Comments on the Rules

  1. Contact Situations
  2. Fouls: Flagrant – Unsportsmanlike
  3. Block-Charge
  4. Game Postponement and Cancellations
  5. Physical Contact – Suspension
  6. Protest
  7. Shattering Backboards
  8. Player/Team Conduct and Dress
  9. Offensive 3-seconds
  10. Player Conduct – Spectators
  11. Fighting
  12. Expiration of Time
  13. Verbal Fan Interference
  14. Guidelines for Infection Control
  15. Dead Ball, Live Ball, Ball is Alive
  16. Taunting
  17. Flagrant Foul Criteria


Each official should have a definite and clear conception of their overall responsibilities. It is essential for them to know, understand and implement the rules as intended. If all officials possess the same conception there will be a guaranteed uniformity in the administration of all contests.

The restrictions placed upon the player by the rules are intended to create a balance of play, equal opportunity for the defense and the offense, provide reasonable safety and protection for all players and emphasize cleverness and skill without unduly limiting freedom of action of player or team.

The purpose of penalties is to compensate a player who has been placed at a disadvantage through an illegal act of an opponent and to restrain players from committing acts which, if ignored, might lead to roughness even though they do not affect the immediate play.





1. Incidental Contact

The mere fact that contact occurs does not necessarily constitute a foul. Contact which is incidental to an effort by a player to play an opponent, reach a loose ball, or perform normal defensive or offensive movements, should not be considered illegal. If, however, a player attempts to play an opponent from a position where he has no reasonable chance to perform without making contact with his opponent, the responsibility is on the player in this position.

The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball. Therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

2.  Guarding an Opponent

In all guarding situations, a player is entitled to any spot on the court he desires, provided he legally gets to that spot first and without contact with an opponent. If a defensive or offensive player has established a position on the floor and his opponent initiates contact that results in the dislodging of the opponent, a foul should be called IMMEDIATELY.

During all throw-ins, the defensive player(s) must be allowed to take a position between his man and the basket.

A player may continue to move after gaining a guarding position in the path of an opponent provided he is not moving directly or obliquely toward his opponent when contact occurs. A player is never permitted to move into the path of an opponent after the opponent has started his upward jumping motion.

A player who extends a hand, forearm, shoulder, hip or leg into the path of an opponent and thereby causes contact is not considered to have a legal position in the path of an opponent.

A player is entitled to a vertical position even to the extent of jumping straight-up or holding his arms above his shoulders, as in post play or when double-teaming in pressing tactics.

Any player who conforms to the above is absolved from responsibility for any contact by an opponent which may dislodge or tend to dislodge such player from the position which he has attained and is maintaining legally. If contact occurs, the official must decide whether the contact is incidental or a foul has been committed.

3.  Screening

When a player screens in front of or at the side of a stationary opponent, he may be as close as he desires providing he does not make contact. His opponent can see him and, there- fore, is expected to detour around the screen.

If he screens behind a stationary opponent, the opponent must be able to take a normal step backward without contact. Because the opponent is not expected to see a screener behind him, the player screened is given latitude of movement. The defender must be given an opportunity to change direction and avoid contact with the screener.

To screen a moving opponent, the player must stop soon enough to permit his opponent the opportunity to avoid contact. The distance between the player screening and his opponent will depend upon the speed at which the players are moving.

If two opponents are moving in the same direction and path, the player who is behind is responsible for contact. The player in front may stop or slow his pace, but he may not move backward or sideward into his opponent. The player in front may or may not have the ball. This situation assumes the two players have been moving in identically the same direction and path before contact.


4.  The Dribble

If the dribbler’s path is blocked, he is expected to pass or shoot; that is, he should not try to dribble by an opponent unless there is a reasonable chance of getting by without contact.



To be unsportsmanlike is to act in a manner unbecoming to the image of professional basketball. It consists of acts of deceit, disrespect of officials and profanity. The penalty for such action is a technical foul. Repeated acts shall result in expulsion from the game and a minimum fine of $2,000.

A flagrant foul—penalty (1) is unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.

A flagrant foul—penalty (2) is unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent. It is an unsportsmanlike act and the offender is ejected following confirmation by instant replay review.

