Lane Violation Basketball

Basketball Lane Violation

One of the most common ways to score in basketball is to run up a part of the court known as the lane and layup the ball. However, there are limits to how much time both offensive and defensive players can spend in this specific area of the court. Read on to learn about lane violations in basketball.

What Is a Lane Violation in Basketball?

A lane violation in basketball is an infraction that occurs when a player is caught standing in the painted area of the court (box-shaped area near the basket) for three seconds. Lane violations are called by the referee, who blows the whistle to stop play and announce the infraction.

Where Is the Lane on a Basketball Court?

The lane is located inside the three-point line (the arch that extends from sideline to sideline) on each half of the court. It is fairly easy to spot, characterized by a rectangular shape that is painted a different color from the rest of the court. Another common name for the lane is the key.

Result of a Lane Violation

Offensive players and defensive players can both be guilty of standing in the lane for three or more seconds. When a member of the offense commits a lane violation, the team currently in control of the ball must forfeit possession to the opposing team.

Defensive three seconds is slightly more complicated, as it results in a technical foul. When a technical foul occurs, the offense is awarded one foul shot (attempted by a player of their choice) followed by gaining possession of the ball. The defensive three seconds rule exists only in professional basketball, and not at the college level.

Avoiding a Lane Violation

Lane violations can be avoided by briefly exiting the painted area before a three-count is reached by the referee. Once a player fully exits the lane, they are permitted to re-enter with a fresh count. The referee does not begin counting if the offensive player is actively attempting a shot from the lane. Thus, it is important for offensive players to avoid merely dribbling the ball in the same spot upon receiving a pass.

Defenders are also given the opportunity to guard an opposing player that is within a reasonable distance of the lane, with the count being suspended until a defender continues to stand in the area once it has been vacated by the opposition.

Free Throw Lane Violations

Lane violations can also sometimes be called on players who leave the lane before a free throw is taken. During any free throw, players from both teams are required to line up along the lane lines while the fouled player attempts each free throw. Any player who steps over the lane lines before the free throw is complete is called for a violation.

When a free throw is complete depends on the league in which the game is being played. In the NBA, players may move from their lane spaces once the ball has been released from the hands of the player attempting the free throw. In NCAA and high school basketball, players cannot cross the lane lines until the basketball hits the rim.


What is a lane violation?

A lane violation occurs when a player stands in the lane for longer than three seconds. In the NBA and WNBA, both offensive and defensive players can be called for lane violations. College play only penalizes offensive lane violations.

How many seconds can you be in the lane?

In professional basketball, both offensive and defensive players can be in the lane for a maximum of three seconds. If a player fully exits the area or is in the process of leaving the lane, the count is restarted. During free throws, players must stay in the lane spaces until the free throw is complete.