with pick No. 2 and there is a time limit (set by your league commish) between picks. If you don’t come back to the site and make your pick by the allotted time, League Manager will make it’s selection for you. And so forth…

Now, if you don't have the time to participate in a Live Draft or E-mail Draft, then let us give you a team! League Style Fantasy Basketball's Auto Draft option is the easiest way for you to join a league and own a team. When you select the Auto Draft option, we'll put you in a league with other Auto Draft owners and draft your team using our default rankings.

More details about draft order, how to make a personalized list for the computer to pick from and all other goodies like that are located on the home page of NBA.com Fantasy Basketball League Manager.

What about Positional Eligibility?

Some NBA players are eligible at more than one position, for example guard and forward (G/F). You are able to draft a player at any position they are eligible for, as well as start them at any eligible position. Determining which positions players are eligible, is at the sole discretion of the league office.

IN CONCLUSION:

More details, like how to set your weekly line-up, make trades with other teams in your league, acquire “free agents” (players that are un-owned) in your league and everything else you need to know about NBA.com Fantasy Basketball League Manager is located on the home page.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

It’s a blast. I promise. No one that has ever tried fantasy sports has ever not enjoyed it. And it’s 100 percent free. So what have you got to lose?

You’re gonna have the time of your life playing fantasy basketball this year on NBA.com.

Trust me. It’s the internet.

We’re not allowed to lie.