Basketball Fouls

Basketball Fouls and Violations

Basketball has many rules to keep competition fair and players safe. When a player breaks a minor rule, it is called a violation. Breaking a more serious rule is called a foul. Find a complete list of all the types of fouls in basketball below.


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, including screaming at the referee or an opponent.

In the NBA, if a player commits six fouls in a game, they are disqualified from playing in the rest of the game. Players can also foul out FIBA and college basketball, but the foul limit is five fouls.

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

Fouls are different from rule violations. A foul counts towards a player or team’s overall foul count, while a rule violation will typically only result in a turnover. Violations such as shot clock violations, three-second violations, and traveling do not count as fouls.

Personal Fouls

basketball personal fouls

A personal foul is any illegal physical contact by a player. For example, pushing, grabbing, hitting, and tripping are all considered personal fouls. Personal fouls can be committed by both players on offense or defense, although there are typically more defensive fouls in a game than offensive fouls. Each personal foul also counts toward a team’s overall foul count.

Defensive Fouls

Basketball Defensive Foul

Defensive fouls are committed whenever players on defense use illegal contact to try to stop offensive players. Defensive fouls frequently happen in basketball. Defenders are allowed to move sideways and backward to block an attacker’s path, but moving forward (pushing the attacker backward) is not allowed.

Players also can’t initiate physical 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 how and when they were committed.

Shooting Fouls

Basketball Shooting Fouls

Whenever a defender commits a foul on the opponent while they are 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, they get three free throws. If the shooter was attempting a two-point shot, they only get two free throws. If the shot is made after a foul is called, the basket counts, and the shooter is awarded one extra free throw. This is known as an and-one.

Offensive Fouls

basketball offensive foul

Offensive fouls in basketball are 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 results in a turnover 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. These fouls are considered “non-basketball plays” and are called for unnecessary actions such as striking another player in the head or neck. 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 any flagrant foul is two free throws and possession of the ball afterward.

Technical Fouls

Basketball Technical Fouls

Technical fouls are those that do not involve any physical contact but still violate sportsmanship rules. Technical fouls can be called for a range of prohibited actions, including calling for a timeout when the team has none left, using obscene language or gestures toward a player or referee, and fighting.

Technical fouls can be assessed to players, coaches, and even fans. The penalty for a technical foul is one 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.


What is a foul in basketball?

In basketball, a foul is an action that violates the rules and results in punishment for the player that committed the foul. There are many different types of fouls, including personal fouls, technical fouls, and flagrant fouls. Fouls can result in free throws for the offended team, stoppages of play, or losing possession of the ball. The number of fouls that players are allowed to commit during a game is limited. In the NBA, players are removed after their sixth foul; in college and high school basketball, the limit is five fouls. 

How many fouls can a team commit in a game?

There is no maximum number 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 or the penalty situation.

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

Olympic basketball features a wide range of rule disparities compared to the NBA, with one of the main differences surrounding fouls. In Olympic basketball, the foul limit for an individual player is five fouls as opposed to six in the NBA. This is because of the shortened quarters of Olympic basketball.

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. When a player commits too many fouls, they are removed from the game; this is known as “fouling out.” In NBA games, players are allowed up to six fouls before they foul out of the game. In college and high school games, players foul out when they receive their fifth foul. Fouling out can be extremely detrimental to your team if you play an important role on the court, so it is essential to be mindful of the personal foul limit in your league.