Basketball Free Throw Lane

Basketball Free Throw Lane

Basketball Free Throw Lane

The free throw lane is the space on a basketball court from the baseline to the free throw line. It is 16 ft wide and 19 ft long at the professional level; at the collegiate level, it is just as long but only 12 ft wide. The free throw lines help form the elbows, while the restricted arc and the block are also part of the free throw lane. 

The free throw lane in basketball is also known as the paint, key, foul lane, or lane. Controlling this area can be key to winning a game, and points in the paint are an important factor in how a team performs. Since the basket is located in the free throw lane, this area is pivotal for both the offense and the defense.

Free Throw Lane Violation

The free throw lane also contains lines on the side that are used to align players during free throws in preparation for the rebound. A player who steps into the free throw lane during free throws has committed a lane violation. Players must wait for the ball to be released from a free throw shooter’s hands before entering the free throw lane. If the free throw shooting steps on or over the foul line before their shot is released, it is also a lane violation.

Three-Second Lane Violation

Players are not allowed to stay inside the free throw lane for more than three seconds during live play or they will be called for a three-second violation. This rule is designed to prevent players from stationing themselves near the basket and never moving. The one exception is granted for defensive players actively guarding the ball carrier, who are not subject to the three-second rule.


How big is the free throw lane in basketball?

The free throw lane is always from the baseline to the free throw line and measures 19ft long. However, the width of this area depends on the league playing. In the NBA and WNBA, the free throw lane is 16 ft wide. In NCAA and NAIA basketball, the free throw lane is 12 ft wide.

What are some other names for the free throw lane?

Other names for the free throw lane are the key, the paint, or simply the lane. The free throw lane is typically painted a different color than the rest of the floor, and it has special rules for when players may enter it.