Click here to Skip to main content
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Ask Bernie: Out-of-bounds rebounds and more

By staff reports
Posted Nov 18 2009 12:27PM

Player A1 secures a loose ball near the sideline. Player B1 reaches for the ball, creating a held-ball situation, except that one of B1's feet is out-of-bounds. What is the ruling?
-- Jeremy

Bernie's Answer: If B1 creates the held-ball situation before stepping out-of-bounds, then there would be a jump ball. If B1 is stepping on the boundary line when he makes contact with the ball, then he is out-of-bounds and Team A would receive the ball.

Player A1 makes a driving shot attempt, and his momentum carries him out-of-bounds. The attempt is missed, and the ball becomes loose. Is player A1 allowed to grab the ball if he re-establishes one foot (but not both feet) in-bounds, or must he re-establish both feet in-bounds before touching the ball?
-- Jeremy

Submit your question
Have a question about NBA rules? E-mail Bernie Fryer, Vice President of Referee Operations and Director of Officials.

Bernie will only answer questions that specifically concern the purpose and/or intended administration of NBA rules and interpretations. This is your opportunity to better understand the NBA's rules and/or clarify that once-in-a-lifetime call.

Your question may be selected for use on, along with Bernie's response. In posting questions, the NBA may edit inquiries to ensure clarity and/or to generalize situations, where deemed necessary.

Click here or e-mail your question to today!

Bernie's Answer: The player may established himself on the court with one foot in-bounds and then touch the ball (of course, the other foot cannot be out-of-bounds). This means the player may not jump from out-of-bounds, grab the ball while he has both feet in the air, and then land in-bounds -- that would be an out-of-bounds violation.

On a fast break play, can you dribble up to your front court, throw the ball up in the air (ball never touches any part of the rim or backboard), and catch it in mid-air for an alley-oop to yourself?
-- Geribert

Bernie's Answer: It's possible, but maybe not the way you meant. A player could not toss the ball to himself with a high arch, run under it, and then make an alley-oop without the ball first touching the rim or backboard. This is traveling. However, the player could toss the ball to himself if it is part of a single shooting motion to end his dribble. For example, a player could gather and toss the ball up with his first step, jump off a legal second step, and then catch the ball in the air and make the basket. This is technically no different from changing hands while airborne.

On shooting fouls, why do referees wait until a basket is missed to call a foul? Shouldn't it be called whether or not the player makes it if it really is a foul?
-- Zach

Bernie's Answer: Referees do not wait to see if a basket is scored before calling a foul. On near-basket shots, it may look like they wait because of the speed of the play. But if you watch fouls committed on mid- and long-range shots (especially three-point shots), you'll see clearly that referees have made the call long before the ball gets to the basket.

If a player with the ball makes a move, gets to the basket, and instead of finishing a wide-open layup, he waits for someone to be next to him and jumps into that person without caring about the basket, is that a foul?
-- Shachar

Bernie's Answer: It depends. The simple case involves potentially dangerous contact (such as leading with an elbow or knee, or taking away a defender's landing area). This will always be called an offensive foul. In other cases, it generally depends on whether the defender maintained a legal guarding position when the contact was made. See my other entries concerning block-charge and defender verticality.

Is a player allowed to push away a defender's hand while dribbling or holding the ball?
-- Francis

Bernie's Answer: No. On this play (see right), the post defender will apply a legal forearm to the back of his opponent with the ball and his back to the basket, below the free-throw line extended. The offensive player then illegally knocks it away. Offensive players may not wipe away a legally applied forearm.

If an offensive player is driving to the basket, can he be called for an offensive foul once he is airborne?
-- Anibal

Bernie's answer: Yes. An offensive foul will be called when the airborne player clears out (e.g., uses his off arm to swipe away a defender's arm) or hyper-extends any part of his body (e.g., leg, arm, hip) into the defending player. Both of these plays are illegal and unnatural basketball moves, and contact that results is deemed the fault of the offensive player.

Player A is fouled. The whistle is blown [while the player is in the act of shooting]. If Player B grabs the ball on its way down, is it considered goaltending, even though the clock is not running?
-- Zuhair

Bernie's answer: Yes. Goaltending is called on a shot that could count. In the example you give, the player gets the shot off before or while he is fouled. This is a shooting foul. If the ball goes in, the basket would count. Therefore, a defensive player may not interfere with the ball's downward trajectory.

