Intentional Foul Basketball

Basketball Intentional Foul

Like many sports, clock management is essential to winning in basketball. Intentional fouls are one of many tactics players use to stop the clock toward the end of the game. Keep reading to learn more about intentional fouls and why they are committed.

What Is an Intentional Foul?

An intentional foul in basketball is a foul that is deemed to have been committed purposefully. Also known as “take” fouls, intentional fouls are generally obvious calls for a referee to make, as the defense makes it clear they are trying to commit a foul, usually by wrapping up an offensive player.

Why Commit an Intentional Foul?

Intentional fouling is a strategy most frequently used when the team on defense is losing and there is minimal time left in the game. In the NBA, two free throw attempts are automatically awarded. In college and high school basketball games, the shooter is given a ‘one and one,’ in which the first free throw must be made in order to be granted the second shot. Committing a foul that sends the defense over their foul limit for the period results in the offensive player that was fouled being awarded free throws.

If a team has no timeouts left, intentional fouls are the only way to truly extend a game, as the offense can otherwise simply dribble around the court and maintain the lead by letting time expire. While an intentional foul can result in two made free throws that effectively end the game anyways, a miss at least gives the losing team a chance to secure the rebound and tie the game with a last-second basket.

Process of Committing an Intentional Foul

Since the team on defense wants to preserve as much time as possible, they will look to foul immediately after the ball has been inbounded by the offense to indicate that play has begun. Defensive players are instructed to simply wrap their arms around the ball handler, such that it is easy for the referee to make a foul determination and no one gets hurt unnecessarily.

Preventing a Score

Intentional fouls can also be used to prevent an offensive player from scoring an easy basket. For example, if a member of the offense is dribbling down the court and is about to attempt an uncontested layup, a trailing defensive player may elect to commit an intentional foul and force the shooter to earn the points at the free throw line. Using an intentional foul to prevent a score is a risky move, as blatant or overly aggressive contact can result in a flagrant foul being called. Players in the NBA must also be careful to avoid clear-path fouls, which face more severe consequences than intentional fouls.


What is an intentional foul in basketball?

In basketball, an intentional foul is any foul that is deemed to have been committed intentionally. Though the vast majority of fouls are accidental and regrettable actions by any player on the court, some players will intentionally foul a member of the other team as part of their overall game strategy.

Why do players commit intentional fouls?

The most common reason for intentional fouls is to extend the game. If the defense is losing and there is not much time left on the clock, the team on offense can try to drain the clock by taking as much time as they can away from the other team’s possession. In this case, a defensive player will foul an offensive player in hopes that their resulting free throws will turn into a rebound and scoring opportunity for their own team.