Anthony's International Basketball Officiating Site

Copyright © 1996–2009 Anthony Reimer

Ask Ace About Violations — Non-Time Counts

Note: These questions were updated to relect the rules in play as of the 2003–04 season. Updates have not been made reflecting subsequent changes to the rules.

Q: My question has to do with travelling being called when a player in possession of the ball is on the floor. Specifically, the player has gone down to the floor to win a loose ball, and prior to attempting to get up, starts their dribble. While dribbling, they get up. I know they can shoot, pass, hold it, or in U.S. rules call time out prior to any attempt to get up. Every instance of this in a recent high school jamboree was called travelling. I understand the issue of getting up with the ball (that was called also but no dribble was involved), but I do not see where the travelling rule does not allow getting up while properly dribbling the ball. What is the proper ruling?

A: As long as the player started dribbling from the point which they came to rest, it is perfectly legal.

Q: Player A1 is dribbling the ball, and his defender is a couple steps off of him, so he picks up his dribble and begins to take a shot. As he moves his arms up into shooting position, the ball slips from his hands and hits the court nearby. A1 does not leave the ground with either foot. He leaves his left foot planted and takes a step over with his right foot and picks up the ball. Is this a violation? If so, what is the violation?

A: It is a legal play. You may always recover a fumbled ball. Even if the player had taken three or four steps to recover the ball, it would have been legal. It would only be illegal (double dribble) if the player deliberately let go of the ball and then recovered it after the bounce without it being touched by an opponent — by definition, that is a dribble because it is a controlled act. Clearly, that is not the case in this situation — A1 simply "lost the handle" — so it is legal to recover it.

Q: Player A picks up the dribble with both feet on the ground. He then steps (jabs) with his right several time to the right. (This establishes the left foot as the pivot foot.) He then steps to the left with his right foot with the left (pivot) foot planted on the ground. He then lifts the left (pivot) foot while the right foot is on the ground, jumps off the right foot and shoots the ball before the pivot foot is returned to the floor.

Several of my friends say this is a travel, even though the rule states that once the pivot foot is established, the player may lift it as long as the player shoots or passes the ball before it returns to the floor.

The difference of opinion here between my friends and I is that, they say he can only lift the pivot foot if the other foot is lifted at the same time. (i.e. he can jump of both feet but not lift the pivot and then jump off the other foot).
Can you please clarify?

A: The play is legal. There is no restriction on when or how the pivot foot may be lifted, just the restriction you mentioned after the pivot foot is lifted.

Q: A shot is taken by player A1 and the ball does not touch the rim (it's an "air ball"). Player A1 runs over before anyone else and grabs the ball. Is this a legal play?

A: So long as it was a legitimate attempt for goal (in the eyes of the referees), it is legal in all rules except the NBA. (The NBA has a special exception written into the rules for that case, eliminating the need for officials to judge whether it was a pass or a shot.)

Follow-up Q: I guess what I really want to know is why is it a permitted act to shoot an air ball and retrieve the missed shot [in NCAA Ruies]? What rules are violated when a player travels or double dribbles that are not violated in the air ball scenario?

A: This all has to do with control. Control is the key word in both the travelling and dribbling rules. You cited NCAA Rules, so let's use those as our reference. They recently put a specific play situation in the rule book to deal with the "air ball" situation. Rule 4, Section 65:

A1 attempts a try at Team A's basket after having completed the dribble. The try does not touch the backboard, the ring or the flange or any other player. A1 runs and catches the ball before it strikes the playing court. Is this traveling?
RULING: When A1 recovered his or her own try, A1 could either dribble, pass or try again. There is no team control by either team when a try is in flight. [It then goes on to describe how it could be a shot clock violation but not travelling.]

The travelling rule says you have to be holding the ball to travel — you must have control. You not only give up personal control but team control as well when you make a legitimate attempt for goal (no matter how poorly executed). So it can't be a travel. And in fact, since you gave up control of the ball, if you recover it, it is just like any other rebound — you can shoot, pass, or dribble.

