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Old Tue Nov 23, 2010, 09:57pm
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The Most Misunderstood Basketball Rules

I received a private message from a former esteemed member asking if I've updated The Most Misunderstood Basketball Rules list since the rule changes came out back in the spring. I have, so I've decided to post it here.

I started working on this list back in March 2005, for a presentation that I was making to a college level basketball coaching class after I was asked to give a lecture on the most misunderstood basketball rules.

This is a list of basketball rules that are often misunderstood by coaches, players, and parents. I developed this list over the past twenty-nine years, officiating thousands of basketball games, listening to erroneous comments from players, coaches, and mostly from fans, and thinking to myself, "I wish I could stop the game and explain the real rule to them". This list is meant to educate players, coaches, and fans.

For example. A player is dribbling the ball in the backcourt and a fan is yelling "three seconds". Or, a player is inbounding the ball and a parent yells "he's stepping on the boundary line". How many times have things like this happened to you? Don't you just want to blow the whistle, stop the game, and say "there can't be a three second violation until the ball is in the frontcourt", or "the player can step on the line, but not over the line".
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Old Tue Nov 23, 2010, 09:58pm
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Part I ...

The Most Misunderstood Basketball Rules

It is important to know the intent and purpose of a rule so that it may be intelligently applied in each play situation. A player of a team should not be permitted an advantage which is not intended by a rule. Neither should play be permitted to develop which may lead to placing a player at a disadvantage not intended by a rule.

A player cannot touch the ball, ring, or net while the ball is on the ring or within the basket. A player cannot touch the ball if it is in the imaginary cylinder above the ring. These are examples of basket interference. It is legal to touch the ring or the net if the ball is above the ring and not touching the ring, even if the ball is in the imaginary cylinder above the ring. It is legal to hang on the ring if a player is avoiding an injury to himself or herself or another player.

The backboard has nothing to do with goaltending. Goaltending when a player touches the ball during a try, or tap, while it is in its downward flight, entirely above the basket ring level and has the possibility of entering the basket. On most layups, the ball is going up after it contacts the backboard. It is legal to pin the ball against the backboard if it still on the way up and not in the imaginary cylinder above the basket. Slapping the backboard is neither basket interference nor is it goaltending and points cannot be awarded. A player who strikes a backboard, during a tap, or a try, so forcefully that it cannot be ignored because it is an attempt to draw attention to the player, or a means of venting frustration, may be assessed a technical foul. When a player simply attempts to block a shot and accidentally slaps the backboard it is neither a violation nor is it a technical foul.

The front, top, sides, and bottom of the backboard are all in play. The ball cannot legally pass over a rectangular backboard from either direction. The back of a backboard is out of bounds as well as the supporting structures.

The traveling rule is one of the most misunderstood rules in basketball. To start a dribble, the ball must be released before the pivot foot is lifted. On a pass or a shot, the pivot foot may be lifted, but may not return to the floor before the ball is released. A player may slide on the floor while trying to secure a loose ball until that player’s momentum stops. At that point that player cannot attempt to get up or rollover. A player securing a ball while on the floor cannot attempt to stand up unless that player starts a dribble. A player in this situation may also pass, shoot, or request a timeout. If the player is flat on his or her back, that player may sit up without violating.

During a fumble the player is not in control of the ball, and therefore, cannot be called for a traveling violation. A fumble is the accidental loss of player control when the ball is unintentionally dropped or slips from a player’s grasp. After a player has ended a dribble and fumbled the ball, that player may recover the ball without violating. Any steps taken during the recovery of a fumble are not traveling, regardless of how far the ball goes and the amount of advantage that is gained. It is always legal to recover a fumble, even at the end of a dribble, however that player cannot begin a new dribble, which would be an illegal dribble violation. A player who fumbles the ball when receiving a pass may legally start a dribble.

The shooter can retrieve his or her own airball, if the referee considers it to be a shot attempt. The release ends team control. It is not a violation for that player to start another dribble at that point. When an airborne player keeps control of an attempted shot that is blocked and is unable to release the ball and returns to the floor with it, that player has not traveled; it is a held ball. If, in this situation, the shooter loses control of the ball because of the block, then this is simply a blocked shot and play continues. If, in this situation, the defender simply touches the ball, and the airborne shooter returns to the floor holding the ball, it’s a traveling violation. When an airborne player tries for goal, sees that the try will be blocked, purposely drops the ball, and picks up the ball after it hits the floor, that player has traveled by starting a dribble with the pivot foot off the floor.

