Basketball Rules of Traveling

What is a Travel?

Traveling is a violation in basketball that occurs when a player takes too many steps without dribbling. The usual rule of thumb is that a player may only take two steps without dribbling; three steps is a travel. However, in reality this rule is much more complicated.

When Does a Travel Occur?

Traveling may occur when a player receives the ball while moving or stationary, or when a player starts dribbling. When a player receives the ball, they must establish a pivot foot.

Pivot Foot

A pivot foot is the foot that must remain in the same spot on the floor. The other foot is allowed to move in any direction any number of times, as long as the pivot foot remains put. If the pivot foot moves or leaves the ground, it will result in a travel.

If a player receives the ball with two feet on the ground, either foot may be used as a pivot foot. If a player receives the ball in the air, whichever foot touches the ground first is the pivot foot. If a player receives the ball in the air and both feet hit the ground at the same time, either foot may be used as the pivot. This is known as a jump stop.

PRO TIP: A jump stop counts as one step. A player is allowed to use a pivot after a jump stop unless there was a step before the jump stop.

The pivot foot may move when passing or shooting, but the ball must be released before the pivot foot touches the ground again. A player can also move their pivot foot when dribbling-however, the ball must be released before moving the pivot foot to avoid a traveling violation.

Other Traveling Situations

There are other specific situations in basketball that are traveling violations:

  • If a player in possession of the ball falls to the ground, it is a travel.
  • If a player on the ground, holding the ball, stands up without dribbling, it is considered a travel. However, a player retrieving a loose ball is allowed to slide on the court without being called for a travel.
  • If a player receives the ball while running, they are allowed up to two steps before either stopping, passing, or shooting-if the player wishes to dribble in this scenario, they must release the ball before their second step. Any more than two steps will result in a traveling violation. For example, a player going for a layup is allowed two steps on their way to the basket. If three steps are taken, the player will be called for traveling and the shot will not be counted.

Calling Traveling

The penalty for a traveling violation is a turnover to the other team. The other team will receive the ball at the out of bounds point that is closest to the spot where the travel occurred. Basketball TravelingA referee calls a traveling violation while simultaneously signaling the violation with circular arm movements. You may see fans, players and coaches may mimic this motion when they believe their opponent has committed a traveling violation.