Most Common Fouls in Basketball

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Committing fouls in basketball is inevitable, committing too many fouls and you’re off to the showers. Understanding the most common fouls in basketball will make you foul less, which is an important skill to gain.

Do not bite the offensive player’s bait when dribbling. Their body will be between you and the ball, tempting you to swipe the ball for a poor foul. Wait until your opponent dribbles in front; you can reach out for the ball wisely to complete a steal.

Avoid swatting the ball carelessly at your opponent when attempting to block a shot. Obstruct your opponent’s path, give enough space, and establish position with feet planted on the ground for a charging foul.

Check out this material which delves into basketball fouls and learn to be a good defender.

What is a Foul in BasketballWhat is a Foul in Basketball?

Basketball is a contact sport, and committing fouls is unavoidable. Offensive and defensive players can commit fouls with unnecessary contact or unsportsmanlike behavior. The referee awards gift shots or ball possession to the other team.

Coaches and players on the bench can be slapped by referees with a technical foul in basketball for hurling profanities or showing unruly behavior when disputing a call.

The NBA and WNBA allow six personal fouls before a player leaves the game; FIBA, college, and high-school leagues allot five fouls.

How Does Fouling WorkHow Does Fouling Work?

Players preserve their fouls to avoid getting into foul trouble and continue contributing to the team. In a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors in 2019, Giannis Antetokounmpo had to leave the game due to six personal fouls resulting in a double-overtime 118-112 win for the Raptors.

Fouling can be advantageous if executed properly and following the coach’s instructions on when and who to foul is a good game strategy.

End Game Fouling

A catch-up team trailing by a small margin purposely fouls their opponents in the dying minutes of a game to draw near the score.

Fouling stops the game clock from running and puts the fouled player on the charity stripe for free throw shots. The shooter must make all gift shots to protect their lead. Even if the shooter makes the two free throws, a three-point shot on the other end still cuts the lead by one point, and the difference is less. A missed shot is an opportunity for the trailing team to rebound and execute a fastbreak play.

Aggressive Fouling

A trailing team puts pressure on the ball handler, disrupting the offensive play. The pressure may result in a foul call, or a stolen ball, resulting in a turnover with a no-call from the referee.

Even if the shooter converts the free throws, there is still hope for the trailing team to cut the deficit with three-pointers and stop the clock.

Prevent Lousy Free Throw Shooters to Score

Centers have a high percentage of making their shot when they are close to the basket but are not good with their free throws.

Shaquille O’ Neil is deadly from close range but a lousy shooter from the charity stripe. Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson was aware and applied the “Hack A Shaq” strategy. The defender intentionally fouls him for free throws when Shaq works to the basket. The ploy often works; Shaq is a 52.7 % free-throw percentage during his playing career. The game became boring, and games were long eliciting boos from the crowd.

The NBA wised up to this tactic and instituted changes to make the game more exciting and take the drain away from actual play. A player is awarded a free throw and ball possession to the fouled team in the last two minutes of every period.

Thwart Fast Break Plays

Players resort to fouling to prevent players from scoring easy baskets from a fast break play. The fouled player must earn points from the free throw line compared to a sure two from a layup.

What are the Most Common Basketball FoulsWhat are the Most Common Basketball Fouls?

1. Blocking Foul/Charging Foul 

A blocking foul is one of the most controversial calls because it could also go against the offensive player for a charging foul.

A block will be called on the defender if he uses his body to impede an offensive player’s movement without establishing the right position or if he is staying in the charge circle.

A charging foul is called on an offensive player if he rams into a defender who established a legal position with feet planted outside the charge circle.

2. Holding

Holding is about grabbing any part of the opponent’s body with the hands to restrict movement.

3. Wrap Around

Also called hooking is when an offensive player wraps his free arm around the waist of a defensive player and spins. This move is illegal whether the defender is stationary or moving.

4. Tripping

Using a leg or foot causes the opponent to tip over, slip, or lose footing.

5. Illegal Screen or Pick

A screener must be still when setting a pick for the cutter; a moving screen is an offensive foul.

Turning a shoulder to dish the ball to a teammate and simultaneously setting a screen is considered an illegal pick.

6. Elbowing

A leading elbow hits another player excessively while moving or jostling for position.