It can't be a double-dribble since player control is lost. Rule 4-18:

A dribble is ball movement caused by a player in control who bats, pushes or taps the ball to the playing court once or several times.

If you shoot the ball, you give up control by definition, so it cannot be a dribble.

In the unusual circumstance where the player actually passes to themself deliberately (rather than attempting a shot as you describe), the violation is for lifting and replacing the pivot foot without passing (to someone else) or shooting or dribbling.

Q: If a player is inbounding a ball after a made basket and he passes it to a teammate who is behind the baseline when he catches it, doesn't that player have to be stationary since he has receieved the initial pass from the inbounder?

A: No. There is no such restriction. A quote from the NCAA Rulebook might make the point clearer: "After a goal, ... the team not credited with the score shall make the throw-in from ... any point outside the end boundary line. Any player of the team may make a direct throw-in or may pass the ball along the end boundary line to a teammate behind the boundary line."

So you could have multiple passes back and forth, plus each player can run the baseline, since the only restriction on where it happens is that it be behind the endline.

Q: Team A is attempting to inbound the ball from under their basket. The player inbounding the ball attemts to throw it to a team mate. The defender from team B deflects the ball back to the inbounding player, who has not moved from his out of bound position. Whose ball is it? Team B, since the inbounding player is out of bounds, or team A since the inbounding player had not gotten back into play yet and was still part of the out of bounds?

A: Team B. The 10 players in the game always have some sort of status (e.g., in bounds, in the front court, out of bounds). A similar play: Player A1 inbounds the ball to A2, who, in a designed play, immediately passes the ball back to A1. A1 has one foot in bounds and one foot out of bounds when (s)he receives the pass. Ruling: The ball is caused to go out of bounds by A1. Team B ball for a throw-in.

Q: I have a question regarding an inbounds pass. The incident occured during a recreation game. One team had the ball out of bounds in the back court on the sideline, near the half court line. The ball was inbounded to a person who jumped from the front court, caught the ball in mid-air, and landed in the back court. Is this an over-and-back violation? Does the answer differ for NCAA, NBA, High School, etc.?

A: A couple of years ago, this would have been the same everywhere - what you describe is indeed a backcourt violation. The player gained control of a live ball inbounds when they had front court status and then went into the backcourt. However, the NCAA put in an exception for this circumstance a few years ago. I'm not sure if the other leagues have (I would expect U.S. High School to have made the change, and the NBA not to have done so). In international play, this is still a violation.

Q: I grew up on American rules and I am now coaching under FIBA rules. On a jump ball, when can a player touch the ball? I was taught that you can not attempt to hit the ball till it reaches its maximum height. In this league players are hitting the ball as soon as it leaves the ref's hands.

A: The rule is the same everywhere. The NBA has this same problem of people trying to "steal the tip". It's simply a matter of how high the ref tosses the ball and how hard the referees enforce the rule. In the NBA, guys who steal the tip get nailed more often than not. Also, some pro referees will fake the toss a couple of times to prevent it from being stolen.

Q: Please clear up this minor controversy. I contend that in order for a player to commit a backcourt violation in either the NBA or NCAA, that player must come across the midcourt line with BOTH feet AND the ball prior to going back over the line. In other words, (a) if he merely dribbles the ball over and back without advancing his feet - no violation, (b) steps across the line with either one or both feet while maintaining dribble in the back court area and then steps back - no violation. Do I have this right? If not, please correct me.

A: What you are stating is generally correct, but needs some clarification. If a dribbler is progressing across the centre line (it is not called the midcourt line; that is something different) from the back court, then the player is still considered to be in the back court until all three "points" are over (i.e. the ball and both feet). So what you say is correct in a dribbling situation. Situations where the ball is being held or passed are slightly different, but similar priciples apply. (e.g., if a player is in the back court, stops near the centre line and then pivots, with the pivot foot in the back court, then the player will not gain frontcourt status. If they are silly enough to use a foot in the front court as a pivot, a circumstance could occur that creates a backcourt violation.)

Note that if you watch international games (like the Olympics), the rule is different. But in the United States, it is as I have described.