The offender will be subject to a fine not exceeding $50,000 and/or suspension by the Commissioner.

See Rule 12B—Section IV for interpretation and penalties.


A defensive player is permitted to establish a legal guarding position in the path of a dribbler regardless of his speed and distance.

A defensive player is not permitted to move into the path of an offensive player once he has started his upward motion to attempt a field goal or pass.

A defensive player must allow a moving player the opportunity to avoid contact when the offensive player receives a pass outside the lower defensive box. The lower defensive box is the area between the 3-foot posted-up marks, the bottom tip of the circle and the endline.

A defensive player must allow an airborne player the opportunity to land and then avoid contact  when the offensive player is outside the lower defensive box.

A defensive player is permitted to establish a legal guarding position in the path of an offensive player who receives a pass inside the lower defensive box regardless of his speed and distance.

A defensive player must allow an airborne player who receives a pass the space to land when the offensive player is inside the lower defensive box.

A player must allow a moving opponent without the ball the opportunity to avoid contact if he moves into his path.

The speed of the player will determine the amount of distance an opponent must allow.

If an offensive player causes contact with a defensive player who has established a legal position, an offensive foul shall be called and no points may be scored. A defensive player may turn lightly to protect himself, but is never allowed to bend over and submarine an opponent.

An offensive foul should not be called for charging if the contact is with a secondary defensive player who has established a defensive position within a designated “restricted area” near the basket for the purpose of drawing an offensive foul. The offensive player must take a path directly to the rim. The “restricted area” for this purpose is the area bounded by an arc with a 4-foot radius measured from the center of the basket ring.

EXCEPTION: Any player may be legally positioned within the “restricted area” if the offensive player receives the ball within the Lower Defensive Box.

The mere fact that contact occurs on these type of plays, or any other similar play, does not necessarily mean that a personal foul has been committed. The officials must decide whether the contact is negligible and/or incidental, judging each situation separately.

An offensive foul shall be assessed if the player initiates contact in a non-basketball manner (leads with his foot, an unnatural extended knee, etc.).



The decision to postpone or cancel a game can only be made by the League Office, after consultation with the affected teams.

Before a game begins, a game may be postponed or cancelled for issues related to the condition of the playing court or arena, or a general or forecasted condition involving weather, travel, civil unrest, natural disaster, or other event.

The following factors will be considered in determining whether a game will be postponed or cancelled:

  1. The whereabouts of teams and game officials (including the efforts that have been made or can be made to get these participants to the game site).
  2. Whether sufficient team and arena staff are available to operate the arena and conduct the game.
  3. Input from both teams.
  4. The safety of game participants, team and arena staff, and fans.
  5. Communications with state or local government officials and law enforcement.
  6. The ability to reschedule the game.
  7. Any other factor that the NBA deems relevant to the decision.

After a game has begun, the decision to postpone or cancel that game will be made using the factors listed above. However, the determination of whether to delay the game while the decision is being made is within the authority of the game officials (in consultation with the League Office).




Any player or coach guilty of intentional physical contact with an official shall automatically be suspended without pay for one game. A fine and/or longer period of suspension will result if circumstances so dictate.



F.        PROTEST

Protests are not permitted during the course of a game. In order to file a protest, the procedure, as set forth in the NBA constitution, is as follows: “In order to protest against or appeal from the result of a game, notice thereof must be given to the Commissioner within forty-eight (48) hours after the conclusion of said game, by e-mail or fax, stating therein the grounds for such protest. No protest may be filed in connection with any game played during the regular season after midnight of the day of the last game of the regular schedule. A protest in connection with a playoff game must be filed not later than midnight of the day of the game protested. A game may be protested only by a Governor, Alternate Governor or Head Coach. The right of protest shall inure not only to the immediately allegedly aggrieved contestants, but to any other member who can show an interest in the grounds of protest and the results that might be attained if the protest were allowed. Each e-mail or fax of protest shall be immediately confirmed by letter and no protest shall be valid unless the letter of confirmation is accompanied by a check in the sum of $10,000 payable to the Association. If the member filing the protest prevails, the $10,000 is to be refunded. If the member does not prevail, the $10,000 is to be forfeited and retained in the Association treasury.

