What is a Team Foul vs. a Personal Foul?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Fouls are a part of sports, and more so in basketball. In general, a foul is treated more seriously than a simple violation. With that being said, there are different types of terminologies pertaining to fouls. A foul is categorized under a team foul or a personal foul. To clear any confusion you may have on the team foul vs. personal foul discussion, this article will focus on the definitions and differences between the two.

If you want to be always in the loop about basketball terminologies, let’s get right into it!

How Fouling Works in BasketballHow Fouling Works in Basketball

In playing basketball, the simple objectives of scoring baskets and stopping opponents in doing so may lead to infractions called fouls. A foul is called when a player makes illegal contact with an opponent, whether the player is on offense or playing defense. However, a foul may also be called for certain unsportsmanlike conducts.

There are six types of fouls in basketball, and these types may overlap with one another. These are flagrant fouls, personal fouls, offensive fouls, loose ball fouls, team fouls, and technical fouls. In most professional leagues like the NBA, a flagrant foul, an offensive foul, and a loose ball foul are all personal fouls. 

Personal fouls are infractions against the rules of play, often about the allowable amount of contact. For example, as a defender, you can move your feet and put your body between the offensive player and the basket. However, if you hack him across the arms trying to go for a steal or a block, that is illegal contact and, therefore, deemed a foul.

From this scenario, one of two things may happen. If you foul a player who is in the act of shooting, he will be rewarded free throws for his efforts. If not, it will be counted as a team foul, and free throws will only be awarded if the team foul limit is reached. (How team fouls work will be discussed in more detail later.)

How Fouling Works in Basketball

A player could only commit up to six fouls in the NBA before he is disqualified. The personal foul limit is only five in high school, college, and international basketball competitions.

What is a Personal Foul

What is a Personal Foul?

If you’re wondering what is a personal foul in basketball, there are two words that you need to know: Illegal contact. A personal foul will be called whenever there is illegal or unnecessary contact. To understand more fully what a personal foul is, you must learn more about the types of personal fouls.

Types of Personal Fouls

  • Common Personal Foul. A common personal foul, as its name suggests, is the most prevalent foul call you would see in basketball. When a defensive player trips, pushes or blocks an offensive player, he will be called a personal foul. If a player is fouled in the act of shooting, he will be given two or three free throws depending on where he shot the ball. If he made the basket while being fouled, the basket counts, and one free throw is awarded as a bonus.
  • Offensive Foul. An offensive foul is a foul committed by an offensive player. The most common kinds of offensive fouls are illegal screens and charging fouls. Illegal screens happen when a screen-setter moves before his screen is set, resulting in premature contact with a defender. Charging fouls are called when an offensive player “charges” into a defender who has already established a position.
  • Loose Ball Foul. When neither team has possession of the ball, it is said to be “loose.” A loose ball foul is called when there is illegal contact as the players fight for possession. 
  • Flagrant Foul. Flagrant fouls may either be type 1 or 2. A flagrant foul penalty 1 is defined as excessive contact, while penalty 2 is excessive and unnecessary. In the NBA, flagrant fouls result in two free throws plus ball possession for the aggrieved party. The difference is that a flagrant foul 2 also means an automatic ejection for the offending player.

Below is an example of a flagrant foul 2:

  • Technical Foul. A technical foul may be called for unsportsmanlike conduct such as excessive complaining to the officials. In the NBA and other pro leagues, technical fouls do not count as personal fouls. In college, technical fouls are also considered personal fouls.

How Do Team Fouls Work in BasketballHow Do Team Fouls Work in Basketball?

What is a team foul in NBA? Team fouls are aggregate or the total number of fouls committed by the individual players in a single quarter. In the NBA, the team foul limit is five fouls; any more than that, and they will go into the “bonus,” which means the opposing team is awarded free throws for every foul committed after that.

The free-throw rule for teams over the limit is a little different in the NCAA. This is often referred to as “one and one.” In a “one and one” situation, the fouled player takes one free throw and may only attempt a second if he makes the first. If he misses, the ball is considered loose and may be rebounded by either team. Teams only get automatic two free throws if the opposition accumulates 10 team fouls. The team foul limit for a “one and one” situation is seven fouls.

As mentioned, the NBA, FIBA, and Olympic basketball competitions reset team fouls every quarter. High school and college basketball are reset at halftime, primarily because their games are played in halves instead of quarters. 

In all basketball leagues and competitions, offensive fouls do not count against the team’s foul totals. These will result in a change of possession or disqualification for the player who committed the foul, but no free throws will be given. 

Team Foul vs. a Personal Foul: What’s the Difference?