Palming or carrying is when the ball comes to rest in the player's hand, and the player either travels with the ball, or dribbles a second time. There is no restriction as to how high a player may bounce the ball, provided the ball does not come to rest in a player’s hand. Steps taken during a dribble are not traveling, including several that are sometimes taken when a high dribble takes place. It is not possible for a player to travel during a dribble.

A player inbounding the ball may step on, but not over the line. During a designated spot throwin, the player inbounding the ball must keep one foot on or over the three-foot wide designated spot. An inbounding player is allowed to jump or move one or both feet. A player inbounding the ball may move backward as far as the five-second time limit or space allows. If player moves outside the three-foot wide designated spot it is a violation, not travelling. In gymnasiums with limited space outside the sidelines and endlines, a defensive player may be asked to step back no more than three feet. A player inbounding the ball may bounce the ball on the out-of-bounds area prior to making a throwin. After a goal, or awarded goal, the team not credited with the score shall make the throw-in from any point outside the end line. A team retains this “run the endline” privilege if a timeout is called during the dead ball period after the goal. Any player of the team may make a direct throw-in or may pass the ball along the end line to a teammate outside the boundary line.

The defender may not break the imaginary plane during a throwin until the ball has been released on a throw-in pass. If the defender breaks the imaginary plane during a throwin before the ball has been released on a throw-in pass, the defender’s team will receive a team warning, or if the team has already been warned for one of the four delay situations, this action would result in a team technical foul. If the defender contacts the ball after breaking the imaginary plane, it is a player technical foul and a team warning will be recorded. If the defender fouls the inbounding player after breaking the imaginary plane, it is an intentional personal foul, and a team warning will be recorded.

The inbounding player does not have a plane restriction, but has five seconds to release the ball and it must come directly onto the court. The ball can always be passed into the backcourt during a throwin. This situation is not a backcourt violation.

If a player's momentum carries him or her off the court, he or she can be the first player to touch the ball after returning inbounds. That player must not have left the court voluntarily and must immediately return inbounds. That player must have something in and nothing out. It is not necessary to have both feet back inbounds. It is a violation for a player to intentionally leave the court for an unauthorized reason.

After a violation, the ball is awarded to the opponents for a throwin from an out of bounds spot nearest the violation. This is especially true for a backcourt violation, where the ball may not necessarily be put in play at the division line, but, rather, is always put back in play at the spot nearest the violation.

A moving screen is not in and of itself a foul, illegal contact must occur for a foul to be called. If a blind screen is set on a stationary defender, the defender must be given one normal step to change direction and attempt to avoid contact. If a screen is set on a moving defender, the defender gets a minimum of one step and a maximum of two steps, depending on the speed and distance of the defender.

It is legal use of hands to accidentally hit the hand of the opponent when it is in contact with the ball. This includes holding, dribbling, passing, or even during a shot attempt. Striking a ball handler or a shooter on that player's hand that is incidental to an attempt to play the ball is not a foul, no matter how loud it sounds or how much it hurts.

Reaching in is not a foul. There must be illegal contact to have a foul. The mere act of reaching in, by itself, is nothing. If illegal contact does occur, it’s probably a holding foul, an illegal use of hands foul, or a hand check foul. When a player, in order to stop the clock, does not make a legitimate play for the ball, holds, pushes or grabs away from the ball, or uses undue roughness, the foul is an intentional foul.

Over the back is not a foul. There must be illegal contact to have a foul. A taller player may often be able to get a rebound over a shorter player, even if the shorter player has good rebounding position. If the shorter player is displaced, then a pushing foul must be called. A rebounding player, with an inside position, while boxing out, is not allowed to push back or displace an opponent, which is a pushing foul.
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Last edited by BillyMac; Fri Nov 26, 2010 at 11:59am.
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Old Tue Nov 23, 2010, 09:59pm
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Part II ...

A defensive player does not have to remain stationary to take a charge. A defender may turn away or duck to absorb contact, provided he or she has already established legal guarding position, which is both feet on the playing court and facing the opponent. The defender can always move backwards or sideways to maintain a legal guarding position and may even have one or both feet off the playing court when contact occurs. That player may legally rise vertically. If the defender is moving forward, then the contact is caused by the defender, which is a blocking foul.

The mere fact that contact occurs does not constitute a foul. Incidental contact is contact with an opponent which is permitted and does not constitute a foul. Contact, which occurs unintentionally in an effort by an opponent to reach a loose ball, or contact which may result when opponents are in equally favorable positions to perform normal defensive or offensive moves, should not be considered illegal, even though the contact may be severe. Contact which does not hinder an opponent from participating in normal defensive or offensive movements should be considered incidental.

A ten-second count continues when the defense deflects or bats the ball in the backcourt. When a dribbler is advancing the ball into the frontcourt, the ball maintains backcourt status until both feet and the ball touch entirely in the frontcourt.

