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Q: Puzzled about basketball fouls ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Puzzled about basketball fouls
Category: Sports and Recreation
Asked by: fishpond-ga
List Price: $4.00
Posted: 06 Jun 2002 20:23 PDT
Expires: 13 Jun 2002 20:23 PDT
Question ID: 23448
I enjoy watching the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs.

But , the question has occurred to me:  Do officials and refs call
every foul they see?

( Incidentally, I believe that NBA officials and refs are honest,
fair, and professional.  I'm not questioning their integrity or
ability. )

If officials and refs called every foul they noticed, wouldn't that
lead to a constant parade, back and forth, to the free throw line?

I've never been involved in officiating, at any level.  That's why I'm

Thank you, to whomever answers (or comments).
Subject: Re: Puzzled about basketball fouls
Answered By: weisstho-ga on 06 Jun 2002 21:28 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello, Fishpond!

I think you are right on the money . . . calling every possible
violation in a basketball game would slow the game considerably, make
the game one of outside shooting, and cause millions of people to grab
their remote controls and look for animal planet (which I love by the
way :o)  or some other more exciting site.

On a personal note, years back when I was a basketball official (high
school and college) we were taught that it was best for all concerned
to let the play develop - to permit the natural movements in the game.
The official should blend into the background and not be the dominant
force out on the floor. The trick, they said, was to develop a
consistent line and technique, a line that should not be crossed, but
a line where on the one side, the kids could play ball, but on the
other side, were not creating an unfair disadvantage that prevented
the fair play of the game.

On a more "official" note (don't pardon the pun):

Trainers of officials teach a number of useful techniques. One example
is the "Advantage/Disadvantage" doctrine which can be defined as "The
ability to apply a rule based on the circumstances of each situation."
Here is an example: In a basketball game, a player from Team B drives
to the basket and is brushed by a defensive player. The minor contact
does not cause the Team B player to lose control of the ball or to
lose his balance. The player shoots a lay-up and scores. Because the
contact was minimal and did not affect the play, the official applied
the advantage/disadvantage principle and allowed the game to continue.
This is good officiating.

Another example is "Preventive Officiating."  The folks at use an example where, early in the game, there
might be a frequent violation of a rule (say, a three second
violation) and they point out that the official, rather than slowing
the game by calling a number of violations, might consider talking to
the players and informing them to get out of the lane. If they fail to
listen to your advice - whistle 'em.

In the NBA, the game officials are the crew chief and two referees.
They are assisted by an official scorer and two trained timers.  The
rules for the NBA and the NCAA can be found here (they are very

I think you'll enjoy these:  Krantz's Laws for Basketball Officials
(Example:  TRAVERS' RULE #2: Don't screw the defense. There is an
awful lot that a defensive man can do legally before he is charged
with a foul. Do not give the offense an unfair advantage.)

There is an interesting statistical profile contained at for each of the NBA

Enjoy the playoffs. They say that basketball officiating is the
toughest kind of officiating there is. It is so fast - and the play so
furious. And at the NBA and NCAA Div I level the play is so physical
under the basket. Those "zebras" earn their money!

Please let me know if you would like any clarification on any specific
aspects. I will be glad to chime back in!!


Search tools:
fishpond-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Hello weisstho,

Your comments were insightful, and have helped me to understand that
aspect of the game better.

Subject: Re: Puzzled about basketball fouls
From: seedy-ga on 06 Jun 2002 22:14 PDT
At the NBA level you have the referees at 6' and slightly higher
trying to see violations by players who are considerably taller. 
Although the rules regarding palming the ball are still written in the
rules, they are not inforced by the officials since Earl The Pearl
Monroe seemed to change the game with his palm/dribble so many years
ago. I have a solution.  Give each team 25 fouls to call during the
whole game.  The team can call them without retribution for any sensed
infraction.  All 25 fouls would be shooting fouls all being 1 and 1. 
When the team runs out of fouls to call, it turns into a rugby
match....The referees would continue to call the 3 point basket
validity, three second violations, walking, out of bounds, techicals
violations, and FRAGRANT fouls which would be automatically a 3 shot
foul.....The teams would be hesitant to call minor transgressions and
it would put a premium on good foul shooting....due to the 1 and
1....I bet the games would gain finesse except at the end.....

Only my opinion which isn't worth much...

Subject: Re: Puzzled about basketball fouls
From: jhp24-ga on 14 Jun 2002 06:34 PDT
Interesting to note former Knicks' coach Jeff Van Gundy's technique
during the NBA playoffs a couple of years back. He often had his
players play extremely rough towards the beginning of the game,
sensitizing the officials to a very rough nature of play. As the game
progressed, he basically manipulated the officials by toning down the
physicality a bunch of notches (but still was physical enough that in
a normal game, the officials would call the violations). Therefore, in
the later stages when the game was on the line, the refs would not
call as much and the Knicks could get away with a lot. Actually this
strategy was very psychological in nature, presenting an excess
stimulus to sensitize the subject and then toning down the stimulus so
it is barely detected.

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