The conceptual difference between personal foul and team foul is relatively easy to understand. In a nutshell, here are the team foul vs. personal foul dissimilarities:

  • Team fouls reset depending on the game’s format. In the NBA, Olympics, and FIBA, team fouls are returned to zero every quarter. NCAA and high school basketball are played in halves, so teams fouls are also reset after halftime.
  • Team fouls are always made up of personal fouls by the players of a team. However, not all personal fouls count as team fouls. An offensive foul is a personal foul that does not reflect a team foul. The penalty is a change of ball possession with no free throws awarded.

Team Foul vs. a Personal Foul What's the Difference

  • When a player reaches the personal foul limit, the penalty for the said individual is disqualification from the game. He is said to have “fouled out.” When the team’s foul limit is reached, the penalty is free throws regardless of whether the shot is in the act of shooting or not.
  • In professional basketball, the personal foul limit is six, while the team foul limit is only five before going into the bonus. In FIBA, the personal foul limit and team foul limit are at five fouls. College basketball’s team foul limit is at seven fouls.

7 Interesting NBA Facts on Fouls7 Interesting NBA Facts on Fouls

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar committed the most fouls in NBA history with 4,657. As the all-time leader in games played, that is hardly a surprise.

2. What happens if an NBA team loses all but four of its player to fouls? According to NBA rules, if a player fouls out and there is nobody to replace him, he can stay in the game, but he is assessed an automatic technical for every subsequent foul he commits.

3. Bubba Wells committed six personal fouls in three minutes against the Chicago Bulls. Playing for Dallas, Wells made all those fouls for Dennis Rodman as part of a Hack-A-Shaq strategy.

4. Back in the earliest days of the NBA, the Anderson Packers were called for 60 personal fouls against the Syracuse Nationals (Nov. 24, 1949). That remained the most committed number of personal fouls in an NBA game. In recent memory, that record belongs to the Utah Jazz after getting called for 52 team fouls in a 1990 game vs. Phoenix.

5. Wilt Chamberlain has never fouled out in a regular-season or playoff game in 14 seasons.

6. In a Greek A1 League game in February 2008, six technical fouls were assessed to Aris Thessaloniki. That remains the record for most technical fouls for a team in a basketball game. Those technical were all called in the second half.

7. The record for the most consecutive “fouled outs” is six games by Don Boven. If you haven’t heard that name before, it’s because the guy played in the 50s. He played for the Waterloo Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Fort Wayne Pistons.

Wrapping Things Up: What is a Team Foul vs. a Personal Foul?

Fouls are an integral part of basketball. Generally, they are defined as infractions stemming from illegal contact made by a player and an opponent. In basketball, there are called personal fouls and team fouls. 

What is a personal foul in basketball? A personal foul is the most common type of foul that you see in basketball. A foul is subsequently called when a player is hacked, held on, or tripped. These are called personal fouls. The personal foul limit is six in professional basketball and five in high school, college, and international competitions. Upon reaching that limit, a player has “fouled out” or been disqualified from the game.

Now, what is a team foul in NBA? A team foul is just the total number of personal fouls committed by individual players on a team. They are counted and reset each quarter. How many team fouls in basketball are allowed? In the NBA, the team foul limit before going into the penalty or “bonus” situation is five. That means any foul, whether in the act of shooting or not, results in automatic two free throws. The same is also true for FIBA and Olympics basketball competitions.

The team foul rules in college are a little different. Since NCAA games are played in halves, team fouls are reset after halftime. Instead of five, the team foul limit is seven. Upon reaching seven fouls, a team goes into a “one and one” situation. This means they are not awarded two automatic free throws; they only get to attempt a second one if they make the first one. Only when the opposing team reaches 10 fouls when the other team is given two free throws outright.

With all these things considered, do you clearly see the differences in this team foul vs. personal foul discussion? Here are some of them: Team fouls are reset, while personal fouls don’t. Team fouls are always made up of personal fouls, but not all personal fouls are counted as team fouls (as in the case of offensive fouls). Team foul limits (5 in the NBA, 7 in college) and personal foul limits (6 in the NBA, 5 in international and college) are also different.

Did you enjoy this post? Then you’ll love the other basketball FAQ posts. Check them out below:

> What Does PF Mean in Basketball Stats?

> How to Know When to Pass or Drive in Basketball

Hoops Addict
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.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

How is the NBA All-Star Team Selected

How is the NBA All-Star Team Selected?

Getting into the All-Star game is no simple feat. For some players, it may take several seasons of high-level play to get the nod. However, other exceptional talents come into the league with so much...

Read More
What Does DTD Mean in Basketball?

What Does DTD Mean in Basketball?

Basketball is a world of its own with unique terms or jargon, in and out of the court. Through the years, more terms have been developed to represent specific things about the sport, and understanding...

Read More

Get our top basketball tips to become a better baller

Enter your email to get access to our best tips for success.