During a throwin, even under a teams own basket, if the throwin is deflected, tipped, or batted by an offensive player in the frontcourt to an offensive player in the backcourt; or after a missed field goal attempt or a missed foul shot attempt, if the ball is deflected, tipped, or batted by an offensive player in the frontcourt to an offensive player in the backcourt; these are not a backcourt violations. In both cases team control, a player holding or dribbling the ball, has not yet been established.

During a throwin, or jump ball, any player; or a defensive player, in making a steal; may legally jump from his or her frontcourt, secure control of the ball with both feet off the floor, and return to the floor with one or both feet in the backcourt. The player may make a normal landing and it makes no difference whether the first foot down is in the frontcourt or the backcourt. These three situations are not backcourt violations.

The closely guarded rule is in effect in frontcourt only, when a defender is within six feet of the ball handler. Up to three separate five-second counts may occur on the same ball handler, holding, dribbling, and holding. The count continues even if defenders switch. The five-second count ends when a dribbler gets his or her head and shoulders ahead of the defender.

The intent of the three-second rule is to not allow an offensive player to gain an advantage. There is no three-second count between the release of a shot and the control of a rebound, at which time a new count starts. There is no three-second count during a throwin. There is no three-second count while the ball is in the backcourt. There is a three-second count during an interrupted dribble. Allowance shall be made for a player who, having been in the restricted area for less than three seconds, dribbles in or moves immediately to try for goal.

The head coach may request and be granted a timeout if his or her player is holding or dribbling the ball, or during a dead ball period. A player saving the ball in the air can ask for and be granted a timeout even if that player is going out of bounds. The key is whether or not the player has control of the ball.

On free throws, there is a maximum of two offensive players and four defensive players in the six marked lane spaces. The defense must be in the first marked lane spaces, above the neutral zone marks, on all free throws. The offense must not occupy the first marked lane spaces, above the neutral zone marks. The shooter and all the players in the designated lane spaces must wait until the ball hits rim or backboard before entering the lane. Players, other than the shooter, and the players in the designated lane spaces, are to remain behind the free throw line extended and behind the three point arc, and may not penetrate the free throw line extended and the three point arc until the ball hits rim or backboard. During a free throw, no opponent, including bench personnel, may disconcert the free thrower. For free throws when there are no rebounders in the marked lane spaces, i.e. technical fouls, the nine nonshooters shall remain behind the free throw line extended and behind the three point arc.

A held ball occurs when opponents have their hands so firmly on the ball that control cannot be obtained without undue roughness. Action of arms and elbows resulting from total body movements as in pivoting or moving to prevent a held ball or loss of control shall not be considered excessive. It is a violation for a player to excessively swing his or her arms or elbows, even without contacting an opponent.

Kicking the ball is intentionally striking it with any part of the leg or foot. An unintentionally kicked ball is never illegal, regardless of how far the ball goes and who recovers it. It is also illegal to hit the ball with a fist.

A player who has been replaced, or directed to leave the game, shall not re-enter before the next opportunity to substitute after the clock has been started properly following his, or her, replacement. In other words, a player who has been replaced must sit a tick of the clock, however, a player doesnt have to play a tick of the clock.

Players may not participate while wearing jewelry. Religious medals or medical alert medals are not considered jewelry. A religious medal must be taped and worn under the uniform. A medical alert medal must be taped and may be visible.

Headbands and wristbands must be white, black, beige or a single solid school color, provided all team members are wearing the same color for each item for all participants. Only a single item may be worn on the head and/or on each wrist. Sweatbands must be worn below the elbow. Rubber or cloth elastic bands, of any color, may be used to control hair. Undershirts must be similar in color to the jersey and shall not have frayed or ragged edges. State associations may, on an individual basis, allow a player to participate while wearing a head covering, if it is worn for medical or religious reasons, provided that the covering is not abrasive, hard, or dangerous, and is attached in such a way that it is highly unlikely to come off during play.

Officials are not required to explain judgment calls, but they may explain some calls if approached by the head coach in a respectful manner. Officials have been instructed to call technical fouls for profanity, unsporting acts, excessive complaints, or verbal abuse.

Officials are on the court to be the only unbiased arbiters of the game. Officials are not concerned with who wins or loses, but only fairness and safety. Everyone else in that gym cares about winning, and therefore cannot look at the game objectively. Players commit fouls and violations; officials view those infractions, judge the action, and then apply the rules of the game to what they had viewed. The rules then determine the penalty.

