What is a Technical Foul in Basketball?

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Calling for fouls and violations is essential in basketball because it levels the playing field. But more often than not, fouls simply involve illegal contact, which is really different from a technical foul. If a technical foul is not considered a “normal” foul, then what is a technical foul in basketball? We will answer that question in vivid detail and tackle possible topics surrounding technical fouls.

What is a Technical Foul_What is a Technical Foul?

A technical foul, also known as a “T,” is any foul involving unsportsmanlike behavior, including violations committed by players or coaches on the bench. Excessive timeouts, game delays, too many players on the court, illegal use of the basket ring, disruptive behavior, fighting, and other violations are examples of technical fouls.

These fouls and penalties are more severe than a personal foul but not as serious as a flagrant foul, which can result in immediate ejection. In the NBA, a player or coach who receives two technical fouls is ejected from the game.

Technical fouls are always a subject of controversy. The referees have the absolute green light to call techs at any time of the game. Therefore, a technical foul called in a close could ultimately swing the momentum and complexion of the game. The players should have a pretty good grasp of what constitutes a technical foul and the referees must be extra patient especially if they’re officiating a big game

Technical fouls are called slightly different in the US-based and international competitions. Under international rules, illegal contact between players on the court is always a personal foul; in the United States, such contact may be called a technical foul based on different premises. On top of that, a tech in FIBA-sanctioned competitions is counted as a personal foul while the NBA does not.

What is a Technical Foul

What are the Types of Technical Fouls in Basketball_What are the Types of Technical Fouls in Basketball?

Technical fouls can take many various forms, and a referee may call one for a multitude of reasons. Because the penalty is the same regardless of which type of technical foul is called, players must avoid them at all costs; otherwise, it may come at the expense of the game.

Here are some technical foul examples:

Delay of Game

Delaying the game warrants a technical foul. In the NBA, a player is warned for the first time and receives a tech for the second infraction. The purpose of calling a technical foul for a delay of the game is to maintain the flow of the basketball game. If not, players could just hold on to the ball after a made basket and ruin the integrity of the game.

The NBA rule book records nine instances in which a delay of game tech must be called. The most common is when defenders try to cross the boundary line (one meter) during a throw-in. This could be done intentionally to get a glimpse of what the offense is trying to do. 

Excessive Number of Players

NBA teams are allowed to field five players on the court under normal circumstances. If for some reason, a team puts in six or more players on the court, a technical foul is called. 

In the video below, the Bulls had six players in, and as soon as it was brought to the refs’ attention, they blew the whistle for a tech

Calling a Timeout When There is None Remaining

During regulation play, NBA teams are permitted seven timeouts, each lasting 75 seconds. When the coach needs to draw up a play, when the opponent is on a crushing run, or when the players are in desperate need of a break, timeouts are critical

Although teams are allowed to call more than seven timeouts in a game, doing so will result in a technical foul. The side that called the excessive timeout gets a 75-second break, but the opponent gets a free shot and possession.

Probably the most famous example of calling a timeout in this situation was Chris Webber in the 1993 NCAA championship. It also happens sporadically in the NBA. For instance, Reggie Jackson almost lost a game committing this blunder in the video below.

Illegal Use of the Rim, Backboard, and Support

Dunks and blocks are two of the most spectacular plays that happen under or near the basket. But high-flyers must be extra careful. Although this section of the court can get highly rough and competitive, players must avoid any improper usage of the basket ring, backboard, or support. A technical foul is assessed if this is done.

What is considered illegal rim use? These are: a.) Hanging on the rim for too long after a dunk; b.) Holding on to the rim for support or gain height; c.) Using the rim as support to block a shot in the air.

The only time that an offensive or defensive player hangs on the basket rim, net backboard, or support is to protect themselves or another player from injury. In this scenario, the official utilizes their discretion to overturn the technical foul call. 

