Illegal Screen Basketball

Basketball Illegal Screen

In basketball, a common offensive strategy to move defenders out of position is using screens. Screens feature an off-ball offensive player using their body to block the path of a defender, creating space for the offensive player with the ball. However, there are certain rules that players must follow when setting a screen. If they break the rules, they will be called for an illegal screen. Read on to learn more about what constitutes an illegal screen.

Illegal Screen Definition

In basketball, an illegal screen is a penalty that occurs when the screener (the player who sets the screen) is in violation of the rules for setting screens. Screeners must be stationary when setting their screens, and are not allowed to lean into or make purposeful contact with the opponent they are screening.

When the screener does not remain stationary once the screen has been set, they can be called for an illegal screen. If the screener sticks an arm or leg out to slow the movement of the opponent being screened, this is also considered an illegal screen.


While illegal screens are a basic penalty to avoid, they can be very costly for the offense. If a referee calls an illegal screen, it will result in a turnover for the offense and the opposing team gaining possession. Illegal screens are also commonly referred to as a “moving pick.”

What Is the Signal for an Illegal Screen in Basketball?

When a referee signals for an illegal screen, they will cross their arms in front of their body. This is the same signal as the out of bounds referee signal. When the referee sees the illegal screen, they will blow their whistle, make the signal for an illegal screen, then announce the number of the player who committed the foul.


What is an illegal screen in basketball?

An illegal screen in basketball is called when an offensive player setting a screen either moves their feet or leans into the defender. An illegal screen can also be called if the player setting the screen extends their arm or leg to inhibit a defender’s progress. Generally speaking, legal screens feature a completely stationary player.