NBA Referee Instant Replay Trigger Outline

  1. Review of Last Second Field Goals

    Since the 2002-03 season, referees have reviewed all made shots that clear the net with no time remaining on the clock (0:00). This is an automatic trigger and referees are required to conduct the review regardless of score.

    During the review, referees use video to confirm, if they can, whether the game clock expired before the ball left the shooter's hand.

    If referees confirm the shot was made in time (or have no conclusive video to overturn their on-court ruling), referees also look to confirm:

    • Whether the shot was a two- or three-point attempt, or
    • Whether the shooter committed a boundary line violation or the ball touched an out-of-bounds area, such as the stanchion, prior to entering the basket. If it did, the goal would be disallowed.

    If the shot was not made in time, referees will still try to determine if any of the following occurred before the ball left the shooter's hand and adjust the shot and game clocks accordingly:

    • The shooter stepped on a boundary line,
    • The 24-second clock expired,
    • There was an 8-second backcourt violation, or
    • A player or players committed an unsportsmanlike act or unnecessary contact.

    Exception: Instant replay is not used in cases where the made basket followed a throw-in, free throw attempt or jump ball started with 0.2 or 0.1 on the game clock because players can only tip the ball in those situations according to the Comments on the Rules, Section II L.

  2. Review of Last Second Fouls

    Since the 2002-03 season, referees have reviewed all called fouls that occur with no time remaining on the clock (0:00). This is an automatic trigger and referees are required to conduct the review regardless of score.

    During the review, referees use video to confirm, if they can, whether the game clock expired before the foul occurred.

    If the foul is committed on or by a player in the act of shooting, referees will also determine whether the shooter released the ball prior to the expiration of time on the game clock if the foul occurred after the expiration of time.

    The officials may also review the video to determine the following:

    • Whether the shooter fouled was attempting a 2-point or 3-point field goal.
    • Whether a player fouled committed a boundary line violation prior to the foul.
    • Whether the 24-second clock expired before the foul occurred.
    • Whether an 8-second backcourt violation occurred before the player was fouled.
    • Whether any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.
  3. Review of Flagrant Fouls

    Since the 2012-13 season, referees have reviewed all Flagrant Foul calls any time a flagrant foul call is made. (Prior to this, since 2007-08, referees would call either a Flagrant Foul 1 or 2 on the floor and review only Flagrant 2 calls.) This is an automatic trigger and referees are required to conduct the review regardless of score and time remaining.

    The definition for a flagrant foul is:

    • Flagrant Foul Penalty 1: Unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent
    • Flagrant Foul Penalty 2: Unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent

    When a flagrant foul call is made, referees conduct a review and consider the following:

    • The severity of the contact,
    • Whether or not the player was making a legitimate basketball play,
    • Whether, on a foul committed with a player's arm or hand, the fouling player wound up and/or followed through after making contact,
    • The potential for injury resulting from contact (e.g., a blow to the head and a foul committed while a player is in a vulnerable position),
    • The severity of any injury suffered by the offended player, and
    • The outcome of the contact (e.g., whether it led to an altercation).

    The officials can also review whether any other players committed unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact immediately prior to and/or immediately following the calling of the Flagrant Foul.

    Based on their review and the criteria, they will assess the appropriate penalty:

    • Flagrant Foul 1 or 2
    • Foul, but not flagrant, or
    • Technical Foul

    Both flagrant fouls carry a penalty of two free throws and the team that was fouled retains possession. An FF2 also results in the ejection of the player committing the foul (a player who commits two FF1's in the same game is also ejected).

  4. Review of Player Altercations

    Since the 2007-08 season, referees have reviewed all Player Altercations, which for replay purposes means any situation where:

    • Two or more players are engaged in a fight or a hostile physical interaction that is not part of normal basketball play and that does not immediately resolve by itself or with the intervention of game officials or players, or
    • A player is ejected from the game for committing a hostile act against another player, for example, when a player intentionally or recklessly harms or attempts to harm another player with a punch, elbow, kick or blow to the head.

    This is an automatic trigger and referees are required to conduct the review regardless of score or time remaining.

    During the review, referees use video to determine only the identity and level of involvement of all players engaged in the altercation, and the appropriate penalty to be assessed on each such player.

