Carrying in Basketball: Rules, Techniques to Avoid Violations, and Tips for Coaches

Buzz Williams

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carrying in basketball

In the fast-paced world of basketball, certain rules can be puzzling, even for seasoned fans. One such rule is carrying, an often-misunderstood violation that can significantly impact the flow of the game.

At its core, carrying occurs when a player’s hand goes under the ball while dribbling, giving the impression they’re carrying it rather than keeping it in continuous motion.

This seemingly simple infraction can be tricky to spot in real time, often eluding players, fans, and officials alike. Understanding the nuances of carrying is crucial for anyone looking to deepen their knowledge of the game.

From identifying the violation to knowing the penalties and helping players avoid it, exploring the intricacies of carrying can enhance both the playing and viewing experience.

What Is Carrying in Basketball?

Carrying in basketball refers to a dribbling violation where a player’s hand goes under the ball, disrupting continuous motion. Understanding this infraction is crucial for players, coaches, and fans alike.

Definition and Basic Rules

In basketball, carrying occurs when a player’s hand goes under the ball during a dribble, making it look like the player is carrying the ball instead of maintaining continuous motion.

This move is illegal as it provides an unfair advantage by allowing unnatural movement, complicating defense.

The NBA clearly defines carrying violations: when a player’s hand pauses under the ball, it disrupts the game’s flow and defensive effectiveness. Referees call a deadball turnover upon detection, giving possession to the opposing team.

Common Examples of Carrying

Carrying can be subtle but is often noticeable when executed. Common examples include:

  • Crossover Moves: Players like Allen Iverson popularized crossover moves. Unless the palm goes under the ball to change its plane, there’s no violation.
  • Hesitation Dribbles: Players might pause slightly during a dribble, causing their hand to go under the ball for a brief moment.
  • Fast Breaks: In high-speed situations, players sometimes lose dribble control, turning a normal dribble into a carry.

NBA referees undergo extensive training to differentiate true carries from legal dribbles. Their vigilance maintains the game’s integrity, ensuring fair competition.

The Impact of Carrying on the Game

Carrying significantly influences the dynamics of a basketball game in several ways:

How Carrying Influences Game Dynamics

Carrying disrupts the natural rhythm of basketball. A player’s hand momentarily going under the ball can halt the fluidity of dribbling, causing a jarring effect on the game’s pace. When referees detect a carrying violation, they halt play and award the ball to the opposing team.

This interruption impacts momentum, often leading to shifts in game flow. Expert referees ensure that dribbling adheres to official NBA rules, maintaining consistency and fairness during games.

The Role of Carrying in Player Advantage

Players gain an unfair advantage through carrying. By allowing the ball to rest in their hand, they can execute deceptive moves that evade defenders, creating an unbalanced playing field.

Moves such as hesitation dribbles and crossovers often come close to carrying, challenging referees to discern between skillful maneuvers and infractions.

Recognizing and penalizing carrying helps maintain competitive integrity, ensuring that no player gains an undue benefit.

Regulation and Enforcement

Regulation and enforcement of carrying violations are essential for maintaining the integrity and fairness of basketball games. Here’s a closer look at how this is accomplished:

How Referees Identify and Call Carrying

Referees are responsible for detecting carrying violations during gameplay. They are trained to identify cues such as a player’s hand dropping below the ball or a sudden change in the ball’s movement caused by improper hand placement.

A constant dribble motion is considered legal, while a sudden change in momentum prompts further assessment. These cues help ensure fair competition and maintain the integrity of the game.

Consequences of Carrying During a Game

Carrying violations in basketball result in immediate penalties, causing the offending team to lose possession of the ball to the opposing team at the nearest sideline. This rule deters unfair advantages and promotes adherence to the game’s regulations.

Frequent violations disrupt gameplay rhythm and affect both teams’ dynamics. The rule’s enforcement ensures fair play and competitive integrity.

In the 2022 NBA season, an increased focus on carrying violations led to a noticeable rise in calls, influencing game play and refereeing.

Techniques to Avoid Carrying

To help players avoid carrying violations and maintain proper dribbling technique, coaches and players can employ various techniques and drills:

Tips for Coaches and Players

Coaches should stress proper hand positioning to ensure compliance with dribbling rules. Players should focus on keeping their hand over the top of the ball and practice dribbling at varying speeds and directions for better control.

Emphasizing fundamental dribbling techniques is essential for both coaches and players.

Drills to Improve Dribbling Techniques

Conduct stationary dribbling drills to help players develop a feel for the ball and maintain proper hand placement. Introduce high-speed dribbling drills to practice moving up and down the court at varying speeds while keeping the hand on top of the ball.

Implement change-of-direction drills to improve control and reduce carrying violations. Use obstacle courses to simulate game situations, enhancing players’ ability to handle the ball under pressure without committing carrying violations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a player is called for carrying in the NBA?

When a player is detected for carrying in the NBA, it results in a turnover, and the opposing team gains possession of the ball.

How can referees identify carrying violations?

Referees identify carrying by looking for cues such as the player’s hand dropping below the ball or sudden changes in the ball’s movement.

How can players avoid carrying violations?

Players can avoid carrying by maintaining proper hand positioning, keeping their hand on top or to the side of the ball, and avoiding excessive hand movements while dribbling.

What drills help improve ball control to prevent carrying?

Drills like stationary dribbling, high-speed dribbling, change-of-direction drills, and obstacle courses can help improve ball control and reduce carrying violations.

Why is avoiding carrying important for fair play?

Avoiding carrying ensures fair play and competitive integrity by preventing players from gaining an unfair advantage through improper handling of the ball.


Understanding and addressing carrying violations is crucial for maintaining the integrity of basketball. By recognizing the indicators and implementing proper techniques, players can avoid these infractions and contribute to a fairer game.

Coaches play a vital role in this process by focusing on drills that enhance ball control and proper hand positioning. These efforts not only minimize carrying violations but also help players develop better overall skills.

Consistent practice and awareness ensure that basketball remains a competitive and enjoyable sport for everyone involved. Additionally, referees must stay vigilant and consistent in calling carrying violations to uphold the rules of the game.

This, in turn, encourages players to maintain proper technique and keeps the sport fair and competitive.

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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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