Are you allowed to throw the ball off the backboard, grab your own rebound and dunk it without landing?
-- Blaise

Bernie's answer: Yes. Under the traveling rule, a player who attempts a shot or pass may not be the first to touch the ball unless it touches the backboard, rim or another player. Therefore, a player can intentionally pass the ball to himself off the backboard or rim.

What is the maximum number of players that can participate in a game? I know it's 5 starters. What is the maximum bench?
-- Henry

Bernie's answer: Twelve. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is required to carry 12 players on its active list (those who can play) and at least one player, but no more than three players, on its inactive list (those on the roster who cannot play). The active and inactive lists can be set on a game-by-game basis, one hour before tipoff. If an active player is injured and forced to sit out subsequent games, the coach can place him on the inactive list and "activate" another playr from the inactive list, giving the team a full 12 players available to play.

Suppose a player at the inbound tries to lob to his teammate but the ball accidentally goes through the hoop, will it count? Thanks.
-- Lee

Bernie's answer: No. Section III of the rules states that "the thrower-in may not throw the ball so that it enters the basket before touching anyone on the court." There is no exception made for an "accidental" shot.

If a player needs 4 seconds of the allotted 5 to inbound the ball, and during those 4 seconds a teammate stands in the lane for 3 seconds, is it a 3-second violation? My guess is no because the ball is not "live," but that seems to give an advantage to the offensive player in establishing position close to the basket.
-- Mark

Bernie's answer: You are correct. A three-second violation can only be called during a live ball situation. Concerning advantage, the three-second rule prevents an offensive team from situating a player (particularly a tall player) in the lane where he could be an un-guardable threat. That threat is mitigated during a throw-in, where the path of the ball to the stationary player is easily guarded; nothing prohibits the defense from putting a player between the ball and the player.

If an offensive player is driving to the basket and is fouled after he stops his dribble -- such as while going for a layup -- the foul would be a shooting foul. What happens if the player commits a traveling violation during continuation, particularly if the shot that comes after the travel goes in?
-- Aaron

Bernie's Answer: If the foul is a shooting foul, a basket will not be scored if the offensive player commits a violation following the foul. However, he would receive 2 free throws since he was fouled in the act of shooting.

A friend of mine uses the jump stop almost obsessively. After landing on a jump stop, you have to shoot or pass, don't you? He claims that he still has a pivot foot and that he has one more move to make. To me, he's traveling so often he should be earning Frequent Flier Miles. Please help us solve this quandary.
-- Da Vulture

Bernie's Answer: When a player gathers the ball with one foot on the floor, he is allowed to take a step and jump off the other foot (step one) and then land simultaneously with both feet (step two). That's a jump stop. At that point he may not pivot. If one or both of his feet leave the floor, he must shoot or pass prior to it returning to the floor.

What constitutes an assist? Does a player have to score directly after he receives the ball from a teammate? Or can he dribble the score? What if a player takes an inbounds past at his baseline, dribbles the whole length of the court, then scores. Is there an assist on that play?
-- Shawn

Bernie's Answer: I've received a number of questions related to game statistics (assists, blocks, turnovers, etc.). Referees are not responsible for determining these stats. There are courtside statisticians who enter game events in real-time (check while you're watching a game to see live play-by-play stats). The statisticians use guidelines for what counts in different categories. I asked our Director of Game Administration to help clarify this for us. Here is what he said:

An assist is credited to the player tossing the last pass leading directly to a field goal, only if the player scoring the goal responds by demonstrating immediate reaction toward the basket. This can include dribbling, as well as receiving a pass from out of bounds. In your example where the player dribbles the entire length of the court, the inbounder would not be credited with an assist due to the fact that the pass did not lead directly to a field goal.

I have wondered about blocked shots following a foul. If player A shoots, is fouled by player B, and then player C blocks the shot, does player C get the block because the ball is still in play?
-- James

Bernie's Answer: I reached out to the Director of Game Administration on this one as well.

He said that a foul takes precedence over subsequent events. Therefore, blocks on shooting fouls are not counted (even though a basket may be counted).

Player A is playing and steps out of bounds without the ball. He is now standing out of the court. Then Player B chases down a ball that is heading for the crowd. Player B grabs the ball, jumps out of bounds and while in mid air throws the ball and hits Player A, who is still standing out of bounds. The question is whose possession will it belong to? This has plagued me for years because it's gone both ways on the playground when I play. What is the actual rule? Thank you.

