What are Offensive Fouls in Basketball?

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Fouls have always been an integral and even controversial part of the game. In the game of basketball, players on the offense are usually protected by the whistle so that they can score without getting hurt. However, this doesn’t mean that the offense would always get the call — enter offensive fouls. 

So, what exactly is an offensive foul, and what constitutes it? 

Types of Offensive FoulsWhat Exactly is an Offensive Foul in Basketball?

An offensive foul is when a player on the offensive side commits illegal physical contact toward a player on the defense. Much like any foul, offensive fouls are called in order to preserve the integrity and fair play of the game. Naturally, the actions that lead to offensive fouls differ from defensive fouls mainly because players on the offense move differently compared to defenders. For example, ball handlers on the offense can only use one hand to push people, whereas defenders can use both hands and consequently commit fouls. 

Types of Offensive FoulsTypes of Offensive Fouls

Naturally, it is harder to commit offensive fouls than defensive fouls. On the offense, the priority is to get to the hoop and take care of the ball, so fouling isn’t much of an option. However, the possibility of fouling while you’re on offense is not zero, so here are some of the types of offensive fouls in basketball: 


A charging foul is called when a ball-handler bumps or charges towards a defender with a legal guarding position. If a defender makes it to a spot first before the ball-handler, the latter would most likely be called with a charging foul. The offensive charging foul and the defensive blocking foul are very close to each other, and any contact between a ball-handler and the on-ball defender can be called either of the fouls. 


Pushing is a part of basketball to a certain degree. A small push could give players on the offense more space to shoot or to receive a ball for an easy basket. However, once the act of pushing becomes a little too excessive or even violent, a foul will be called. For the team on the offense, a pushing foul is called when a player uses their arms, elbow, or torso to push off and break free from a defender. 

Illegal Screen

Illegal screens are perhaps the most commonly called offensive fouls in basketball. When setting screens, players are only allowed to stay still to block defenders — a ball-screener who intentionally moves to bump a defender will be called for a foul. Screening is an important and powerful move in the game, especially with shooting being a prevalent part of modern basketball. 

What Happens After an Offensive FoulWhat Happens After an Offensive Foul?

Like any other foul, offensive fouls are bound to have consequences. When you’re called for an offensive foul, you’ll automatically get one personal foul, and the ball possession automatically switches. That’s about it. 

One key difference for offensive fouls is that they can never result in free throws — unless the foul is deemed a technical or unsportsmanlike foul. 

Officially, in the NBA Rulebook, an offensive foul cannot result in any points for the offensive team in that possession. The player who committed the foul will also be charged with a personal foul, but the offending team is not charged with a team foul. The ball will then be awarded to the offended team, and play shall resume at the sideline nearest to where the foul was committed. 

Does Offensive Foul Count as Team FoulDoes Offensive Foul Count as Team Foul?

The basketball world has two popular rulebooks: the NBA Rulebook and the FIBA Rulebook. While both these rulebooks have key differences, both outline that offensive fouls are not counted as team fouls. This means that a person who has five fouls can get ejected with an offensive foul, but a team on the verge of penalty will not give up free throws if a player in the team commits an offensive foul. 

3 Controversial Offensive Fouls in the NBA3 Controversial Offensive Fouls in the NBA

Throughout the NBA’s history, offensive foul calls were never short of controversy. Offensive fouls are almost always 50/50, and some of these fouls are called (or not), inevitably, during crucial moments of the game. 

Here are some of the most famous and controversial offensive fouls in the NBA: 

1. Last Shot by Michael Jordan

Let’s start off with a play that has sparked decades of debate. The year was 1998, and the Chicago Bulls were undoubtedly the greatest team to ever play in the NBA, with Michael Jordan leading the charge. The Bulls were up 3-2 in the NBA Finals, and they needed to win at Utah to complete their second 3-peat. In the final seconds of the game, Jordan steals the ball and brings it down the court to be greeted by Bryon Russell. 

You might be familiar with what’s next.

Jordan crosses over Russell, seemingly pushing off the Utah defender in the process, and shoots the ball — swish. While it was never called an offensive foul, replays of Jordan’s Last Shot show that he did swipe Russell’s right leg and cause the Utah player to lose his balance. Was it an offensive foul? Maybe. Can anyone do anything about it now? No. 

2. Aaron Gordon’s Dunk of the Year

Aaron Gordon is undoubtedly one of the greatest dunkers to ever grace the NBA and perhaps the best dunker who was never a Slam Dunk champion. After controversially getting robbed of two Slam Dunk awards, Gordon almost got robbed a third time when his insane dunk on Landry Shamet was called an offensive foul. 

It happened during the Nuggets’ Christmas showdown with the Suns in 2022 when Gordon ran up the court for a fastbreak and was met by Shamet, who was standing his ground near the hoop. Gordon leaps in and punches the ball on Landry’s head to everyone’s screams — offensive foul. Later on, the call was overturned to a no-foul, to the delight of many NBA fans around the world. 

3.  Kevin Durant vs LeBron James in the 2018 NBA Finals

The 2018 Finals saw the rematch of Kevin Durant’s Golden State Warriors and LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Game 1 saw the two teams go head to head as 2018 LeBron, arguably James’ most lethal form, single-handedly bullied four NBA All-Stars, wire to wire. 

With 36 seconds left in the clock, the Cavs were primed to take Game 1 of the series with a 104-102 lead. The Cavs only needed a stop, so the Warriors gave the ball to none other than Kevin Durant. KD called for an iso play that would result in him meeting James underneath the basket. The two make contact, and the play is called an offensive foul — at first. To the surprise of many, the call is overturned, and the Warriors shoot free throws that would eventually bring the game to OT. The Cavs played five more minutes with the life-sucking call at the back of their heads and would eventually succumb to the Warriors 114-124. The rest is history. 

Wrapping Things Up: What are Offensive Fouls in Basketball?

An offensive foul is a type of foul that is called on the team on the offense when they commit excessive actions that are not within the allowed physicality in basketball. Both ball-handlers and off-ball offensive players can be called for a foul when they push, shove, or bump defenders. Some popular examples of offensive fouls are charges, push-offs, and illegal screens. Offensive fouls don’t count as a team foul but will always result in a change in ball possession, but never free throws. 

Fouls in basketball were created to protect the players, and offensive fouls are there to make sure that teams score fairly. While these fouls are often the point of controversy, everyone would agree that this call is essential to the game. 

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

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> What are Defensive Fouls in Basketball?

> What is a Double Dribble in Basketball?

> Can You Catch Your Own Airball?

> What is “Small Ball” in the NBA?

> Who Made the Finger Roll Layup Famous?

> How to Play Perimeter Defense in Basketball

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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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