Goaltending Basketball

Basketball Goaltending

In basketball, it is illegal to touch the ball when it has a chance of going in the basket. This is known as goaltending. The difference between goaltending and basket interference can be confusing to understand. You may also be confused about the difference between a blocked shot and goaltending. Read on to learn more about what constitutes a goaltending violation in basketball.

How Do Referees Determine Goaltending in Basketball?

In order to determine goaltending, referees imagine a cylinder or cone that extends from the rim of a basketball hoop going upwards. This imaginary cylinder above the rim is used when calling goaltending and basket interference.


Goaltending is called when a shot is interfered with when it is on a downward trajectory, outside of the imaginary cylinder above the rim. Goaltending is most often called on blocked layup attempts, as it is harder for a defender to judge when the ball is on a downward trajectory. If goaltending is called on the offense, the ball will be turned over to the other team. If goaltending is called on the defense, however many points were attempted on the goaltended shot will be awarded to the offensive team.

Basket Interference

If the ball is above the rim within this imaginary cylinder, it's always basket interference if a player touches the ball.

Other examples of basket interference include:

  • a player touches the ball as it rolls on the rim
  • a player puts his hand or part of his body through the rim
  • a player touches the ball as it bounces off the backboard and is falling in the rim
  • a player hangs on the rim interfering with the ball
  • a player purposely pushes the ball to get stuck between the rim and backboard
  • a player shakes the rim or backboard interfering with the motion of the ball

Goaltending vs. Basket Interference

Basketball Three Point Line

Goaltending and basket interference are often used simultaneously and interchangeably. Technically, there is a difference, though: Goaltending only occurs when a shot attempt is on its downward trajectory toward the basket and is interfered with while not yet inside the imaginary cylinder. Basket interference is more inclusive, applying to scenarios in which there is a live ball in the imaginary cylinder or on the rim or backboard.

Goaltending and basket interference can be called on the offense or defense. When committed by the defense, both result in the other team getting two or three points. The offense will get three points if the shot is attempted from beyond the three-point line, and two points if the offensive player shoots from inside the arc.

No Points

Basketball Free Throw Line Extended

No points are given to a team if goaltending or basket interference is called on the offensive team. The ball is to the other team at the spot on the nearest sideline at the free throw line extended.

Simultaneous Goaltending or Basket Interference

If two players, one from each team, are called for goaltending at the same time, then the ball is put back into play with a jump ball.


Basketball slam dunk

Dunking is when a player takes the ball, jumps towards the rim and places it in the rim and net. Dunking is never called basket interference.

Blocked Shots

Basketball Blocked Shots

A blocked shot is when a defender stops the ball as it is released from the shooter's hands. A blocked shot is legal for a defender as long as the ball is not above the height of the rim or is falling down towards the rim.

Goaltending often occurs when defenders try to block shots and do not get to the ball soon enough. As soon as the shot has a downward trajectory and is blocked while above the rim, it is goaltending.


A player is allowed to tip-in the ball if it falls off the rim or backboard and out of the imaginary cylinder of the rim. However, if a player touches the ball while it is still above the imaginary cylinder of the rim, they will be called for basket interference.


What is goaltending in basketball?

Goaltending is a violation in basketball that occurs when a player interferes with a shot on a downward trajectory toward the basket. This interference must occur outside of the rim extended upward. Otherwise, the interference is declared basket interference.

What's the difference between goaltending and blocking?

There is a subtle difference between goaltending and blocking that can be difficult to notice immediately, having to do with the height of the ball. If the ball is not above the height of the rim or falling down towards it when it is touched, the blocked shot is not illegal. However, if the ball is higher than the rim, or falling towards it, touching the ball is considered goaltending, and is illegal.