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Well, it’s only intuitive that unsportsmanlike behavior has no place in any type of sport. This is to preserve the integrity of basketball and make sure the game is played the right way.

Unsportsmanlike conduct includes:

  • Disrespecting a referee, perhaps cursing or throwing the ball in his direction
  • Unnecessary physical contact with a referee
  • Screaming profanities
  • A coach entering the court to complain
  • Taunting
  • Eye guarding
  • Throwing/kicking the ball into the stands


When fights break out, expect technical fouls on both sides, especially if there are multiple players involved. Similar to the case of a double foul in basketball, no free throws are awarded for a fighting tech. 

However, anyone who participated in the altercation is removed from the game and will not be allowed to return. If the defensive team is called for a foul, the offensive team is awarded possession. Play resumes with a jump ball if it is called when neither team has clear possession.

Rules of Technical Foul in BasketballRules of Technical Foul in Basketball

In most basketball competitions in the United States, getting called for two technical fouls in a game results in the dismissal of the offender, whether he be a player, coach, or someone else. 

Ejection is also triggered by a single flagrant technical penalty, often known as a disqualifying foul in FIBA. Except in 3×3, where two unsportsmanlike fouls result in ejection, FIBA rules do not allow for ejection for any amount of non-flagrant technical fouls against a player. When a coach receives two technical fouls, FIBA regulations call for ejection.

In the NBA, technical fouls automatically incur fines. For techs one to give, be ready to shell out $2,000. Fines escalate in value and peak at $5000 and a one-game suspension for the 16th technical foul. Each additional tech after that brings $5,000 and a one-game suspension (plus fine) after two additional technical fouls.

The fines and penalties are much stiffer in the playoffs. A seventh technical foul on a player begets a $5000 fine and a one-game suspension. Each additional tech is $5,000 plus a one-game suspension after two technicals.

How Does a Technical Foul Affect the Game_How Does a Technical Foul Affect the Game?

Generally, a technical foul is a negative for the fouling team or player in the short term. A tech call means a free throw and ball possession for the opponent, opening the possibility of scoring four or five points in a single possession. 

But over the course of the game, it’s a coin flip. Coaches and players intentionally fire up the players and teammates by getting technical fouls called on them. Back in a 2007 game against Seattle, Kobe Bryant was called for a technical foul for complaining and scored 18 straight points after that.

Yes, a technical foul call may have adverse effects on the fouling team at the end of the game. However, the momentum could go either way if it happens earlier. Some teams fold, but some take it personally and play even better.

What Happens After a Technical Foul is Given to a Player or a Coach_What Happens After a Technical Foul is Given to a Player or a Coach?

On the floor or the sidelines, technical fouls can be called on players or coaches. They result in one free throw for the opposing side and possession of the ball. When a player receives two technical fouls in the same game, that warrants an ejection, meaning he won’t be able to enter the game at any point anymore.

On top of that, every technical foul in the NBA necessitates a monetary fine. If a player tallies 16 technical fouls in the regular season, he will sit out a game as a suspension. In the playoffs, that threshold is decreased to seven.

How Many Technical Fouls Does it Take to Eject a Player Basketball_How Many Technical Fouls Does it Take to Eject a Player Basketball?

Any player, coach, trainer, or other team bench person may get a maximum of two technical fouls for unsportsmanlike behavior. For performing only one unsportsmanlike act, any of these offenders may be removed from the venue under the judgment of the officials. However, committing two technical fouls is an automatic ejection for the offending party

In the NBA, flagrant and technical fouls can sometimes be confusing. Generally, a technical foul is not as serious as a flagrant. Think of it as a warning from the refs that if you escalate the matter further, you will be called for a second one and get tossed from the game. 

In amateur and international competitions, one technical foul could get you booted out. This happens if the offending player already has four personal fouls. In these levels of competition, a technical foul is added to a player’s personal foul tally. Since the limit for personal fouls in amateur and FIBA is only five, a technical foul in this time means an ejection.

