What is the 5 Second Rule/Violation in Basketball?

Not to be confused with the 10-second rule of dropping your food on the floor, the basketball 5 count is an important rule that denies the offense from holding the ball and stalling.

There are actually two different variations of the offensive 5-second violation. One used by youth leagues and the NCAA, the other is a variation of that rule utilized by the NBA. Both serve similar functions of forcing the offense to make moves with the ball.

Essentially a count is started when a ball-handler does one of the following: holds the ball; dribbles the ball; or post-ups, back to the basket. Whenever the ball-handler starts a new move, the count is restarted. Through all of these actions, the ball-handler needs to guard at least arm’s length to force the count.

This is an important rule for defenders to know and understand, as correctly playing around and enforcing a 5-second rule can result in a clutch turn over.

What is the 5-Second Rule in Basketball?

The 5-second rule in Basketball is a violation called on the ball-handler, once a player on offense receives the ball they have 5 seconds to either dribble or hold the ball. Until they have to shoot, pass, or switch from dribbling to holding the ball (and vise versa). The 5-second count will only be started if the ball-handler is being guarded by a defender.

Since there are a number of different youth basketball leagues that can have a variation of the rule, we will use the NCAA rule book as our reference. Since it is the premier amateur league in the nation.

In the rules, the 5-second call is referred to as “Closely Guarded,” and the 5-second count does not start until the ball-handler is closely guarded. The rules state that a ball-handler is considered closely guarded is the defender is within 6 feet.

It is important to note that FIBA (official rules) tournaments like the Olympics have a similar rule, also called Closely Guarded.

What is the penalty for a 5 Second Violation in Basketball?

The penalty for a 5-second violation is a change of possession, the violation is not counted towards a player’s personal foul count nor a team’s bonus count.

What is the official Closely Guarded Rule in the NCAA?

When looking through the Official NCAA Men’s Basketball Rule Book, the Closely Guarded rule can be found under Rule 9 – Violations and Penalties, as Section 14. Closely Guarded.

The rules go on to explain that the count will be restarted if the defender is continually guarding the ball-handler. And the count is broken when a player gets between the defender and the ball handler, like a screener for instance.

What is the penalty for a Closely Guarded Violation in the NCAA?

The penalty for a Closely Guarded 5-second violation in the NCAA reads as follows:

PENALTY (Section 14):
The ball shall become dead or remain dead when a violation occurs. … The ball shall be awarded to an opponent for a throw-in …

What is the Hand Signal for a 5 Second Rule Violation in Basketball?

For a 5-second rule to be called, the referee must first clearly designate they are making the count. This is done by having the referee use their whole are to extend and retract. If the ball-handler makes a move or any other reason for the count to be restarted, the referee will switch arms. Signifying they are starting a new count.

If the referee makes it to 5 on the count, they will blow the whistle and call the play dead. Then with one hand show the number five and pointing across the court to signify a change in possession.

What is the 5 Second Rule in the NBA?

The NBA 5 second violation made by the ball-handler while on offense. In the official NBA rules it is called the “Five-Second Back-to-the-Basket Violation.” The violation is called when the ball-handler turns their back to the defender and basket, then “post-up” on the defender. This rule can only be called if the ball-handler is being guarded.

There is a similar 5-second rule in the NCAA (as mentioned above). The NBA Offensive 5 Second count is only initiated when a player is posting up. While the previously mentioned youth and NCAA rule include a count when the ball-handler is being closely guarded against anywhere in the backcourt.

The 5 Second Back to the Basket violation can be found in Section XVI (16) of RULE NO. 10 – Violations and Penalties. It is currently the last violation listed, and reads as follows:

What is the penalty for a 5 Second Violation in the NBA?

PENALTY: Loss of ball. The ball is awarded to the opposing team out-of-bounds on the nearest sideline at the free-throw line extended.

The penalty does not go added to a player’s personal foul count, nor does it get added to a team’s bonus foul count. A penalty will also never result in free-throws.

What is the Hand Signal for a 5 Second Rule Violation in the NBA?

For a 5-second rule to be called, the referee must first clearly designate they are making the count. This is done by having the referee use their whole are to extend and retract. This count is usually made by the referee under the basket since they have a good view of the paint.

If the referee makes it to 5 on the count, they will blow the whistle and call the play dead. Then with one hand show the number five and pointing across the court to signify a change in possession.

Final Words

The 5-second rule is an extremely important violation to keep in mind for both sides of the ball. As a ball handler you need to keep in mind the referee’s count and initiate your move on time. For the defender they need to play upon the defender, forcing the 5 counts out by the referee.

What do you think about the traditional (NCAA) offensive 5-second rule not being enforced on the NBA? Leave a comment below if you think the NBA should implement it.

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