“Upon receipt of a protest, the Commissioner shall at once notify the member operating the opposing team in the game protested and require both of said members within five (5) days to file with him such evidence as he may desire bearing upon the issue. The Commissioner shall decide the question raised within five (5) days after receipt of such evidence.”



Any player whose contact with the basket ring or backboard causes the backboard to shatter or makes the ring unplayable will be penalized in the following manner:

  1. Pre-game and/or halftime warm-ups—No penalty to be assessed by officials
  2. During the game—non-unsportsmanlike  conduct  technical foul.  Under no circumstances will that player be ejected from the game.

The Commissioner will review all actions and plays involved in the shattering of a backboard.



  1. Each player when introduced, prior to the game, must be uniformly dressed.
  2. Players, coaches and trainers must stand and line up in a dignified posture along the foul lines during the playing of the American and/or Canadian national anthems.
  3. Coaches and assistant coaches must wear a sport coat or suit coat in the case of male coaches.
  4. While playing, players must keep their uniform shirts tucked into their pants, and no T-shirts are allowed.
  5. The only article bearing a commercial ‘logo’ which can be worn by players is their shoes.



The offensive player cannot be allowed in the 3-second lane for more than the allotted time. This causes the defensive player to ‘hand-check’ because he cannot control the offensive player for that extended period of time.

If the offensive player is in the 3-second lane for less than three seconds and receives the ball, he must make a move toward the hoop for the official to discontinue his three second count. If he attempts to back the defensive player down, attempting to secure a better position in relation to the basket, offensive three seconds or an offensive foul must be called. If he passes off and immediately makes a move out of the lane, there should be no whistle.




Any coach, player, trainer, or other team bench person  who  deliberately  enters  the  spectator  stands  during the game will be automatically ejected and the incident reported by e-mail to Basketball Operations. Entering the stands to keep a ball in play by a player or the momentum which carries the player into the stands is not considered deliberate. The first row of seats is considered the beginning of the stands.




Violent acts of any nature on the court will not be tolerated. Players involved in altercations will be ejected, fined and/or suspended.

There is absolutely no justification for fighting in an NBA game. The fact that you may feel provoked by another player is not an acceptable excuse. If a player takes it upon himself to retaliate, he can expect to be subject to appropriate penalties.


NO LESS THAN :00.3 must expire on the game clock and shot clock when a ball is thrown inbounds and then hit instantly out-of-bounds. If less than :00.3 expires in such a situation, the timer will be instructed to deduct AT LEAST :00.3 from the game clock and shot clock. If, in the judgment of the official, the play took longer than :00.3, he will instruct the timer to deduct more time. If :00.3 or less remain on the game clock when this situation occurs, the period is over. If :00.3 or less remain on the shot clock when this situation occurs, a shot clock violation is called.

The game clock and shot clock must show :00.3 or more in order for a player to secure possession of the ball on a rebound or throw-in to attempt a field goal. Instant replay shall be utilized if the basket is successful on this type of play and the game clock runs to 0:00 or the shot clock expires on a made basket and the officials are not reasonably certain that the ball was released prior to the expiration of the shot clock. The only type of field goal which may be scored if the game clock and shot clock are at :00.2 or :00.1 is a “tip-in” or “high lob.”

A “tip-in” is defined as any action in which the ball is deflected, not controlled, by a player and then enters the basket ring. This type of action shall be deemed legal if :00.1 or more remains in a period.

A “high lob” is defined as a pass which is tipped by an offensive player while in mid- air, and is followed instantaneously by a field goal attempt. If the reception of the pass and the subsequent “slam dunk” is immediately adjacent to the basket ring, this type of action shall be deemed legal if :00.1 or more remains in a period. However, if the “high lob” attempt is a distance from the basket ring whereby the ball must be controlled in mid-air, either one-handed or two-handed, a minimum of :00.3 is necessary for a field goal to score if successful. Instant replay would NOT be used if the play starts with :00.2 or :00.1 on the game clock or shot clock.

NO LESS than :00.3 must expire on the game clock when a player secures possession of an unsuccessful free throw attempt and immediately requests a timeout. If LESS than :00.3 expires in such a circumstance, the time on the game clock shall be reduced by at least :00.3. Therefore, if :00.3 OR LESS remain on the game clock when the above situation exists, and a player requests a timeout upon securing possession of the ball, the period is over.

