Defensive three-second violation

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Defensive three-second violation, also known as illegal defense, is a basketball rules infraction. It is assessed when a member of the defending team spends more than three seconds in the free throw lane (also known as the 16-foot lane, or colloquially as "in the paint") while not actively guarding an opponent. To be considered actively guarding, a defender must be within arm's length of an opponent and in a guarding position.[1] A three second count is suspended if:[2]

In addition, a player guarding an opponent with the ball may be in the paint without actively guarding the opponent.[3]

The team committing a defensive three-second violation is assessed a team technical foul. The offense will receive one free throw and retain possession of the ball.[4]

Prior to the 2001–2002 NBA season, any form of zone defense was considered an illegal defense violation and resulted in a warning on the first violation and then a technical foul for any subsequent violations.[5] The Philippine Basketball Association used to follow the illegal defense rule until the 2003 PBA season when it was abolished and revert back its rule starting in the 2015–16 PBA season.[6] The high school game does not use this rule, nor does European basketball.

The WNBA started using it in 2013.[7]


  1. ^ NBA Official Rules (2009-2010) Rule 10, Section VII, B. Retrieved July 25, 2010
  2. ^ NBA Official Rules (2009-2010) Rule 10, Section VII, D. Retrieved July 25, 2010
  3. ^ NBA Official Rules (2009-2010) Rule 10, Section VII, E. Retrieved July 25, 2010
  4. ^ NBA Official Rules (2009-2010) Rule 10, Section VII, Penalty. Retrieved July 25, 2010
  5. ^ Blinebury, Fran (June 8, 2006). "Rule changes have NBA back in the fast lane". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved July 26, 2010. 
  6. ^ Cruz, Agnes (January 24, 2003). "PBA get fresh look this season". Arab News. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  7. ^ "WNBA Announces Rules Changes for 2013 Season". WNBA. Retrieved Dec 16, 2012.