A scuffle in the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons game broke out when Pistons Isaiah Thomas was a recipient of LeBron’s elbow. Blood trickled from a cut on Thomas’s right side of the face. The two were fighting for position on Pistons Jerami Grant’s free throw when the unpleasant incident happened. Both were ejected after the melee.

7. Flagrant Foul

Any use of unnecessary or excessive force committed by a player on an opponent is considered a flagrant foul (FF).

There are two types of FFs: FF1 is an unnecessary foul, and FF2 adds excessive force. Two FF1s results in ejection, and an FF2 calls for an automatic ejection.

8. Reach In 

The defender touches a shooter’s arm or hand when releasing the ball or warding off another player with the hand when attempting a steal.

9. Over the Back

This foul is typically called when players fight for a rebound. A player goes over the back of another player to snatch a rebound.

Penalties for Different Types of Basketball FoulsPenalties for Different Types of Basketball Fouls

The whistle in an NBA game indicates that something happened, and it’s hard to say what the call is about unless a player goes to the charity stripe. Different penalty applies depending on the type of basketball fouls and situation.

Team Fouls

NBA teams are allowed four common fouls credited as team fouls for every regulation period, and the ball will be thrown in from the sideline by the opposing team. A team with more than four fouls allows the other team to get into the bonus situation; the fouled player is awarded two free throw shots.

Team fouls are reset in each quarter. A team that has not reached the foul limit in a quarter can foul once without awarding free throws. Offensive fouls are not counted as team fouls. However, flagrant fouls, punching, away-from-the-play, or clear-path-to-the-basket contribute to the total.

Personal Fouls

NBA players are allotted six personal fouls in a 48-minute game. Defensive players commit most personal fouls, and offensive players commit them occasionally.

Penalties for personal fouls include free throws, an and one, or change of ball possession. Some of the most common personal fouls to look for.

  • Holding
  • Illegal Screen
  • Hand Check
  • Reaching In
  • Tripping 
  • Elbowing
  • Charging
  • Blocking

Technical Fouls

When a referee’s hands signal a letter “T,” it means a technical foul. A technical foul is one of the severest fouls slapped to a player or any member of the team showing disorderly behavior. 

Technical Foul Penalty
Excessive Timeout Ball possession and a free throw.
Delay-of-Game The first offense merits a warning; succeeding calls result in a technical charged to the team.
Number of Players A team with more than five players or fewer than five will be penalized with a technical foul and lose ball possession.
Basketball Ring, Backboard, or Support A technical foul will be called if an offensive or defensive player hangs on the hoop, net, support, or backboard.
Conduct The referee can slap a technical foul on any player or anyone from the bench, hurling profanities or showing unruly behavior. Any member of the team with two technical fouls is automatically ejected. A free throw attempt will be awarded, and the ball will stay with the team with possession.
Fighting Fouls Participants face automatic ejection, and free throws will not be awarded. The commissioner may suspend the player(s) involved and slap a fine of $50,000 max.

What is the Difference Between Fouls and ViolationsWhat is the Difference Between Fouls and Violations?

Basketball is a sport made of rules, noncompliance during the game results in a foul or violation. Any infraction can spell the difference between winning or losing the game. The rules keep the game fair and provide the same opportunity for both teams.

Fouls result from illegal contact or unsportsmanlike behavior on the hardcourt or sidelines. A defender commits most fouls to impede an opposing player’s movements, but offensive players are not spared from foul calls.

An NBA player leaves the game on his sixth foul, and a team enters a penalty or bonus situation when the team commits five fouls in a quarter.

Disregarding NBA rules result in violations that are less severe than fouls committed by offensive players. There is only one penalty – ball possession to the defensive team and violations are not counted. Check out these violations committed during a basketball game.

  • Traveling
  • Palming
  • Double Dribble
  • Backcourt
  • Kicking
  • Free Throw
  • Goaltending
  • Out of Bounds
  • Time Restrictions

Wrapping Things Up: Most Common Fouls in Basketball

Possibilities are endless in this fast-paced contact sport of basketball and the outcome is unpredictable. There are times when breaks of the game determines the winner. 

Fouls and violations in basketball affect a game’s pace affecting a player’s game. Players must blend basketball skills and smarts to bring their A-game to the court. Understanding fouls and violations can keep your game sharper and make you a better player.

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

> What is a Team Foul vs. a Personal Foul?

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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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