What is a Loose Ball Foul? Basketball 101

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Would you like to know what is a loose ball foul in basketball? We understand that fouls are a big part of basketball. Many different types of fouls can be assessed in a basketball game. Some of these fouls are easy and straightforward to comprehend; however, there are a few fouls that we may find difficult to understand or agree with.

The loose ball foul is one of those that we may not quite understand or agree with. Many times, we as players get charged with loose ball fouls, and because we do not entirely understand the concept of the loose ball foul, we disagree or get upset with the referee.
Sometimes we as spectators see fouls being called against our favorite teams, and we get angry for the same reason, we don’t completely understand why.

Not to worry, you are in good hands. Today we are going to discuss loose ball fouls in great detail so that everyone can understand how they work.

What Defines a Loose Ball Foul in BasketballWhat Defines a Loose Ball Foul in Basketball?

Fouls of any kind will always result in a turnover. Turnovers give your opponent extra possessions from which to score, so turnovers are never any good. Loose ball fouls are quite difficult for players because they are often assessed from hustle plays.

So, what exactly are loose ball fouls? Well, let’s break it down. A loose ball in basketball is a ball that is in play but is not controlled by any team, hence the reason why it is loose. A foul is a violation committed by one team when a player from that team creates illegal contact with the opponent.

When these two things are put together, we get a foul committed by a player while the ball is in play, but not being controlled by anyone. Loose ball fouls are fouls that show that your team is hustling.

Many players are reluctant to do the so-called dirty work in a game. The hustle plays and willingness to show hunger and go for all loose balls often enable teams to win games. Teams with players on the court who are fighters, players who have a hunger for the game, or players that want to win at all cost may often find loose ball fouls being assessed against them.

This cannot be looked at, both negatively and positively. On the negative side, you are being charged with a foul, your team just turned over the ball, your opponents could be shooting free throws, and the morale of your team and the fans could be affected.

On the positive side, fighting for a loose ball may also serve as a morale booster and a tone-setter for the rest of the game. Some players and coaches may not overthink loose ball fouls because they think their team will now start to play harder after the foul is called.

The reason behind this is that a loose ball foul is usually a product of a hustle situation, and a hustle situation shows that your team is working hard.

How to Protect a Loose BallHow to Protect a Loose Ball?

There are various ways that you can protect a loose ball after you gain control of the ball. Gaining control of a loose ball is very important because your team will now have an extra possession if you were playing defense before the ball got knocked loose.

If you are on offense and the ball is knocked loose, it is crucial to gain control of the ball to prevent a turnover from happening. Often, if a turnover occurs off a loose ball, a fast break situation develops because the defense is out of place and vulnerable.

Coaches are often quite upset if their players do not show the necessary hunger and hustle when a ball is knocked loose. The main reason for this is, opponents will get an extra possession when they gain control of the ball, and often it will result in a fast-break basket for the opposing team.

If multiple players from different teams hold on to the ball after it is knocked loose, A jump ball situation will develop. If both sides are lucky, they will have players that are of similar height and athleticism involved. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. We often see frontcourt players jumping against backcourt players.

Sometimes we do have David and the Goliath situations where the shorter player wins the jump, but as you all know, this does not happen very often. It is then essential for players to prevent jump ball situations by protecting the loose ball the moment they get a chance to.

So, how do we protect the ball after it is knocked loose to ensure that it does not result in a jump ball? One common practice is for players to quickly turn their backs to the opponent once they grab the ball. This allows them greater leverage on the ball as the opponent has to pull the ball through them to get it free.

Often this will result in the foul is being called against the player that is pulling from behind. Another way to protect the ball after it is knocked loose is to quickly tap it to a teammate that is not fighting for the ball.

If you and an opponent rush towards a loose ball, you can tap it to a teammate so that your teammate can comfortably control the ball. This will result in possession of the ball going to your team. Your offense can either reset or start a fast break.

How Do You Get a Loose Ball FoulHow Do You Get a Loose Ball Foul?

Players will be charged with a loose ball foul whenever a personal foul that is not a flagrant or a punching foul occurs, while no team is in possession of the ball. If a player creates illegal contact with another player with their arms, legs, or body in a manner that can be viewed by the referee as holding, pushing, charging into, impeding the progress of the opponent can be called as loose ball fouls.

Loose ball fouls can be called against any player on the court, so both offensive and defensive players can be called for loose ball fouls. If you are trying to gain control of a loose ball, you should go directly for the ball and ensure that you are not holding, impeding the progress of your opponent, pushing your opponent, or charging into them.

Once you commit any of these violations, the referee will charge you with the loose ball foul.

What is the Penalty for a Loose Ball FoulWhat is the Penalty for a Loose Ball Foul?

The team committing the loose ball foul will give up possession of the ball to their opponents once the whistle is blown. If you are on offense, this may not be the best thing, as you would have just committed a turnover.

Whenever a loose ball foul is committed, the offending team is charged with a team foul, and the offending player is charged with a personal foul as per Section VIII—Loose Ball Fouls of the NBA rulebook.

The team that the foul was committed against will be awarded the basketball on the sideline. The area will be chosen nearest to where the foul was committed but not below the free-throw line. If the team was in penalties, then two free throws will be given after the foul.

If a field goal is made before the defense commits the loose ball foul, then only one free throw will be to the team on offense. If the offensive team commits a loose ball foul before a shot is made, their points will not be awarded.

Do Loose Ball Fouls Count as a Personal FoulDo Loose Ball Fouls Count as a Personal Foul?

In the NBA, loose ball fouls are charged against the team and player committing the offense. Once the loose ball foul is not a punching nor flagrant foul, it will be charged as a personal foul.

Because these fouls do count towards a player’s total allotted found count, players should be extra careful when attempting to recover loose balls. While players need to regain possession of loose balls, their presence on the court may be of greater importance.

Two Examples of Loose Ball FoulsTwo Examples of Loose Ball Fouls

Let’s take a look at a few loose ball foul videos so that we can get a better understanding of when the foul is called.

First up, we have the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Phoenix Suns. A loose ball foul is called against Lakers guard, Derek Fisher, because he jumped on suns forward, Amar’e Stoudemire, in an attempt to gain possession of the loose ball. You cannot jump on top of another player to gain possession of the ball. This isn’t permitted at any time in the NBA.

Here is a video from the NBA Video Rulebook showing this example of a loose ball foul.

 In our next video, we see Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls committing a loose ball foul against Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat. Joakim Noah is tagged with his 5th personal foul on this possession because he shoved Chris Bosh in the back of the neck while they were both hustling for a loose rebound. Because it is against the rules to shove/push another player, the foul was called.

Wrapping Things Up: What is a Loose Ball Foul 

A loose ball foul is a foul that occurs while the ball is not in possession of either team. If a player commits a personal foul during this time, he will be tagged with a loose ball foul, and the possession of the ball will be awarded to the opposing team, or if they are in penalties, they will shoot free throws. 

Until next time Ballers keep it clean, keep winning.

If you found this post helpful, you’re definitely going to like our other basketball FAQ articles here.

More engaging basketball FAQ posts here:

> What is an Illegal Screen in Basketball?

> What is the Five Second Rule in Basketball?

> What is a Carry 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.

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