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Out of My League: What Is A Foul?

I played basketball for several years as a kid. I was trash. I’m now trying to learn about the great game of basketball.

AAAA4357 by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Out of My League: What Is A Foul?


Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

I played basketball for several years as a kid. I was trash. Absolutely trash. Like, I was Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly bad. 

Needless, to say I never fully got into basketball. Sure, I followed the Celtics and had a love for the Big 3 and the championship they blessed us with. I, of course, had a big thing for the shoes. In fact, I loved Shawn Kemp so much that my first pair of shoes were his Kamikaze IIs. I still, to this day, look back fondly on those incredible sneakers.

I’m losing the point of this. I never got into basketball, mainly because I was absolutely horrible at it.

I could also never understand the rules.

When you hear someone shouting “That’s a foul!” at a bar or a game, that’s usually followed by me yelling “Is it? Is that a foul? IS THAT WHAT A FOUL IS?!”

I asked Matt DaSilva who put it like this:

“It’s like pornography. I know it when I see it.”

– Matt DaSilva, but also Shakespeare probably

As far as I can tell anytime you like… hit somebody… that’s a foul… right? Like if LeBron lined up a three-pointer with my fat ass guarding him and I touched his elbow trying to mess him up, that’s a foul, right? Like if I touch him, that’s a foul?

Let’s go to the rulebook. Specifically, Rule 12B, Section A.

a. A player shall not hold, push, charge into, impede the progress of an opponent by extending a hand, arm, leg or knee or by bending the body into a position that is not normal. Contact that results in the re-routing of an opponent is a foul which must be called immediately.

b. Contact initiated by the defensive player guarding a player with the ball is not legal. This contact includes, but is not limited to, forearm, hands, or body check. 

NBA Rulebook

Alright, so that makes sense. Don’t mess someone up. Seems fine. Like give someone room to make a play. I got it. Pedestrians have the right of way on the road and on the basketball court. Seems easy enough.

EXCEPTIONS:

NBA Rulebook

…Christ.

“EXCEPTIONS: 
(1) A defender may apply contact with a forearm to an offensive player with the ball who has his back to the basket below the free throw line extend-ed outside the Lower Defensive Box. 
(2) A defender may apply contact with a forearm and/or one hand with a bent elbow to an offensive player in a post-up position with the ball in the Lower Defensive Box. 
(3) A defender may apply contact with a forearm to an offensive player with the ball at any time in the Lower Defensive Box. The forearm in the above exceptions is solely for the purpose of main-taining a defensive position. 
(4) A defender may position his leg between the legs of an offensive player in a post-up position in the Lower Defensive Box for the purpose of main-taining defensive position. If his foot leaves the floor in an attempt to dis-lodge his opponent, it is a foul immediately. 
(5) Incidental contact with the hand against an offensive player shall be ignored if it does not affect the player’s speed, quickness, balance and/or rhythm. 
c. Any player whose actions against an opponent cause illegal contact with yet another opponent has committed the personal foul. 
d. A personal foul committed by the offensive team during a throw-in shall be an offensive foul, regardless of whether the ball has been released. 
e. Contact which occurs on the hand of the offensive player, while that hand is in contact with the ball, is legal. 
EXCEPTION: Flagrant, elbow and punching fouls. 
PENALTIES: The offender is charged with a personal foul. The offended team is charged with a team foul if the illegal contact was caused by the defender. There is no team foul if there are personal fouls on one member of each team or the per- sonal foul is against an offensive player. The offended team is awarded: 
(1) the ball out-of-bounds on the sideline at the nearest spot where play was interrupted but no nearer to the baseline than the free throw line extend-ed if an offensive foul is assessed. 
(2) the ball out-of-bounds on the sideline where play was interrupted but no nearer to the baseline than the free throw line extended if the personal foul is on the defender and if the penalty situation is not in effect. 
(3) one free throw attempt if the personal foul is on the defender and there is a successful field goal or free throw on the play. 
(4) two/three free throw attempts if the personal foul is on the defender and the offensive player is in the act of shooting an unsuccessful field goal. 
(5) one free throw attempt plus a penalty free throw attempt if the personal foul is on the defender and the offensive player is not in the act of attempting a field goal if the penalty situation is in effect. 
(6) one free throw attempt and possession of the ball on the sideline nearest the spot where play was interrupted if an offensive player, or a teammate, is fouled while having a clear-path-to-the-basket. The ball and an offensive player must be positioned between the tip-of-circle extended in the backcourt and the basket in the frontcourt, with no defender between the ball and the basket when the personal foul occurs. There must be team control and the new play must originate in the backcourt, including throw-ins, and the offended team must be deprived of an opportunity to score an uncontested basket. 
(7) two free throw attempts if the personal foul is for illegal contact with an elbow. The elbow foul may be assessed whether the ball is dead or alive. Free throw attempts are awarded whether the ball is dead, alive, loose or away-from-the-play in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime(s). Contact must occur for an elbow foul to be assessed. It is an unsports-manlike act whether or not there is contact. (See Rule 12A–Section VII– d(6) for non-contact.) If the deliberate elbow contact is above shoulder level, the player will be ejected. If the elbow contact is shoulder level or below, the player may be ejected at the discretion of the official. In all of these situations, the official has the discretion of assessing a fla-grant foul (1) or (2). 
(8) two free throw attempts if a personal foul is committed by a defender prior to the ball being released on a throw-in. 
EXCEPTION: Rule 12B–Section X. 
(9) two free throw attempts if a personal foul is committed against an offen-sive player without the ball when his team has at least a one-man advan-tage on a fast break and the defensive player takes a foul to stop play. 

http://www.nba.com/analysis/rules_12.html?nav=ArticleListNBA Rulebook

Okay.

Okay. 

Okay.

So. 

Okay.

Here’s a question.

Incidental contact. How are we looking at that? I mean, the NFL has ruled that essentially any contact with someone who has the ball is non incidental, but purposeful. The MLB has rules that keep the players from coming in contact with the ball at all costs, unless your A-Rod and it’s 2004. 

So is that my problem? This incidental contact? That at the professional level, basketball players are trying to get away with contact by making it look incidental? Like when an offensive lineman gets called for Holding, and they’re clearly holding, and they look completely guilty when it’s called? Is it like that?

Maybe I’m overthinking this. Perhaps it’s just something I’ll get once this season’s over. Perhaps like a fine wine, over time I’ll mature enough to know what a personal foul is. 

Until then, I’m Justin Colombo, and I’m way out of my league in the NBA, but I’m gonna try to learn as much as I can.

… WAIT.

WHAT IS A BONUS?

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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