When you watch basketball, it’s easy to get the impression that the game is quite physical and that player contact is something that happens frequently and is generally acceptable.
Many others would agree that the game is all about avoiding running into, barging, or pushing each other, and that bumping and barging have no place in it.
You might be surprised by the answer, which is both yes and no.
At any given time, there are 10 players vying for space on a court that is only 28 meters long and 15 meters broad. There are quite a few people vying for position and trying to make room in a place that isn’t much bigger than most people’s back gardens!
It becomes obvious that there will frequently be instances of players racing into and across one other’s paths when you consider how quickly the ball is frequently moved around the court by players passing it between each other.
The players contending for the ball will leap if tentatively, towards each other even right at the tip-off to begin a game or period. But since they are vying for ownership of a ball that has a diameter of less than 24 cm, it seems to make sense that they frequently crash into one another as they try to get possession.
What do the Rules of basketball say about Contact?
Although both officials and players acknowledge that there would undoubtedly be some contact in the sport, hence, there must be some leeway in place.
But by default, the guidelines are written to avoid contact whenever feasible. Any of the following, for instance, could result in a foul being called by the referee, though this list is by no means exhaustive:
- Hitting any other body part of a player
- Pulling at a teammate’s hair or vest
- Slapping any body part of a different player
- Any form of holding a player that prevents them from moving
- Screening tactics to keep an opponent from approaching the ball carrier
- A defensive player attacking the opposing offensive team by directly putting both feet in their path
- Attempting to deflect a shot either before or during the release of the ball. Hand checking, which occurs when a defensive player raises one or both hands to try to intercept the ball, is the most prevalent variety of this offense.
- Interference is when a player touches the basket or the backboard while the ball is on or close to the basket.
However, players at all levels are aware that a lot of unintentional contacts may occur. In fact, many NBA players wear mouthguards to guard against receiving an unintentional hand or arm to the face.
A basketball referee will frequently have to decide if a player with the ball or receiving it has his feet set, that is, firmly planted as if they intend to stay briefly immobile in preparation for passing the ball or shooting towards the basket.
This is due to the fact that a foul call is frequently assessed using this standard.
Penalties for Contact in Basketball
Individual players may be called for a foul if it is determined that their contact with another player prevented that player from shooting or passing the ball.
Any player that has committed six fouls of any kind in a game (five at the collegiate level) will be disqualified or judged guilty of foul trouble and will not be permitted to participate in that game going forward.
Because fouls are called so frequently in basketball games, it’s been claimed that every player should anticipate having at least three by their name each game.
For a player who commits a foul, the referee has a variety of penalties at his disposal. In most cases, the team that committed the foul just has to give up possession if it occurred during a non-shooting situation. However, depending on whether the player was shooting from within or beyond the three-point line, any foul committed while moving toward the basket will result in either two or three free throws being awarded as a penalty.
Few other sports places such a high value on tactical play, and players will frequently be taken off the field and forced to sit out a period of a game if they are in danger of fouling out and being permanently barred.
So, when it really comes down to it, it can be said that basketball is and has always been regarded as a non-contact sport. Nevertheless, there are a number of rules that, if not entirely preventing it, at least serve to limit such occurrences. However, the intensity with which the game is played frequently creates circumstances in which contact cannot be avoided. Hence, in many situations, the referee must judge the intent and effect of contact to determine, if it’s a foul or should the game continue undisrupted.