Basketball Violations Explained: Common Mistakes and Penalties

Buzz Williams

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Basketball Violations

Understanding basketball violations is crucial for anyone looking to play or follow the game more closely. Violations can drastically impact the flow of a game and often lead to turnovers, giving the opposing team an advantage.

From carrying to over and back, these rules ensure fair play and maintain the sport’s integrity.

Basketball violations fall into various categories, such as ball handling, time constraints, and player positioning. For instance, deliberately kicking the ball or retreating into your own half after crossing the center line are clear infractions.

Knowing these rules not only helps players avoid penalties but also enhances the viewing experience for fans. Moreover, understanding defensive violations like goaltending and the three-second rule can clarify many game-time decisions.

Staying informed about these rules allows both players and spectators to appreciate the game’s nuances fully.

Common Basketball Violations

In basketball, violations occur when players break the rules established by the sport’s governing bodies, such as FIBA or the NBA. Here are some common violations:

Backcourt Violation

A backcourt violation occurs when an offensive player erroneously changes the ball’s status from frontcourt to backcourt. If committed, the penalty involves a turnover, awarding possession to the opposing team.

This violation often results from mishandling or attempting to evade defensive pressure. According to the NBA Rulebook, the offending team loses the ball, and the opposing team executes an inbound pass from the nearest sideline or baseline.

Basket Interference

Basket interference happens when a player illegally touches the ball while it is above the basket ring and within the imaginary cylinder. This violation is common in the NBA, NCAA, and NFHS.

For an offensive interference, no points are awarded, and the opposing team gains possession. If a defensive interference occurs, the shot counts, giving the offensive team two or three points depending on the shot’s initial attempt.


Carrying, also known as palming, involves a player holding the ball too long or turning their hand to gain an unfair advantage while dribbling. This violation disrupts the game’s flow, often resulting in a turnover.

By maintaining consistent dribbling techniques, players can avoid carrying infractions and ensure fair gameplay as per NBA guidelines.

Double Dribble

Double dribble violations occur when a player stops dribbling and then resumes dribbling or uses both hands simultaneously while controlling the ball. This action is illegal and typically results in a turnover, shifting ball possession to the opposing team.

Consistent practice and adherence to dribbling rules help players avoid double dribble penalties.

Time-related violations in basketball refer to infractions that involve the game clock or the shot clock. Here are some common time-related violations:

Delay of Game

A delay of game violation occurs when a player slows down or delays gameplay, usually by making contact with the ball at an inappropriate time. Common instances involve players holding or hitting the ball after their team scores.

The first offense results in a warning, while subsequent offenses lead to team technical fouls.

Eight-Second Violation

The eight-second violation comes into play when an offensive player retains possession of the ball in their team’s backcourt for more than eight consecutive seconds. This violation is prevalent in the NBA, WNBA, and FIBA.

The penalty for this infraction is a turnover, awarding the ball to the opposing team at the midcourt line.

Five-Second Violation

The five-second back-to-the-basket violation is mainly enforced in FIBA and the NBA. It occurs when an offensive player, while closely guarded, does not start a dribble, pass, or attempt a shot within five seconds.

Additionally, a five-second violation occurs during free throws if the shooter fails to release the ball within five seconds after receiving it from the referee. Both violations result in the offensive team losing possession of the ball.

Shot Clock Violation

A shot clock violation happens when the offensive team fails to attempt a field goal before the shot clock expires. In the NBA, the shot clock is set to 24 seconds. Once the clock runs out without a legal field goal attempt, the opposing team gains possession of the ball.

This rule ensures a fast-paced game and prevents teams from stalling.

Special Situations

Special situations in basketball refer to specific scenarios or circumstances that require teams to execute unique strategies or adhere to particular rules. Here are some common special situations in basketball:

Inbound Pass Violation

During an inbound pass, the thrower must stay within a designated spot. For NBA and WNBA, this spot is a three-foot area with one step allowance to the left or right. A violation occurs if the thrower leaves this area before releasing the ball.

The opposing team gains possession if an inbound pass violation takes place.


Goaltending happens when a player makes contact with the ball while it’s on a downward flight toward the basket and above the rim. This act leads to automatically counting the basket if committed by the defense, scoring two or three points based on the shot’s value.

Preventing such violations helps in maintaining fair play.

Jump Ball Violation

A jump ball violation occurs when players involved in the jump ball engage in prohibited actions. Examples include tapping the ball before it reaches its peak or leaving the designated circle early.

