Foul (basketball)

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In basketball, a foul is an infraction of the rules more serious than a violation. Most fouls occur as a result of illegal personal contact with an opponent and/or unsportsmanlike behavior. Fouls can result in one or more of the following penalties:

  • The team whose player committed the foul loses possession of the ball to the other team.
  • The fouled player is awarded one or more free throws.
  • The player committing the foul "fouls out" of the game.
  • The player committing the foul is suspended from some number of subsequent games.

Some of the penalties listed above are assessed only if a player or a team commits a number of fouls above a specified limit.

Ordinary fouls are routine because of the constant motion inherent in the sport and are not viewed as bad sportsmanship. The penalty imposes a cost on violating the rules but does not disparage the player committing the foul. A player intending never to commit a foul might play so cautiously as to be ineffective. More serious fouls are regarded as bad sportsmanship, and the penalties are designed to be disciplinary.

There are several classes of foul, each enumerated below and covered in greater detail in its own article.

Classes of foul[edit]

Personal foul[edit]

A personal foul is the most common type of foul. It results from personal contact between two opposing players. Basketball features constant motion, and contact between opposing players is unavoidable, but significant contact that is the fault of illegal conduct by one opponent is a foul against that player. Most personal fouls are called against a defensive player. A personal foul that is committed by a player of the team in possession of the ball is called an offensive foul. When neither team is in clear possession of the ball, a foul is called a loose-ball foul.

Flagrant foul[edit]

A flagrant foul is violent player contact that the official believes is not a legitimate attempt to directly play the ball within the rules.

  • FIBA calls excessive or unjustified contact between opponents an unsportsmanlike foul.
  • The NBA and NCAA define a Flagrant-1 foul as unnecessary contact, and two such penalties leads to ejection of the player. A Flagrant-2 foul is contact that is both unnecessary and excessive, and requires ejection.

Technical foul[edit]

A technical foul is a foul unrelated to physical contact during game play. The foul may be called on a player in the game, another player, a coach, or against the team in general. This class of foul applies to all of the following:

  • Unsportsmanlike conduct outside the scope of the game, such as taunting, profanity, or conduct toward an official.
  • A personal foul committed by a player who has fouled out of the game but is readmitted to the game because of the lack of substitutes.
  • Illegal gamesmanship, such as delay of game.
  • A variety of other situations, such as arranging the players in an illegal defense.

In the last two cases, the rules may call for the referee to give a warning rather than assess a technical foul on the first infraction.

Other terms[edit]

A player foul is any foul, but typically personal and flagrant fouls, by reference to the count of fouls charged against a given player. A team foul is any foul by reference to the count against a given team.

For more details[edit]

An overview of the accounting of fouls (to individual players and to their team) is at Personal foul. Detailed parameters, for FIBA,[1] the NBA,[2] and college basketball,[3] are at Bonus.


  1. ^ "Official Basketball Rules 2012" (PDF). FIBA. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "RULE NO. 12-FOULS AND PENALTIES". NBA Rules. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "NCAA Basketball 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 Men's and Women's Rules" (PDF). Retrieved 25 April 2013. 

External links[edit]