A violation in basketball is called on any player who breaks or violates a rule of the game defined in the league rulebook. All violations are called by the referees and can differ within different levels of basketball. It is important to know the violations as a player and coach, since taking fouls or committing violations can hurt a team's chances of winning.
Violations are typically called for minor infractions, while fouls are reserved for more egregious errors. Violations describe breaches of basic rules like dribbling, bringing the ball up the court, or passing the ball inbounds. Because violations are mostly simple mistakes, they are much more common at lower levels of play, more experienced players already know how to perform basic skills.
What are the different violations in basketball?
There are upwards of 20 distinct violations in basketball, depending on how you divide them up. Here are the different kinds of violations:
- Out-of-bounds: being the last player to touch the ball before it goes out-of-bounds
- Double dribble: dribbling the ball before picking it up and dribbling again
- Carry: scooping the ball to carry it while dribbling
- Five-second violation: failure to inbound the ball five seconds after receiving it
- Illegal throw-in: stepping over the line while throwing-in the ball, moving before throwing it in, or throwing it out of bounds
- Kicked ball: kicking the ball, intentionally or unintentionally
- Striking the ball with a fist
- Goaltending: interfering with a shot when it is on a downward arc into the basket
- Jump ball violation: an infraction before the ball is tipped
- Offensive three-seconds: staying in the key for three seconds or more while on offense
- Defensive three-seconds: a defensive player staying in the lane for longer than three seconds without guarding anyone
- Eight-second violation: the offense fails to cross half court eight seconds after inbounding the ball
- Over-and-back violation: the offense returning the ball from the frontcourt to the backcourt without the other team touching it
- Swinging of elbows
- Entering basket from below: a ball that goes through the net before the rim
- Illegal assist: grabbing the rim, net, or backboard to give yourself an advantage
- Traveling: taking more than two steps without dribbling the ball
- Illegal screen: a screen set out-of-bounds
- Leaving the court
- Held ball violation: offense holds the ball without doing anything for five seconds
- Shot clock violation: failure to get a shot off before the shot clock expires
Time violations mainly revolve around the game clock and shot clock, but can inhibit other factors as well. Time violations are considered mistakes that teams should not make and generally hurt a team when they occur.
The following are common time violations:
- Shot clock violation: The offense has a certain number of seconds (depending on competition) to get a shot off, starting from the instant the ball is inbounded.
- Held ball violation (5-second rule): An inbounds pass must occur before the conclusion of five seconds. Time starts after the passer is given the ball and the referee sounds a whistle.
- Backcourt violation (8-second rule): Also known as the 10-second rule in non-NBA competitions, this rule makes the offense advance the ball beyond half court in a certain amount of time. This advances the game and condenses it into the frontcourt for the majority of a typical possession.
- Paint violation (offensive 3-second rule, defensive 3-second rule): This rule prevents players from "camping" and keeping an advantageous position in the paint.
Dribbling violations occur when a player does not follow the regulations designed for dribbling: even the smallest violation can be identified and leads to a turnover.
The general rule of thumb for dribbling is that a player must dribble at least once between every three steps.
The ball handler is also not allowed to dribble the ball, pick it up, and then dribble it again. This is known as a "double dribble." Once a player picks up their dribble, they must either shoot the ball, pass it to a teammate, or try to deflect it off of a defender (the latter is much less common).
Dribbling violations include:
Goaltending, Interference, and Other Violations
Some violations do not have to do with the clock or dribbling, but involve interference with a shot or hitting the ball illegally.
When a player attempts a field goal, the ball may only be blocked while it's on its way up. Once the ball starts coming down toward the hoop, it may not be touched by either team (unless the shot will clearly be off-target). This is called offensive or defensive goaltending. If a defensive player commits a goaltending violation, the shooter is awarded two points as if they had made the shot successfully. If a player on offense touches the ball on its way down (usually in an attempt to tip it in), possession of the ball is awarded to the opposing team. Goaltending also applies if a shot hits the backboard before being touched. Another term used for goaltending is basket interference.
Kicking the ball is not allowed in basketball. This sometimes happens when defenders are trying to move and a pass is deflected off one of their feet or legs, although it can be committed by an offensive player, too. This violation awards the opposing team possession of the ball.
Striking the ball with a fist is also not allowed. This discourages potentially dangerous consequences by preventing players from using their fists. Being caught by a fist or a punched ball is definitely a safety issue. This violation also awards the opposing team possession of the ball.
The following are more violations in basketball that can occur:
- Goaltending or basket interference
- Kicking the ball
- Striking the ball with a fist
List of Basketball Violations
Here are some glossary terms you should review related to basketball violations:
What happens when a violation occurs in basketball?
Unlike fouls, violations do not result in free throws for the opposing team. Most of the time, violations result in the team that committed the violation losing possession of the ball, which is then inbounded by the opposing team. Violations are disappointing for the team committing them because they are mistakes that most good basketball players will not make very often. Unlike fouls, violations are basically never committed on purpose; there is never an advantage to gifting the opponent possession of the ball.
Violations are also mostly obvious and inarguable. Some violations can be close calls, but they often are not as contentious as fouls.