Are Pump Fakes Legal In Basketball?

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For many casual fans, basketball may be about scoring points and shooting threes, but the sport’s tactical side is vastly understated. The fact is that the coaches and players try to outwit their opponents from start to finish using various means. One deceptive basketball move that comes in handy in personal basketball strategy is using pump fakes. 

Are pump fakes legal in basketball, or are there times when they’re not allowed? If you also want to know how to pull off a pump fake basketball move, this article will give you tips that are guaranteed to work.

What is a Pump Fake in BasketballWhat is a Pump Fake in Basketball?

A fake is the most common deceptive move in basketball. It’s practically done every possession to fool the opposing team. One type is called a pump fake. 

In basketball, a pump fake is a fake shot attempt. That means it’s an action an offensive player pulls off to make his defender lunge or jump to block the shot. When the defender bites on the fake, his defense has become vulnerable as he is now open for a blow-by. The pump fake is also an excellent way to draw fouls, as it can make the defender go off-balance.

Pulling off a pump fake is all about timing and the manner in which the offensive player carries the movement. The most effective pump fake is the one that looks almost the same as a regular shot attempt. Because of this, the defender has no way of knowing what comes next.

On top of that, it’s also about luring in the defender like an angler waiting for a fish to bite. As the defensive player tries to block the shot, the offensive player goes on his tiptoes and pulls the shot back. 

By then, the defender had already committed himself, and two possibilities could happen. The offensive player can do an escape dribble, pull up for a jumper, or take it all the way to the rack. Or he could remain at his spot and wait for the off-balanced defender to bump into him. In the latter case, it’s an automatic foul.

Are Pump Fakes Allowed in the NBAAre Pump Fakes Allowed in the NBA?

Yes, pump fakes are allowed in the NBA. The league is rife with players, past or present, who use pump fakes as a weapon of mass destruction. Thus, NBA players can legally and successfully use pump fakes to outwit defenders, open up scoring possibilities, and draw fouls. The move is a fundamental skill used by any basketball level, including the NBA.

As an example and inspiration, Kobe Bryant is a master at doing pump fakes. Kobe uses many variations of the pump fake, some of which you can check out below.

Here is Bryant taking LeBron James in the post, faking the shot, and stepping through for a layup.

Kobe’s impossible fadeaway against the Suns in the dying seconds of Game 6 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals was from a pump fake. Watch:

And here is Bryant using the pump fake to lure an overeager Russell Westbrook.

If you know how to pump fake in basketball, the scoring opportunities will be endless.

Can You Pump Fake and Then Dribble the BasketballCan You Pump Fake and Then Dribble the Basketball?

Yes and no. You can pump fake and then dribble the basketball only if you didn’t dribble before the pump fake. Otherwise, you’ve already picked up the basketball, so putting the ball on the floor in that situation is a dribbling violation. The only legal moves at this point are to shoot or pass. If it’s the NBA, add calling a timeout to the list.

Can You Pump Fake a Free ThrowCan You Pump Fake a Free Throw?

The direct answer is no. You cannot do a pump fake on a free throw. 

Think of it this way: Free throw situations are the only time in basketball where no defender is attempting to block the shot, or at least, defenders are not allowed to. When a player is awarded free throws, they have an uncontested opportunity to shoot the ball from the line without any defensive interference. Therefore, pulling a pump fake on the charity stripe makes no sense.

So, here’s the deal. There aren’t a lot of rules to keep in mind when shooting free throws. You are not defended; therefore, you’re shooting 100% uncontested shots. A pump fake on a free throw is a violation, so don’t try a Rajon Rondo if you value every point.

How to Executive a Pump Fake Effectively: 7 TipsHow to Executive a Pump Fake Effectively: 7 Tips

A pump fake is such a simple basketball move, but it’s “deceptively” scientific, pun intended. Don’t expect it to work every time, but if you have good mechanics, you’ll be one hell of a crafty player very soon. 

People are visual animals, which means they react to what they see. You can use the pump fake to take advantage of that instinct to manipulate defenders and get them off-balance. Check out these seven tips to pull off the perfect pump fake basketball move:

1. Stay low and balanced

As mentioned, the pump fake is about convincing the defender that you’re taking a shot when you’re not. A low and balanced stance sells a jump shot. Every shooter starts his mechanics low and balanced, so the defender wouldn’t know if you’re really pulling the trigger or not.

2. Be predictable

Kobe Bryant once said that to be unstoppable, you have to be predictable. What does that mean? 

Well, think about this. Basketball players have go-to moves, and more often than not, they go to their strengths. The defenders know and observe all this. So, if, for instance, you go to the right, do a couple of dribbles, and pull up three consecutive times, the defense will look to defend that move on the next trip.

Now that they think they got you, what’s the smart play to pull off next? You may do the same move, but you can go for a pump fake instead of pulling up for a jumper. The defender is more likely to bite on that fake because you’ve already shown them your move in the last few offensive trips.

3. Time the pump fake

Basketball is a game of timing, and doing a pump fake is no different. Time your pump fake when the defender is close enough to get him to react. If you do it early or late, it’s not going to work.

4. Sell the fake with your eyes

Defenders often observe the shooter’s eyes so they can anticipate the shot. Use this tendency to your advantage by looking at the basket like you mean it.

5. Be quick to take advantage

The purpose of a pump fake is to create an opening, so it’s a waste of energy and movement just to stand there and do nothing. If you got the defender to react, even slightly, take advantage of that by any means necessary. You could use an escape dribble to pull up or pass to a teammate if the other defenders scramble to make up for the lost defensive assignment.

6. Practice

Everything is repetition in basketball, so don’t forget to practice the move. Work on it in practice sessions and use it in game situations to become comfortable and effective with it.

7. Read the defenders

While the pump fake is such an effective weapon, some defenders are immune to it. You just have to read them like a book. For instance, the slower, more unathletic players are likely to stay on the ground, so sometimes, using the pump fake on them is useless. On the other hand, the quicker, more reactionary guys can be easily manipulated, so you can probably have more success using the pump fake on them.

What to Avoid When Doing a Pump FakeWhat to Avoid When Doing a Pump Fake?

To ensure that your pump fake is successful and doesn’t result in turnovers or other unfavorable consequences, there are a number of things to avoid. Here are some of them:

  • Do not exaggerate movements

The art of the pump fake is subtle and calls for a natural flow. Exaggerated movements like pulling one foot back won’t work on the savviest defenders.

  • Do not pump fake without a purpose

Use the pump fake strategically when you believe it can create an advantage. Otherwise, don’t do it. Recklessly using pump fakes can lead to turnovers or missed opportunities.

  • Not looking to pass

While a pump fake can lead to easier scoring opportunities, sometimes said opportunity comes in the way of a pass. Be aware of your teammates’ positions, and don’t force a shot just because somebody bit on the fake. 

Wrapping Things Up: Are Pump Fakes Legal In Basketball?

A pump fake is a deceptive move that opens up a lot of things for the offensive player. With this move, he is essentially making the defender think he’s about to shoot to incite a reaction. With impeccable timing, the offensive player pulls back on the shot and takes advantage of the opening caused by the off-balanced defender.

In many ways, a pump fake basketball move is a relatively simple yet highly effective maneuver. Remember the tips and not-to-dos mentioned in the previous sections, continue practicing, and you can take that weapon into your arsenal where it belongs.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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