Flagrant foul

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In basketball, a flagrant foul is a personal foul that involves excessive or violent contact that could injure the fouled player. A flagrant foul may be unintentional or purposeful; the latter type is also called an "intentional foul" in the NBA. However, most intentional fouls are not considered flagrant and fouling intentionally is an accepted tactic to regain possession of the ball with minimal time off the game clock.


The National Basketball Association (NBA) established the flagrant foul in the 1980-81 season and enacted proper penalties for it in 1990-91,[1] to deter contact which, in addition to being against the rules, puts an opponent's safety or health at risk.

The NBA defines[2] two levels of flagrant fouls, "Flagrant 1" and "Flagrant 2". Flagrant 2 has the additional element of "excessive" violence and results in the immediate ejection of the offender. Flagrant 1 does not result in the offender's ejection unless the same player commits a second Flagrant 1 foul in the same game. Referees have discretion in determining which level to call.


Flagrant fouls over the course of the season can result in monetary fines and suspension, at the sole discretion of the Commissioner of the NBA.[2]

Game tactics[edit]

The flagrant foul rule deters undesired play by awarding possession of the ball to the offended team as an extra penalty. A simple personal foul may let the fouling team regain possession of the ball (by rebound or by award after a made free throw). However, a flagrant foul results in free throws and possession afterwards.

Toward the end of a game, when a trailing team is committing intentional fouls to regain the ball, it must be careful not to use unnecessary or excessive contact, because a foul ruled Flagrant gives no advantage to the team committing the foul.


International Basketball Federation (FIBA) basketball rules have similar fouls but use different terms.

  • FIBA's unsportsmanlike foul is comparable to a Flagrant 1. Two in one game by the same player result in automatic ejection of that player. An unsportsmanlike foul can also be called if a player fouls with no intention to play the ball (including excessive holding or shirt grabbing), as well as if a player fouls another player on a fast break from behind.
  • FIBA's disqualifying foul is comparable to a Flagrant 2 and results in immediate ejection of the offender.

The penalty for these fouls is two free throws and possession at midcourt for the team that was fouled.

United States scholastic rules[edit]

U.S. college and high school rules define a flagrant foul as a personal or technical foul that is extreme or severe.


The NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel adopted the "flagrant" term before the 2011-12 season for both men's and women's basketball.[3] However, the NCAA's women's rules committee abandoned the term "flagrant", effective with the 2017–18 season, in favor of FIBA's "unsportsmanlike" and "disqualifying" terms.[4] These fouls are counted as personal fouls and technical fouls.

  • A flagrant 1 foul (men's) or unsportsmanlike foul (women's) involves excessive or severe contact during a live ball, including especially when a player "swings an elbow and makes illegal, non-excessive contact with an opponent above the shoulders". This offense includes the former "intentional foul" of fouling an opposing player to prevent an easy breakaway score. In women's basketball only, the unsportsmanlike foul also includes contact dead-ball technical fouls. The penalty for a flagrant 1 or unsportsmanlike foul is two free throws and a throw-in for the opposing team at the out-of-bounds spot nearest the foul.
  • A flagrant 2 foul (men's) or disqualifying foul (women's) involves unsportsmanlike conduct that is extreme in nature, including "when a player swings an elbow excessively and makes contact above the shoulders", or excessive or severe contact during a dead ball (men only). Fighting is also a flagrant 2 or disqualifying foul. The penalty for a flagrant 2 or disqualifying foul is immediate ejection of the offender, plus two free throws and a throw-in for the opposing team at the division line opposite the scorer's table.

Certain conduct constitutes a flagrant foul despite not being malevolent or unsportsmanlike.[5]


In the United States, the NFHS rulebook defines flagrant fouls in Rule 10: Fouls and Penalties. The word "flagrant" itself is defined in Rule 2: Definitions; 2-16c calls it "a foul so severe or extreme that it places an opponent in danger of serious injury, and/or involves violations that are extremely or persistently vulgar or abusive conduct."

Equivalents in other sports[edit]


  1. ^ "NBA Rules History". NBA. 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  2. ^ a b "ArticleList NBA Rule No. 12: Fouls and Penalties". NBA. 2001-01-31. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  3. ^ Greg Johnson (2011-05-26). "PROP approves rules changes". NCAA. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  4. ^ "NCAA Women's Basketball Playing Rules History" (PDF). Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  5. ^ Anthony Chiusano (2017-03-17). "The flagrant foul at the end of Arkansas vs. Seton Hall explained". NCAA. Retrieved 2017-11-25.

Related reading[edit]