Q: I noticed in the NBA rules a ball that hits the top of the backboard is still in play; the only part of the backboard that's out of bounds is its back; both sides, top, and bottom are in play. Is this also consistent with college and high school rules?

A: Yes it is. The edges of the board and the front side of the board are all in bounds. If the ball passes over the top of the board, however, it is out of bounds (except in International/FIBA rules).

Q: If there is a loose ball and a player dives to get to the ball (i.e. they are lying on the court when they get control of the ball), what are the rules governing what the player may do without commiting a traveling violation (NCAA)? For example, are they allowed to roll on the court deliberately or due to momentum?

A: Historically, a player in the situation you describe would be allowed to roll with the ball as far as his momentum takes him. They could not deliberately roll towards or away from something or someone. This is an important concept when the player comes to a stop. If they are basically staying in the same spot to execute their pass, no travel would be called. If they rolled away from a defender, it would be a violation. This is all pretty much up to the referee's interpretation; they just have to remember the spirit and intent of the rule, rather than trying to decide which butt cheek is the pivot. :-)

Q: My team had just made a basket to cut our deficit by 3 with 4 seconds left. We called time out to set up the press. Their player recieved the ball from the ref, we had their only man up double teamed. This player then ran the baseline, while running the baseline this player bounced the ball twice. My question is can the player do this. After the game I talked to the officals and they said they have never seen that before. I hope you can help me with this.

A: It is a violation in my opinion. I will say, however, that if a player fumbles the ball and recovers it, I would judge the situation on its merit (and likely would not call a violation). But if the action was more like a dribble, it would be very easy to fake a defender out. Is he going to dribble again or will it be a pass inbounds next time?

Earlier in the game, if no defender was displaced by the bouncing, I think a warning to the player would suffice. But with four seconds left, it might make the difference between getting the ball in and not doing so. I still can't guarantee 100% I would have made that call in that position, but it is certainly a violation if the bouncing was a deliberate act.

Q: The question I have concerns NF rules. After a made basket by Team A, Team B is inbounding the ball. B1 bounce passes to B2 who is also out of bounds; is a bounce pass to a teammate out of bounds legal?

A: My initial response to this question was no. My logic: if you were directing the pass in bounds and the ball hit out of bounds first, it is a violation. But it was pointed out to me that throw-ins after a basket are an exception to the normal throw-in rule. And indeed, NCAA Rules say that you may pass to a teammate out of bounds; there is no restriction on the type of pass you can use. Reading the FIBA rule book, however, my original interpretation would likely stand.

Q: What is the meaning of traveling (i.e. how many steps before shooting, how many before passing)?

A: This takes a full page in the various rulebooks. The FIBA (International) and NCAA rules are now for all intents and purposes identical. FYI, the NBA rule is somewhat less restrictive, and is identical to the pre-1994 FIBA rule. But for convenience's sake, here's a brief explanation:

The rules do not speak about the "number of steps" allowed; travelling is illegal movement of the pivot foot. Once you have established your pivot foot, there are limits on what you may do if you wish to move that pivot foot. They differ depending on if you dribble, shoot, or pass.

Briefly, when starting a dribble, you must release the ball before lifting your pivot foot. If you are passing or shooting, you need only pass or shoot before the pivot foot returns to the floor. In the classic layup, you actually receive the ball with both feet in the air (however briefly), take two steps and release the ball. This is how the travelling rule judges that motion:

Q: If a player is standing out of bounds and is hit by the ball is the ball out off of him or is he out of the play?

A: I presume we are talking about one of the 5 players on each team that is currently in the game. The ball goes out of bounds when it touches anything out of bounds (the floor, a chair, a player, a referee, a coach, etc.). The ball is caused to go out of bounds by the last player to touch it. If a player who is out of bounds touches the ball, they cause the ball to go out of bounds. So in your scenario, the player standing out of bounds causes the ball to go out. It is not possible to be "out of the play" if you are one of the five players on your team in the game at the time.

