Basketball Fouls

Basketball Fouls and Violations


A foul in basketball is a rule-breaking action that results in a loss of possession and possible free throws. There are multiple categories of fouls:

  • Personal Fouls: A foul that is physical in nature, like grabbing and pushing.
  • Flagrant Fouls: A foul that involves extraordinary violent contact with an opposing player or a dangerous, non-basketball play.
  • Technical Fouls: A foul that is unsportsmanlike like screaming at the referee or at an opponent.

In the NBA, if a player commits six fouls in a game, he is disqualified from playing in the rest of the game. The same is true for FIBA and college basketball, but the foul limit is five fouls.

The foul types and rules of fouls differ at all levels of play in high school basketball, the NBA, college basketball, and FIBA.

The referees in basketball are responsible for calling fouls and violations on players throughout the game. The crew chief is the head official and makes the final decision on the court.

Personal Fouls

basketball personal fouls

A personal foul is any rule breaking physical action by a player. Any illegal contact like pushing, grabbing, hitting, and tripping are personal fouls. Personal fouls can be committed by both players on offense or defense, although there are more defensive fouls in a game than offensive fouls. Committing and suffering fouls is all part of the game.

Defensive Fouls

Basketball Defensive Foul

Defensive fouls are committed whenever players on defense use illegal contact to try to stop offensive players. Defensive fouls happen all the time in basketball. Defenders are allowed to move sideways and backward to block an attacker's path, moving forward (pushing the attacker backward) is not allowed. Players also can't initiate contact on defense, as that is a foul that happens mostly when a player unsuccessfully tries to steal the ball or block a shot. Defensive fouls have different penalties depending on what point of a play they were committed.

Shooting Fouls

Basketball Shooting Fouls

Whenever a defender commits a foul on the opponent while he is shooting, the player who suffered the foul gets to shoot free throws. These fouls are called shooting fouls. If the shooter was attempting a three-point shot, he gets three free throws, while if it is a two-point attempt, only two shots.

Offensive Fouls

basketball offensive foul

Offensive fouls in basketball are the illegal contacts committed by offensive players. Offensively, players sometimes foul when trying to get past defense by pushing or holding opponents. The most common offensive fouls are charging fouls, and illegal screens. Every offensive foul leads to change of possession, unless the team who committed a foul is in a penalty situation.

Flagrant Fouls

Flagrant fouls occur when a player makes unnecessary and violent contact with an opposing player. Flagrant fouls do not need to be intentional, but often appear to be. There are two kinds of flagrant fouls: Flagrant 1 or Flagrant 2. A player who commits a Flagrant 2 foul will be ejected from the game. The result of a flagrant foul is two free throws and possession of the ball.

Technical Fouls

Basketball Technical Fouls

Technical fouls are those that do not involve any illegal physical contact, but do break a rule in basketball's rulebook. That includes calling for a timeout when the team has none left, screaming at a player or referee, and fighting. Technical fouls can be assessed to players, coaches, and even fans. The penalty for a technical foul is a free throw, after which the team who had possession of the ball will retain possession. If a single player receives two technical fouls during a game, they will be ejected.


How many fouls can a team commit in a game?

There is not a maximum amount of fouls a team can commit. However, once a team has reached a certain number of fouls (depending on the playing level), the opposing team will be rewarded with free throws after any defensive foul is committed. This is called the bonus situation.

How do fouls rules differ from the NBA and the Olympics?

Olympic basketball features a wide range of rule disparities in comparison to the NBA, with a fair few of these differences surrounding fouls. For example, due to the shortened quarters of Olympic basketball, the foul limit for an individual player is five as opposed to six. The Olympic rulebook also does not include offensive interference, and there is no defensive three second violation. These rules promote far more intense action around the rim, and also allows teams to station a player in the paint to guard the rim.

How many fouls can a player commit in a game?

The amount of fouls a player can commit depends on the league they play in. In NBA games, players are allowed up to six fouls before they "foul out" of the game. When a player fouls out they are ejected from the game and are not able to return for the rest of the contest. In college and high school games, most leagues and conferences allow players five fouls before they foul out of the game. Fouling out can be extremely detrimental to your team if you play an important role on the court, so it is important to be mindful of what the personal foul limit is in your league.