  5. Review of Clock Malfunctions

    Since the 2008-09 season, referees have reviewed all plays in which they have reasonable certainty the game clock malfunctioned and it continued to run to 0:00 or should have run to 0:00.

    If referees are reasonably certain there was a clock malfunction in this situation, they use video in an attempt to determine the amount of time (if any) that should be on the game clock.

    If there was a successful field goal on the play, they will also try to determine if the shot left the shooter's hand before the expiration of actual time.

    If time is added to the game clock, they also try to determine:

    • If a team should have possession, either because it had possession before the expiration of actual time or because a successful shot cleared the net with actual time left, or
    • If no team had possession, in which case, the ball will be jumped at center circle between any two opponents in the game

    The officials may also try to determine whether:

    • A successful basket was a 2 point or 3-point field goal,
    • A fouled shooter was attempting a 2-point or 3-point field goal,
    • A fouled shooter or player committed a boundary line violation,
    • There was a 24-second violation before a shot or the expiration of actual time, or
    • Any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

  6. Review of Two-Point/Three-Point Field Goal Attempts or Fouls

    Since the 2008-09 season, referees have reviewed all situations in which officials are not reasonably certain whether a successful field goal was scored correctly as a 2-point or 3-point field goal or, in the case of a called shooting foul, whether the player was attempting a 2-point or 3-point field goal.

    In the case of a possible foul, the review takes place immediately before the free-throw attempts so referees know how many shots to award.

    But when referees use replay to determine the correct scoring of a made basket, they wait to conduct the replay in most situations. This decision was made by the Competition Committee and Board of Governors' to lessen the impact of frequent stoppages, including stoppages that might disadvantage the new offensive team after a made field goal.

    • If the field goal occurred prior to the third full timeout in the fourth period, the review takes place at the next full timeout or period break following the basket.
    • If the field goal occurred after the third full timeout in the fourth period or in overtime, the review takes place at the next clock stoppage, including when the clock stops after made baskets in the last two minutes.

    When conducting the review, referees will also try to determine if:

    • The shooter committed a boundary line violation at the moment he last touched the floor immediately prior to releasing the ball or the ball touched out-of-bounds (e.g., hitting the shot clock) prior to entering the basket,
    • In the case of a foul, whether the fouled player committed a boundary line violation,
    • A 24-second violation occurred, and
    • Any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

  7. Review of Out-of-Bounds Plays

    Since the 2009-10 season, referees have reviewed any out-of-bounds play that occurs in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and during overtime when they are not reasonably certain as to which player caused the ball to go out-of-bounds.

    Referees can only initiate a review on a called out-of-bounds play (for example, not one where an out-of-bounds might have occurred) and only those involving doubt as to which player caused the ball to go out (not those, for example, where a player stepped on the line).

    In addition to determining which player caused the ball to go out-of-bounds, referees also look to confirm whether:

    • The game clock expired before the ball went out-of-bounds or the amount of time to put on the clock,
    • A 24-second violation occurred before the ball went out-of-bounds,
    • An 8-second backcourt violation occurred before the ball went out of bounds, or
    • Any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

  8. Review of Shot-Clock Violations

    Since the 2009-10 season, referees have reviewed plays in which they were not reasonably certain whether or not a 24-second violation occurred on a made basket or prior to a foul being called. (Note that 24-second clock resets are covered in Review of Shot Clock Reset here.)

    When referees are not reasonably certain if a 24-secon violation occurred before a made basket or a foul, they use replay to determine whether the 24-second clock expired:

    • Before or after the ball left the shooter's hand.
    • Before or after the illegal contact occurred (if before, 24-second violation is called and no foul).

    In the case of a foul, the review takes place immediately so referees can determine if a foul or 24-second violation is the right call.

    But when referees use replay to determine whether a basket should be scored, they wait to conduct the replay in most situations. This decision was made by the Competition Committee and Board of Governors' to lessen the impact of frequent stoppages, including stoppages that might disadvantage the new offensive team after a made field goal.

    • If the field goal occurred prior to the third full timeout in the fourth period, the review takes place at the next full timeout or period break following the basket.
    • If the field goal occurred after the third full timeout in the fourth period or in overtime, the review takes place at the next clock stoppage, including when the clock stops after made baskets in the last two minutes.