How Many Technical Fouls Does it Take to Eject a Player Basketball

A flagrant foul is far more serious and, depending on the intent of the infraction, can result in you being expelled from the game without question. (A flagrant foul 2 is an automatic ejection and in some cases, warrants a suspension upon league review.) However, not all severe fouls will result in your ejection from the game; referees will judge the severity of the action using video review. All personal fouls are considered personal fouls.

Does a Technical Foul Count as a Team Foul in BasketballDoes a Technical Foul Count as a Team Foul in Basketball?

No, it does not. Only defensive personal fouls are counted against a team foul in any level of basketball play. 

Before elaborating on this, let’s first answer the question, “What is a personal foul in basketball?” 

A personal foul is a rule violation that simply implies there was unnecessary contact with an offensive player. Pushing, hitting, blocking, holding, illegal screens, and similar types of contact that are against basketball regulations are included.

For example, Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving drove and attempted a layup, but Boston’s Marcus Smart hacked him from across the arm. A defensive personal foul is called against Smart and that counts against Boston’s team foul count. Team fouls are the total number of defensive fouls committed by the players of a team. In the NBA, if a team accumulates five team fouls, the opposing squad receives two free throws after every foul committed, even if it’s a non-shooting kind. 

Now, we have reiterated that only defensive personal fouls are counted as team fouls in basketball. Offensive fouls, such as charging or moving screens, are personal fouls but are not considered team fouls. Therefore, if, say, Golden State’s Draymond Green was called for a charging foul on Dallas’ Dorian Finney-Smith, the Mavericks won’t be awarded free throws even if the Warriors are already at the foul limit.

In the same vein, if a team in the foul limit is called for a technical, that won’t be considered and counted as a team foul.

Technical Foul ExamplesTechnical Foul Examples

1. Unnecessary Contact with a Referee

This is also an example of one technical foul that immediately resulted in an ejection. Warriors’ Shaun Livingston thought he was fouled and gave Tony Brothers a love tap using his head. That’s definitely a no-no!

2. Throwing the ball into the stands for no reason

You can obviously show some frustration, but Kevin Durant took a little too far.

3. Shaq vs. Chuck fighting

Ball-throwing, takedowns, punches thrown. Apparently, those things are technical fouls and warrant ejections. Any of that stuff is a disqualifying foul in basketball.

4. Hanging on the rim

Fans call this type of stuff “soft,” but the rule book says it’s illegal. End of story.

5. Taunting

This type of taunting is child’s play back in the day, but not anymore. When Devin Booker let Jalen Brunson know to get that weak stuff out of here, the refs readily blew the whistle for a tech.

6. Bonus:

This is a pretty good example of how the referees have the ultimate green light to call for a technical. In his first infraction, Rasheed Wallace was complaining about a foul call and got T’d up. In the second call, as explained by Ron Garretson himself, Wallace said absolutely nothing but he felt the Blazers’ big man tried to intimidate him by staring at him too long. 

Whack! You’re out!

Wrapping Things Up: What is a Technical Foul in Basketball?

The basketball rule book on fouls is a lengthy one. There are personal fouls, flagrant fouls, and technical fouls and each one has its nuances.

To help us know what a technical foul is, it’s vital to define what personal fouls are. What is a personal foul in basketball? A personal foul is an infraction that involves any illegal contact with a player. A personal foul could either be offensive or defense. An offensive foul is when a player on offense illegally hits a player on defense. A defensive foul is when an offensive player absorbs illegal contact from a defender.

Now, what is a technical foul in basketball? A technical foul is called not from illegal contact, but from unsportsmanlike conduct. Complaining too much, fighting, taunting, and hanging on the rim after a dunk are technical foul examples. Generally, two technicals warrant an automatic ejection and unlike defensive personal fouls, technical fouls are not included in the team foul count.

Did you find this helpful? Then also check out 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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