I have decided to include this section as I have been getting several questions about the rules of basketball. After reading messages posted on forums around the world, it seems that many, many people ask the same questions. Therefore, I hope that this FAQ will help people that have common questions. I will also post any questions that are a little bit different.
If you have any questions regarding the rules of basketball – please email me by clicking here. If your question is not related to the FIBA (international) rules, it might take a little bit longer to get a reply. However, I promise that all questions will be answered, both personally, and by posting the question and answer on this page.
Also, if you disagree with my interpretation of the rules for any of the answers that I have given – please email me with your opinion. One of the major reasons I designed this site was to educate referees and this includes myself – so if I’m wrong – tell me (nicely!).
Ben Hughes asked: Is the hand still considered part of the ball? A little birdie told me that this rule had changed.
Answer: Well, yes and no. In the most recent rule changes, the specific comment that the hand was part of the ball (when in contact with the ball) was removed. However, after a great deal of complaints, questions and other comments, the official interpretation of the rules has been to re-introduce the idea that the hand is part of the ball. Having said that, the official word from FIBA is that if the referee has any doubt as to where the contact occurred (i.e. on the hand in contact with the ball versus say, the wrist) the referee must call a foul.
In other words, yes the hand is still part of the ball, but the official must be certain that the contact by the defender was on the part of the players hand which was in contact with the ball. If there is any uncertainty – FOUL!
From Simon Dunn: Where do you find a written rule about defensive players (not being able to draw charges) under the basket?
Answer: Simon – this is a popular misconception. There is no rule in FIBA that prevents a player from drawing a charge if he is standing under the basket. However, this rule does exist in the NBA (and I think in the NBL as well). It is accepted at this level that the defensive player has not been placed at a disadvantage as there is no rebound to contest, hence, generally the foul is called if the basket is unsuccessful. (Thanks to irunlikeagirl for his input).
Another one from Simon Dunn: Who ensures that the game starts at the correct time? And what can be done if a game is found to have started earlier than the scheduled time?
Answer: Simon, this is a bit of an awkward situation. Officially, the referees are responsible for the commencement of the game at the appropriate time. However, since referees are not permitted to wear a watch, most refs leave it up to the score bench to verify the correct time.
Having said that, if I was running a game and I went to call 3 minutes before the start of the game and one coach had not arrived I would check that the time was correct.
Once the game has been started there is no provision for a restart once the coach has arrived, even if it is found that the game began ahead of time. The only option left to the coach, would be to instruct his captain to make an official protest at the end of the game (I would suggest this, regardless of the result).
Grant Gabriel had this question on his referee’s exam: A-4 is fouled in the act of shooting by B-4 and then before the release of the ball on the “try” is also fouled by B-5. B-5’s foul is unsportsmanlike. The ball goes in the basket. The official counts the field goal, awards A-4 with one shot, awards team A with two shots, and then begins play with a team A throw-in at centre. Is the official correct?
Answer: If an unsportsmanlike foul is committed on a shooting player, and the basket is successful, the team that is fouled (in this case A) only gets 1 free throw, plus possession. Having said that, in this case, as the player shooting the ball (A-4) was fouled before the unsportsmanlike, I agree that the correct penalty would be:
1 shot for the personal foul, and then 2 shots for the unsportsmanlike, followed by an inbound at the halfway line by team A.
John asked: A player touches the ball, then she goes out of bounds (the ball remains inbounds). She returns to inbounds with both feet, no one else has touched the ball – can she now pick up or touch the ball, or must someone else touch it first?
Answer: It depends on if she left the confines of the court intentionally to gain an advantage, of whether it was accidental.
For instance, Red 4 is dribbling the ball up court, and Blue 5 sets to take the charge on the sideline. If Red 4 bounces the ball around Blue 5 (inbounds side) and the runs around Red 4 (going out of bounds) then this is illegal – by the rules it is a technical foul, if it happens I usually call a violation and warning the first time, subsequent infractions get technical fouls.
However, if Red 4 is dribbling the ball, trips and falls out of bounds (the ball remaining in play) and then recovers her feet and regains the ball – this is completely legal.
By the way, it actually makes no difference as to whether the player grounds both feet, or one, so long as contact has been made with the court she can touch the ball.
Jason Nix asked: If a player is dribbling and falls down, but maintains his dribble throughout, is this travelling? If a player is on the court flat on his back, sits up and begins to dribble, may he stand up while dribbling? If a player is dribbling the ball continuously, can he jump in the air so long as he keeps dribbling?
Answer: Yes. Yes. And Yes. If a player is dribbling – it is impossible for them to travel. So, as long as a player is dribbling they can jump, lie down, sit down, stand on their head etc.
Ian Cardwell asked: Hi – hope this isn’t too ignorant a question. I’ve been checking the rules following an incident on the weekend and can’t find it addressed. Following a time-out, one side walks back onto court with 6 players. Other side has end-ball to re-start game but before game can re-start, supporters from offending team notice and attract everybody’s attention. Sixth player gets called back (game still hasn’t restarted) and referee after some thought signals a tech-foul on offending coach, resulting in one-shot (successful) and possession.
Answer: Firstly I would say that this is an example of poor game management. A good referee always counts the players back onto the court after timeouts and at the start of each period. This would prevent any such incident arising.
If somehow 6 players do get on the court, I personally would not tech the coach if play had not started, however as soon as the ball is inbounded, then it has to be a technical foul. My reasoning is that if the ball is not inbounds, then there has been no advantage gained.
The awarding of a technical foul is correct – it is covered by the section that deals with substitutions. However, this should have been a technical foul on the coach – resulting in 2 free throws and possession – not one free throw and possession, which is the penalty for personal technical fouls.
Bill Langston wanted to know: A player goes up for a shot under the basket. The defensive player pins the ball in the hands of the offensive while they are both in the air with out fouling. The offensive player then drops the ball before coming back to the court, picks the ball up and makes a basket. What is the call?
Answer: If the ball is knocked out of the offensive players hands while they are in mid air, then they regain control once they have landed, this is legal.
If the ball is dislodged whilst in the air, the player regains control (while in the air) and lands, it is a travel.
If the offensive player returns to the ground, holding the ball, and the ball has never left his hands, one of two things are possible. 1) if the defensive player has only one hand on the ball, it is a travel.
2) if the defensive player has both hands on the ball it is a jump ball (or go to the arrow if playing AP – ie NFHS or NCAA rules).
Douglas Benton asked: What is the hand signal for a disqualification foul and what usually is the reason for a disqualification foul to be called?
Answer: The hand signal for a disqualifying foul is both arms straight up, hands made into fists. Although, most often the signal is not actually made, as it usually only occurs in a heated moment. The reasons for a disqualifying foul are any of the following:
– Repeated technical fouls (eg constantly swearing)
– Attempting to strike/punch/kick a player/official/spectator
– Striking, punching, kicking, fighting, intentionally throwing the ball in a dangerous manner, at a player, official, team follower, fan.
– Constant or extreme unsportsmanlike behaviour
– “Tunneling” – intentional moving under a player whilst in the air – this is an automatic disqualifying foul.