Bernie's Answer: Rule 8 Section II c states: "If the ball is out-of-bounds because of touching a player who is on or outside a boundary, such player caused it to go out." Therefore, if Player B jumps from in bounds and throws the ball off Player A, who is out-of-bounds, then Player A caused the ball to go out, and the ball is awarded to Player B's team at that spot.

This one almost happened the other night: With one second showing on the 24-second clock, a player is fouled while shooting. He continues the shooting motion, and the 24-second clock expires before the ball leaves his hand. The ball goes in. Does the basket count? My guess is that the foul stops the clock, so the 24-second clock expiration does not count. Therefore, the basket counts.
-- David

Bernie's Answer: The league uses transmitting devices to stop the game and shot clocks instantaneously when a referee whistle is blown. When a referee blows his/her whistle for a shooting foul with one second left on the shot clock, the basket would count, even if the shooter's motion finished after what would have been shot clock expiration. A shooting foul would be assessed and there would be no shot clock violation, since the shot clock would not have reached zero. However, if a foul were committed so close to zero that a whistle was blown with (or even just after) the shot-clock buzzer, the official could treat the play as if the whistle had been blown in time. They would count the basket and assess the shooting foul, with no shot clock violation.

What's the NBA's rule on players pinning the ball against the backboard? Is that considered goaltending?
-- Joseph in Pennsylvania

Bernie's Answer: It is legal for a defensive player to block a shot attempt into the backboard, even if his hand remains on the ball after the block and he pins it against the backboard. However, once the ball hits the backboard (or rim), the defensive player may not touch it, by pinning or otherwise. The reason for this distinction goes to the purpose of the goaltending rules, which are meant to ensure that a shot that has a chance to score is allowed to do so.

So in the first scenario (pinning the ball against the backboard before it hits the backboard on its own), a defensive player is following through on what would otherwise be a legal block on a ball in upward flight. In the second scenario (pinning the ball to the backboard after it hits it) the defender is not permitted to take the away the opportunity to score.

Here is an example of goaltending, where the defensive player pins the ball after the it has hit the backboard.

Why is it that some defenders in the Restricted Area are called for a blocking foul when run into by an offensive player driving to the basket, while other defenders are able to draw an offensive foul on the same exact play?
-- Emily in Arizona

Bernie's Answer: The Restricted Area only applies to "Secondary" defenders -- defensive players who are not actively guarding the offensive player with the ball.

A secondary defender cannot be in the Restricted Area when a drive starts outside the lower defensive box (the area between the 3-foot posted-up marks, the bottom tip of the foul circle, and the endline) for the purpose of drawing an offensive foul. However, the offensive player's Primary defender may draw an offensive foul no matter where he is positioned at the time of contact. (On a fastbreak, all defenders are considered Secondary.)

Even if he is in the Restricted Area, a Secondary Defender will not be called for a blocking foul if contact is made while he is alighting vertically in an attempt to block the shot, or if the drive starts inside the lower defensive box.

Offensive fouls can also be whistled, even if contact is made with a Secondary Defender inside the Restricted Area, if the offensive player leads with an unnatural knee or foot.

In this first play, the offensive player's drive begins inside the lower defensive box and so the Restricted Area rule does not apply and the play is judged just like any other block/charge play.

In this second clip, the play is a fastbreak so all defenders are considered Secondary. The offensive player's drive starts outside the lower defensive box, so this is ruled a blocking foul as the defender was inside the Restricted Area.

photoJaylen Brown's Roll in Boston
Kristen Ledlow, Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg discuss Jaylen Brown's role with the Boston Celtics.
photoHow will Jakob Poeltl Mesh with Raptors
Kristen Ledlow, Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg talk about how Jakob Poeltl will mesh with the current Raptors bigs.
photoLakers Land Ingram at No. 2
Matt Winer, Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg discuss second overall pick Brandon Ingram's potential impact on the Lakers.
photoSpurs Draft Washington's Murray
Matt Winer, Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg discuss the Spurs' first round selection, Washington guard Dejounte Murray.
photoDunn Lands in Minnesota
Matt Winer, Steve Smith and Clark Kellogg discuss Kris Dunn landing in Minnesota at number five.

Copyright © NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved. No portion of may be duplicated, redistributed or manipulated in any form. By accessing any information beyond this page, you agree to abide by the Privacy Policy / Your California Privacy Rights and Terms of Use. | Ad Choices Ad Choices is part of Turner Sports Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network.