    In terms of timing,

    During their replay review, referees may also use replay to determine whether:

    • The a fouled shooter was attempting a 2- or 3-point field goal,
    • The a fouled player committed a boundary line violation,
    • The ball went out-of-bounds before the basket was made, or
    • Whether any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

  9. Review of Clear-Path-To-The Basket-Fouls:

    Since the 2010-11 season, officials can use replay if they are not reasonably certain that a called clear-path-to-the-basket foul (clear-path foul) actually met all of the criteria of the rule.

    When conducting a replay of a clear-path foul call, referees attempt to confirm that each of the following criteria was met:
    • The ball and an offensive player were positioned between the tip-off-circle extended in the backcourt and the basket in the frontcourt,
    • There was no defender between the ball and the basket,
    • There was no defender ahead of the player being fouled with the opportunity to position himself between the ball and the basket,
    • The defender who committed the foul against the player with the ball was not ahead of him at any time after he entered the frontcourt, and
    • The foul denied the offensive team an opportunity to score

    If each of the above was met, the clear-path foul stands. While this seems straightforward, there are some other things that referees must consider:

    • If any defender (including a defender not involved with the foul) is ahead of the player with the ball being fouled at the time of the foul, the clear-path foul would be overturned if referees deem that defender could have obtained a position between the ball and the basket had the play continued;
    • If a defensive player is ahead of a driving offensive player when he enters the frontcourt (one foot in), but then he gets beat and fouls the player from behind or the side, the clear-path foul will be overturned even though he wasn't between the offensive player and the basket at the time of the foul; and
    • If an offensive player is between the tip-off-circle in the backcourt and the basket in the frontcourt, and passes the ball to a teammate ahead of him, and is then fouled with no defender between him and the basket, a clear-path foul is called even though he no longer has the ball (provided the timing of the call deprives the offensive team from scoring).

    When conducting the review, referees also look to determine whether:

    • The play originated in the backcourt, including throw-ins,
    • The offensive team had possession of the ball,
    • The foul was committed prior to the offensive player starting his shooting motion, and
    • Any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

    The penalty for a clear-path foul is two free throws and possession.

  10. Review of Correct Free Throw Shooter

    Since the 2010-11 season, referees have used replay when they are not reasonably certain which player should attempt free throws on a called foul.

    When they conduct their review, referees do not review video to determine which player committed the foul or whether a foul was warranted; they only seek to determine which player was fouled.

    When conducting the review, referees also look to determine whether:

    • The fouled shooter was attempting a 2-point or 3-point field goal,
    • The fouled player committed a boundary line violation prior to the foul,
    • The 24-second clock expired before the foul occurred,
    • An 8-second backcourt violation occurred before the player was fouled, or
    • Any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

    The review must take place prior to the first free throw being released.

  11. Review of 24-Second Shot Clock Reset

    Since the 2010-11 season, officials have reviewed situations where they were not reasonably certain whether the ball actually touched the rim and are therefore unsure if the shot clock was (or was not) reset properly.

    This type of replay is only conducted in the last two minutes of the 4th period and during all of overtime.

    If the game clock was stopped after the missed attempt (e.g., the ball goes out of bounds or a quick made shot), the review will take place immediately.

    However, if the game clock does not stop after the missed attempt (e.g., an offensive player rebounds the ball and then passes the ball out), officials will stop play during the first pause in action prior or any change of possession.

    When conducting their review, referees will attempt to confirm whether or not the ball hit the rim, and based on that determination, adjust the game and shot clocks, score and possession according to the following:

    • On successful field goals, referees will determine whether the field goal was released prior to the expiration of 24 seconds.
    • On a foul call, referees determine whether the foul occurred prior to the expiration of 24 seconds or, in the case of a foul on a player in the act of shooting, whether the shot was released prior to the expiration of 24 seconds.
      • (EXCEPTION: Flagrant fouls and unsportsmanlike acts and points scored associated with them will not be nullified.)
    • On plays where the defensive team caused the ball to go out-of-bounds or they committed a violation, referees determine how much time should be on the shot clock or if a 24-second violation should be assessed.
    • On plays where neither team had possession of the ball when referees went to review, and the referees determine that the ball hit the rim (no 24-second violation), then play will resume with a jump ball at center court between any two players in the game.