Q: I have a question regarding the causing of the basketball to be out of bounds by a player who may or may not have control of the ball. Suppose a player is going after a loose ball and taps it to keep it in play. The players momentum carries him out of bounds. If no one else touches the ball and the ball remains in bounds, can the player establish himself back in bounds (definition ?) and touch the ball without causing the ball to be out of bounds? And likewise, if a player does have control, say dribbling, steps out of bounds and the ball remains in bounds (bouncing), but does not touch the ball again until he establishes himself back in bounds and no one else has touched the ball, is the ball caused to be out of bounds?

A: [Revised March 2004] A player's location is determined by where they are touching the floor. If they are airborne, it is where they last touched the floor. Thus, in the first situation you cite, the player who dived out of bounds must be touching in-bounds and nowhere else before retrieving the ball (e.g., one foot completely in bounds and one in the air would be sufficient). If they jump from out of bounds and touch the ball before landing, they are still out of bounds and therefore have caused the ball to go out of bounds.

In the second scenario, it may or may not be a violation. Let's cite a specific example: the dribbler and defender are very close to the sidelines. The dribbler decides to bounce the ball between the legs of the defender, but because there is no room to go around the defender inbounds, (s)he chooses to go completely out of bounds to get around the defender and resume the dribble. This is illegal. A player who goes out of bounds for a purpose not allowed by rule can be penalised with a technical foul. What often happens in a situation like that is the official will see the player as still being out of bounds when they touch the ball — the technical foul call is very rare. In fact, a recent NCAA rule interpretation suggests that a violation is the correct call when the player is continuous control of the ball (like during a dribble) and steps out of bounds.

Having said that, I have been in a game where a player recovered a loose ball at high speed near the sideline, proceeded to dribble but was losing their balance trying to stay in bounds. The player in that case put the dribble down, touched out of bounds briefly, and then touched the ball again only after returning to the playing court. I had a no-call. In U.S.-based rules (under current interpretations), one could make an argument for that being called out of bounds, but one could also make the case that it was an "interrupted dribble" and thus did not meet the criteria.

Note: Some US High School rule experts tell me that a player in control of the ball (e.g., during a continuous dribble) who touches out of bounds causes the ball to be out of bounds.

Q: With just a few seconds left, the trailing team, pretty much out of contention at this point, was fouled and went to the line. The player made the first and then for his second attempt threw the ball baseball style at the rim attempting to get a long rebound. It was obvious to all that he had no intention to make the shot. I have refereed for several years and have been very informally trained by various collegiate officials. During those training sessions I was told that if I determine that the shot was not an attempt at making the free throw it was a violation on the shooter, regardless if it actually hit the rim. So I made the call and the shooting team went berserk. The call in no way effected the game, it was over for all intents and purposes, but I would like to know if I indeed do have the discretion or is it always a legal shot if it hits the rim? Is the rule the same in the NBA, NCAA and/or FIBA?

A: You are the second person to ask me that question in a week. I thought the answer was that it was a legal attempt if it hit the rim. It is certainly the case in FIBA, quite likely in the NBA, and I thought it was in the NCAA as well. But I may have to do some research to find out definitively on the NCAA/NF front.

On the purely practical side, if the game was "over for all intents and purposes," why did you feel you had to make that call? If you wanted to penalise that act, the shooter likely left the free throw semicircle too soon - a much easier sell. Also, if the shooting team did not get the rebound, a no-call would have been a better choice. It's OK to be correct, and you should never rewrite a rule, but unless the non-shooting team was placed at a disadvantage (the good old Tower Philosophy), it was probably a no-call. Yes, I know I have delved out of my milieu here, but sometimes refereeing philosophy is important.

Q: I have a question about line violations on a free throw. I am sure that you saw the play in the NBA all star game where Jordan crashed into the lane as soon as the shooter released the ball. I thought that this was a violation but nothing was called. The following Tuesday in our adult league game one of our players did this and they called a violation on him. I know that in the NBA that there are some different rules than in H.S. and NCAA and that they are lax in making some calls in the NBA (travelling) and especially in the all-star game but that was pretty big. After the our game we talked with the officials who insisted that it was a violation but after about a 10 minute search we could find nothing stating that a player outside of the 3 point line must remain there until the ball touches the rim. Is the rule different for NBA, H.S., and NCAA, did the NBA officials just not call it, or is it not a rule in any?