Revised 10/5/10
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Old Tue Nov 23, 2010, 10:55pm
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So, what rule change affected the misunderstood rules?
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Old Tue Nov 23, 2010, 11:34pm
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Based on a recent thread, maybe you should add that it's not illegal for players along the FT lane to have their arms extended into adjacent spaces.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 07:14am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snaqwells View Post
So, what rule change affected the misunderstood rules?
Headbands and wristbands must be white, black, beige or a single solid school color, provided all team members are wearing the same color for each item for all participants.

Also, a few other "unannounced" editorial changes.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 08:13am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillyMac View Post
Headbands and wristbands must be white, black, beige or a single solid school color, provided all team members are wearing the same color for each item for all participants.

Also, a few other "unannounced" editorial changes.
Okay, I guess I wouldn't have put them in a list of misunderstood rules, but it's your list.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 05:15pm
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Think Again ???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snaqwells View Post
Okay, I guess I wouldn't have put them in a list of misunderstood rules, but it's your list.
Do you really think that players, coaches, and fans, understand this rule? Not in these parts.
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Last edited by BillyMac; Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 07:25pm.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 05:26pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillyMac View Post
Headbands and wristbands must be white, black, beige or a single solid school color, provided all team members are wearing the same color for each item for all participants.

Also, a few other "unannounced" editorial changes.
The NCHSAA took it a step further. As long as every player who is wearing such is wearing the same color, we don't give a tinker's damn what color it is.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 05:28pm
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Originally Posted by BktBallRef View Post
The NCHSAA took it a step further. As long as every player who is wearing such is wearing the same color, we don't give a tinker's damn what color it is.
And that's how it should be.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 05:45pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillyMac View Post
You really think that players, coaches, and fans, understand this rule?
No but I don't think they misunderstand it either. I would put it in the category of unknown rules that they really don't care about.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 07:40pm
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Pick A Color, Any Color ...

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Originally Posted by Scrapper1 View Post
And that's how it should be.
Amen.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 07:58pm
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You Have The Right To Remain Silent ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snaqwells View Post
I would put it in the category of unknown rules that they really don't care about.
I don't give a rat's derriere about fans understanding, or not understanding, this rule, but it would be nice it players, and coaches, understood the rule. Then I wouldn't have to flash my "Fashion Police" badge every few games.

Last season a photo appeared in a major metropolitan newspaper of a high school state tournament game worked by our local board officials where a girl with a white (home) jersey was wearing a red headband (illegal last year, legal this year). Our interpreter made it part of his Powerpoint presentation and, without mentioning any names, reamed us all out.

And if you think that this rule can't be enforced consistently, then guess again. Undershirt, headband, wrist bands, and jewelry rules are strictly enforced in the Catholic middle school league that I work. If we, as officials, don't enforce these rules, we don't get paid by our assigner. All officials know this, as do all coaches. After a few reminders the first week of the season, we no longer have any problems with these "Fashion Police" rules. No, "The officials last week let him wear his lucky purple and yellow striped headband". And some of these kids are in second, or third grade, coached by volunteer parents. If they "get" the rule, then high school varsity players, coached by paid coaches, can "get" the rule.

Would somebody please help me down from my soapbox. I'm getting dizzy up here.


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Last edited by BillyMac; Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 08:26pm.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 09:14pm
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Billy, I have no problem with enforcement of this rule. By the time the kids around here hit high school, they're all complying; so I can only assume it's being enforced at the ms level. I'll probably work a few ms games this year to get back into the flow, so I can tell you it'll be enforced then. Hell, I knew the rule when I played junior high basketball in the late 80s.

Actually, I've got a serious point to make about the misunderstood rules. If it's too long, people don't read it, so I would recommend trying to keep it to one page. That would mean you have to either drop some or shorten them all. Maybe one list of misunderstood rules and one list of "rules you never knew about."

I can see the misunderstood rules (3 seconds, over the back, etc.) being useful to help fans; while the "rules you never know about" (colors of undershirts and headbands, jewelry, coaching box) would be beneficial to parents and coaches who are new to the game.

Just my two bits offered from somewhere in front of the soapbox.
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Old Wed Nov 24, 2010, 09:34pm
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Not A Good Empty Nester ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snaqwells View Post
I've got a serious point to make about the misunderstood rules. If it's too long, people don't read it, so I would recommend trying to keep it to one page. That would mean you have to either drop some or shorten them all.
Great point. I keep trying to shorten it, but can't decide which points to delete. It's not "my" list (I've gotten a lot of help from many Forum members), but it is my "baby" and it's hard for me to let one, or more, points "leave the nest". I'm starting to tear up just thinking about it. Next time I revise it I will invite Forum members to make corrections, additions, or, dare I say it, deletions. Of course, we're all good neighbors around here so no one really needs an invitation.
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