Regardless of when the horn or red light operates to signify the end of period, the officials (as aided by instant replay, if required) will ultimately make the final decision whether to allow or disallow a successful field goal. THE CREW CHIEF MUST TAKE CHARGE OF THE SITUATION.


Any spectator who verbally abuses players and/or coaches in a manner which, in the opinion of the game officials, interferes with the ability of a coach to communicate with his players during the game and/or huddles, will, at the direction of the crew chief, be given one warning by a building security officer. If the same spectator continues to behave in a like manner, the crew chief shall direct a building security officer to eject the spectator from the arena.




If a player suffers a laceration or a wound where bleeding occurs or if blood is visible on a player or his uniform, the officials shall suspend the game at the earliest appropriate time and allow a maximum of 30 seconds for treatment. After that time, the head coach shall be informed that he has the option to substitute for the player or call a timeout . If a substitute replaces the player, the opposing team shall be allowed to substitute one player. The bleeding player may return to the game when he has received appropriate treatment by medical staff personnel.

A team will not be given an additional 30 seconds should the bleeding occur from a wound which reopened, which is not the result of additional contact.

If the player returns to the game, the officials shall make certain that any lesion, wound or dermatitis is covered with a dressing that will prevent contamination to and/or from other sources. A wrist or sweat band is not considered a suitable bandage.

If the bleeding player is awarded a free throw attempt(s) as a result of a personal foul, or is involved in a jump ball, the bleeding player will be given 30 seconds for treatment. If the treatment is not completed, play will resume and will then be suspended at the first appropriate time.

Mandatory timeouts shall not be granted during a suspension of play unless a team is granted a timeout.

If treatment is not completed within the allotted time, the head coach may call another timeout or substitute for the bleeding player. Substitutes are permitted consistent with existing rules on substitution.

If a team has no timeouts remaining when play is suspended, the officials will allow 30 seconds for appropriate treatment. If the treatment is not completed in accordance with paragraph two above, the bleeding player must be removed immediately. ONLY the bleeding player on that team may be removed from the game under these circumstances. If so, the opponent may also substitute one player.

The offensive team will receive a full eight seconds to advance the ball into the front- court. The shot clock will remain as is or reset to 14, whichever is greater.



After the ball has been dead, it is put into play by a jump ball, throw-in or a free throw attempt. The game clock does not start until the ball is legally touched on the court by a player. However, any floor violation or personal foul which may occur will be penalized.

The ball is live when it is given to the thrower-in, free throw shooter or is tossed by the official on a jump ball. Illegal contact, which occurs prior to the ball becoming live, will be ignored if it is not unsportsmanlike or flagrant.

The ball is alive when it is legally tapped by one of the participants of a jump ball, released by a thrower-in or released on a free throw attempt that will remain in play.


P.        TAUNTING

If a player blatantly taunts an opponent, a technical foul shall be assessed. The opponent WILL NOT, automatically, be assessed a technical foul. His behavior will be the determining factor.

Simultaneous taunting is a verbal altercation. Verbal altercations and unsportsmanlike conduct will be administered as a double technical foul and no free throws will be attempted.

Technical fouls assessed to opposing teams during the same dead ball and prior to the administering of any free throw attempt for the first technical foul, shall be interpreted as a double technical foul.


If a previous unsportsmanlike act has been committed and if this situation is BLATANT, a technical foul must be assessed and the guilty player(s) must be ejected.



  1. The severity of the contact;
  2. Whether or not the player was making a legitimate basketball play (e.g., whether a player is making a legitimate effort to block a shot; note, however, that a foul committed during a block attempt can still be considered flagrant if other criteria are present, such as recklessness and hard contact to the head);
  3. Whether, on a foul committed with a player’s arm or hand, the fouling player wound up and/or followed through after making contact;
  4. The potential for injury resulting from contact (e.g., a blow to the head and a foul committed while a player is in a vulnerable position);
  5. The severity of any injury suffered by the offended player; and
  6. The outcome of the contact (e.g., whether it led to an altercation).