  12. Restricted Area Block/Charge Review

    Since the 2012-13 season, referees have reviewed all block/charge calls when they are not reasonably certain as to whether the defender was inside or outside of the restricted area. For more information about what constitutes a block or a charge, click here). Restricted area replays are conducted only during the last two minutes of the fourth period and during all of overtime.

    When conducting their review, referees attempt to confirm or overturn their original call.

    The call is deemed a block if referees deem the defender was:

    • Not in a legal guarding position, or
    • In a legal guarding position, but inside the restricted area
    • The call is deemed a charge if the defender was in a legal guarding position and outside the restricted area.
    • Referees also determine if any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

  13. Goaltending/Basket Interference Review

    Since the 2012-13 season, referees have reviewed situations in which they are not reasonably certain whether a goaltending or basket interference violation was called correctly during the last two minutes of the fourth period and during all of overtime.

    Possible goaltending violations that were not called are not reviewable.

    Goaltending is confirmed when a player (offense or defense) touches the ball on a shot:

    1. After it reaches its apex (its highest point) and is on a downward flight toward the basket with a reasonable chance to go in;
    2. After it hits the backboard and is headed toward the basket, whether going up or down, with a reasonable chance to go in;
    3. When it is in contact with the backboard, i.e., a player may not "trap" the ball (a batted ball against the backboard is not a trapped ball);
    4. Once it has touched the rim and is either using the rim as its base or has bounced off the rim and is in the imaginary cylinder above the rim. (Note, a ball that is rolling off the rim may be touched, even if it is still in contact with the rim because it has no chance to go in); and
    5. Generally, touch or vibrate the rim, backboard or net in a way that affects a shot attempt

    When conducting the review, referees also look to determine whether:

    • The shooter committed a boundary line violation prior to the goaltending or basket interference violation,
    • An 8-second backcourt violation occurred before the goaltending or basket interference violation, or
    • Any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

  14. Off-Ball Foul Timing Review

    Since the 2013-14 season, referees have used video to review situations in which they are not reasonably certain whether a player without the ball was fouled prior to (a) his teammate beginning his shooting motion on a successful basket or (b) his teammate releasing the ball on a throw-in.

    If an instant replay review is triggered as described in (a) or (b), the referees would review the video to determine:

    • Whether the 24-second clock expired before the foul occurred.
    • Whether an 8-second backcourt violation occurred before the player was fouled.
    • Whether any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact occurred.

    Delay of Game

    A delay-of-game penalty is called whenever a player or team commits an act that causes a postponement or interruption in play, whether or not the delay results in an unfair advantage.

    The first time in a game when a player or team commits a delay-of-game violation, the team is assessed a delay-of-game warning. The second delay violation results in a technical foul.

    Delay-of-Game situations are:

    • Preventing the ball from being promptly put into play.
    • Interfering with the ball after a successful field goal or free throw.
    • Failing to immediately pass the ball to the nearest official when a personal foul or violation is assessed.
    • Touching the ball before the throw-in has been released.
    • A defender crossing the boundary line prior to the ball being released on a throw-in.
    • A team preventing play from commencing at any time.
    • Any player, coach or trainer interfering with a ball which has crossed the boundary line (Rule 8 Section II e)
    • A player entering the game when beckoned by an official with his shirt untucked.

    Any act that results in a second delay-of-game offense will result in a technical foul regardless of the act that resulted in the first warning. For example, a team would be assessed a delay-of-game technical for interfering with the ball as note above following an earlier delay-of-game warning issued because they failed to exit their huddle during a timeout.

    For the 2013-14 season, the Competition Committee decided to more strictly interpret a player preventing the ball from being promptly put into play (Rule 12 II a (2)) in an effort to eliminate any advantage gained by delaying an inbound.

    Under this interpretation, contact (and in particular, hand contact) with the ball after a made basket by new defensive players that is accidental or unavoidable will not be deemed to delay the game, provided that players do not hold the ball or otherwise redirect it. However, if new defensive players either seek contact with the ball or, when the contact is accidental, hold or redirect the ball in some way a delay penalty will be assessed.