The basketball rulebook for your league will tell you what a player
can do with the basketball, and what he can't do. We spend so much time
working with our players in developing their basic skills, such as
ballhandling and shooting and the basic offensive movements,
we need to know what they can and can't do on the court.
The set of
rules discussed on this page deal with very basic fundamentals of the
game - violations to fundamental basketball skills, for the most part.
The following are some of the more common violations to watch out for
- if your team commits any of these violations while in possession of
the ball, they lose possession and your opponent is given the ball. This is my quick version of these rules; for a more detailed, official version I
suggest you download or buy a copy of the rules that govern your
Your league website may have it, or you can check out these books:
- You can't double dribble. Which means you can't dribble, stop
dribbling, then dribble again, unless in between those dribbles you
shoot or someone else - a teammate or your opponent - touches the ball.
To stop dribbling means the player either touches the ball
with both hands simultaneously, or cradles the ball in one hand so that
the ball comes to rest.
- The following are not considered dribbling violations:
When you accidentally lose control of the ball and then regain it at the beginning or end of the dribble
Tapping the ball away from other players (e.g., during a loose ball or rebound)
Deflecting a pass and then gaining control of the ball
- Once the player picks up the ball, he can't move his feet unless he dribbles the ball.
There are exceptions to this rule:
A player can pivot - i.e., move one foot while keeping the other foot stationary:
- If he has come to a two-foot stop, he can choose either foot to
move, but once he moves one foot, the other foot becomes his pivot foot
and cannot be lifted
- If he has stopped with one foot hitting the floor first,
followed by the other foot, then the first foot to touch the floor
becomes the pivot foot and cannot be moved
A player can jump off the pivot foot to pass or shoot, but the ball
must be out of the player's hands when he lands; otherwise it is a
travel (this is the basis of the two steps allowed for the layup)
A player can fall and slide on the floor while holding the
ball; or while lying or sitting on the floor, a player can get control
of a ball...
...but, the player cannot then roll over or attempt to sit up while holding the ball - this is a traveling violation
3 Second Violation
- A player cannot stand in the opponent's key for three consecutive seconds once the ball has passed into the front court.
This rule - 3 in the key - has a little wiggle room for the referees. They likely won't call it if:
- the player is trying to leave the key and gets tangled up with other players
- someone else on the player's team is in the act of shooting
- the player dribbles while in the key, with the intention of shooting a field goal
Getting the Ball over Half
- Once a player gains control of the ball in his backcourt (defensive
end), his team must get the ball over the half court line within a set
amount of time - depending on the league, the team may have 8 or 10
seconds to get the ball over half.
The ball is considered over half when:
- the ball touches the front court (offensive end)
- the ball touches a player or official standing in the front court
- the ball carrier has both feet and the ball in contact with the front court
- If the team does not get the ball across the half court line in the given time limit, it loses possession.
Back Over Half
- Once the ball crosses the half court line into the front court, it
cannot be taken back into the back court by the offensive team. If the
ball is last touched by an offensive player before landing in the
back court, and then a player from the same team is the first to touch it
next, this is a violation.
One exception to this rule is when a player jumps
from his front court, gains new team control of the ball while in the
air, and then lands in the back court (e.g., steals a pass). In this
case, there is no violation.
- Goal tending occurs when the ball is blocked or touched by a
defensive player after it has been shot and is still above the level of
the rim and on its downward flight to the basket.
- Goal tending results
in the offensive team being awarded the points for the shot as if the
shot went in.
Once the ball is deemed to no longer have the chance to go in, a block or deflection is no longer considered goal tending.
Touches the basket or backboard while the ball is in contact with the rim
- Interference occurs whenever a player:
Reaches through the basket from below and touches the ballMakes the backboard vibrate (e.g., slams his hand against the backboard or grabs the rim or supports)
- Penalties for interference are the same as for goal tending - if the
defense interferes with a shot, the offensive team is awarded the
points as if the shot went in; if the offensive team interferes with the
shot, no points are awarded and the offensive team loses possession of
A few more things to include in your basketball rulebook:
- When a player has the ball and is closely guarded by an opponent
(the opponent is actively guarding him at a distance of less than three
feet or so), the player must pass, shoot or dribble within five (5)
- Many leagues play with a shot clock - usually a 24-second
countdown. The team with possession of the ball must attempt a shot for a
field goal before the shot clock gets to zero.
A shot attempt means that the ball leaves the shooter's hands before
the shot clock signal sounds, and the ball touches the rim or enters
the basket. e.g., if a player shoots, and just after he releases the
ball the shot clock sounds, but the shot does not touch the rim (it's an
air-ball or bounces off the backboard without touching the rim), then
that constitutes a shot clock violation. Had the ball touched the rim,
then there would have been no violation.
Check with your league's basketball rulebook for their viewpoints on
these violations. Like I stated above, these violations should be more
or less universal, as they tend to deal more with the execution of
fundamental skills and less with timing and organization details.
there are always minor interpretations that you need to watch out for,
so check with your league's set of rules before game time.
And don't forget to check out the other two pages on the site for other
types of rules - Game Time, and Fouls.
Again, for a more detailed, official version of the rules, check out:
The better you understand the basketball rulebook, the better prepared you will be to
coach effectively and help improve your player's knowledge of the game.