Such infractions result in awarding the ball to the opposing team. Proper adherence to jump ball rules ensures the game starts fairly.

Free Play and Positioning Violations

In basketball, “free play” isn’t a common term, but violations related to positioning are. Here are some positioning violations:

Three-Second Violation

The three-second violation limits how long an offensive or defensive player can stay in the key. If an offensive player stays within the free throw lane for over three seconds, an offensive three-second violation occurs. This results in the opposing team gaining possession.

For the defensive three-second violation, a defensive player remains in the lane for over three seconds without actively guarding an opponent, resulting in a technical foul and the offensive team retaining possession.


Traveling is a violation that occurs when a player holding the ball moves one or both of their feet illegally. The most common traveling scenarios include taking more than two steps without dribbling the ball or switching the pivot foot.

When traveling is called, the team loses possession, and the opposing team receives the ball for an inbound pass.

Free Throw Violation

A free throw violation involves any infraction occurring during a free throw attempt. This includes stepping over the free throw line before the ball touches the rim, other players entering the lane too early, or the shooter taking longer than ten seconds to release the shot.

Such violations result in the loss of the free throw attempt or a technical foul, depending on which team commits the infraction.

Less Common Violations

Less common violations in basketball are those that occur infrequently but are still enforced when they happen. Here are some examples:

Illegal Assist to Score

Illegal assist to score violations occur when an offensive player assists themselves by using the rim, net, backboard, or basket support. For example, if an offensive player grabs the rim while attempting a tip-in shot, it’s considered an illegal assist.

This rule prevents players from gaining an unfair height advantage. The penalty includes no points for the offensive player and possession of the ball awarded to the opposing team on the sideline at the free throw line extended.

Ball Becomes Lodged

When the ball gets lodged between the basket ring and the backboard, it results in a stoppage of play. In the NBA, this situation leads to a jump ball. In other competitive leagues, possession might be determined by a possession arrow.

This rule ensures that the game proceeds fairly when an unusual situation arises involving the ball.

Offensive Player Fouls

Personal fouls committed by offensive players fall into specific categories. Non-punching or non-flagrant fouls result in no points for the offensive team, charge a personal foul to the offender, and award the ball to the offended team out-of-bounds at the nearest sideline spot.

For punching or flagrant fouls, penalties include charging the player with a personal and team foul, awarding two free throws to the offended player, and giving the ball to the offended team at the free throw line extended.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a double dribble violation in basketball?

A double dribble violation occurs when a player dribbles the ball, stops, and then begins to dribble again. This also includes situations where a player dribbles with both hands simultaneously. Double dribbling results in a turnover and the opposing team gains possession of the ball.

What constitutes traveling in basketball?

Traveling occurs when a player holding the ball moves one or both of their feet illegally. Typically, traveling is called if a player takes more than two steps without dribbling the ball. This violation leads to a turnover, awarding possession to the opposing team.

What is the three-second violation in basketball?

A three-second violation is called when an offensive player remains in the key (also known as the paint) for more than three seconds without actively guarding an opponent. This results in a turnover, giving the ball to the opposing team.

What is basket interference in basketball?

Basket interference, also known as goal-tending, occurs when a player touches the ball or any part of the basket while the ball is on the rim or in the cylinder above the rim. This violation results in the opposing team being awarded points if the interference was defensive, or a turnover if it was offensive.

What is an eight-second violation in basketball?

An eight-second violation happens when the team with possession fails to advance the ball past the half-court line within eight seconds. This results in a turnover and the opposing team gains possession of the ball.


Understanding basketball violations is essential for players and fans to fully grasp the game’s intricacies and ensure fair play.

This knowledge enhances the enjoyment and respect for the game by providing insight into the penalties and strategic opportunities that arise from infractions.

Common violations include traveling, double dribbling, and shot clock violations, each affecting the game’s flow and offering advantages to the opposing team.

By familiarizing themselves with these rules, players can avoid costly mistakes, and fans can better appreciate the strategic decisions made on the court.

Additionally, more obscure violations like goaltending and carrying can have significant impacts on game outcomes, making it crucial for everyone involved to stay informed.

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Buzz Williams

Buzz Williams, head coach of Texas A&M Men's Basketball, is known for his energetic coaching style and strong leadership. Since joining in 2019, he has revitalized the program with his strategic acumen and emphasis on player development. Williams previously had successful stints at Marquette and Virginia Tech, and he continues to build a competitive team at Texas A&M, aiming for excellence in the SEC and beyond.

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