A: In the NBA, if you are not in a designated lane space, you need only be 6 feet away from the the semicircle at the top of the lane (and behind the free throw line extended). In NCAA (and in FIBA/International Rules for that matter), the rules state that players not in designated lane spaces (the marked spots along the side of the key) must stand behind the three-point line and the free throw line extended until the ball hits the rim. (If you're not rules-jargon savvy, the free throw line extended is an imaginary straight line that continues the free throw line out to the sidelines.) In the NCAA Rule Book, it is included in Rule 9-1 (there are a couple of really fine points embedded there, but what I have said is essentially correct).

Q: Isn't there an NCAA rule that after a made basket the team switching to defense is not allowed to interfere with the ball before it is inbounded by the other team and that after a warning a "T" shall be issued? Watching Iowa play it seams that they tap, kick or grab the ball after each made basket while trailing or in a close game giving there press that little extra time to set up. Am I wrong?

A: This is covered by rule, but not as specifically as you suggest. It is simply a "delay of game" type of situation. I have no doubt that teams that employ pressing strategies may even teach their players to innocently handle the ball after a hoop. But referees must counter that with the natural reaction to play the ball, which should not be penalised.

So while it is not illegal to touch the ball after a made basket, it is illegal for a player to delay the game by not allowing a dead ball to be promptly put back into play (this includes after a basket or after a whistle). This applies to all sets of rules (the NBA even has a formal "Delay of Game Warning" to deal with such things.)

If Iowa is indeed in a pattern of doing this, the NCAA braintrust (or a conference) should pick up on it and issue a general directive to coaches and officials. If not this season, for the beginning of next. This problem tends to appear every so often, but it seemed to be in remission for a while. It will provoke a reaction out of someone.

Q: A player is taking the ball out-of-bounds from his offensive end of the court. My question pertains to the rules of passing the ball into the backcourt. Can the ball touch the frontcourt before entering the backcourt to an awaiting player? Or must the ball be thrown directly to the player in the backcourt? This situation occurred in a recreational league, and the referee said that it was permitted.

A: The referee was right. The reason has to do with the definition of "over-and-back" (in the rules it is called a back court violation). In both US and International rules, a backcourt violation occurs when all three of the following criteria are met in sequence:

(1) Team A has team control of the ball
(2) Team A is the last to touch the ball in the front court
(3) Team A is the first to touch the ball in the back court

That is a little bit simplified, but essentially correct. The reason you are allowed to pass the ball into the back court on a throw-in (in US rules) is because there is no team control on a throw-in [2003 Note: The rule has changed somewhat with respect to Team Control fouls, but the ability to pass the ball anywhere on the floor still exists]. So even though criteria (2) and (3) are met, (1) is not. Team control does not occur until a player secures the ball in bounds. So where it lands before it is caught is not an issue. It might even be tipped in bounds (by either team) and it would still not be a back court violation.

Just as a bit of trivia, in International Rules, teams do have team control when they have the ball for a throw-in. Thus, they are not allowed to pass the ball to the back court on a front court throw-in. But the same 3 criteria apply.

Q: In a recent pickup game, a disagreement occurred about a kick ball situation. A player who was running down court was hit in the shin. Some players called kick ball while others such as myself disagreed. I know that the FIBA ruling says it has to be done intentionally but what do U.S. rules say? Is it a turnover or a foul, or does the ball simply stay in play???

A: The play, as you describe it, is not a violation in any current rules of play — FIBA, NCAA, NBA, etc.. The point of the rule is that "Basketball is to be played with the hands" (a quote from the FIBA Rule Book). If you are trying to play the ball with your leg, it is a violation. We get a few variations between rule sets on what is part of the leg (NCAA says below the knee; NBA and FIBA say any part of the leg). But the concept in all is that it must be a deliberate act.