What is the “Kick Ball” Rule in Basketball?

The kick ball rule pops up once or twice a week during the NBA regular season. More often than not, the violation is unintentional and the game goes on. While the occurrences are rare, it’s still beneficial to understand the rule all the same.

Like every other call during an NBA regulation game, it is completely to the discretion of the referee. Which actually makes this violation quite complicated, since a big part of the ruling lies with the action being intentional, other than accidental.

That being said, do yourself the favor and take a read through of the official rules on kick ball to deepen your understanding of the beautiful game of ball.

What is the Official NBA “Kick Ball” Rule in Basketball?

If we’re being technical there is no “kick ball” rule in the NBA, it is actually under a section titled “Strike the Ball.” Since the same rule applies to a punch, striking the ball with a fist, as it does to kicking a ball.

In the official NBA Rule Book (pdf), Rule No. 10 VIOLATIONS and PENALTIES, Section IV STRIKE the BALL states:

  1. A player shall not kick the ball or strike it with the fist.
  2. Kicking the ball or striking it with any part of the leg is a violation when it is an intentional act. The ball accidentally striking the foot, the leg or fist is not a violation. A player may not use any part of his leg to intentionally move or secure the ball.

As you can see in sub-section b, “The ball accidentally striking the foot, the leg or fist is not a violation.” This is completely to the referee’s discretion on what he deems intentional and accidental.

What is the Penalty for a “Kick Ball” in the NBA?

It is important to note that a kick ball is a violation, not a foul. Meaning a call for this violation would not count toward a player’s personal foul count or the team foul count. Meaning that free-throws can’t be taken for a kick ball violation, nor can a player be ejected for it.

As stated in the official NBA Rule Book, Rule No. 10 VIOLATIONS and PENALTIES, Section IV STRIKE the BALL, sub-section Penalty:

  1. If the violation is by the offense, the ball is awarded to the opposing team on the sideline nearest the spot of the violation but no nearer to the baseline than the free throw line extended.
  2. If the violation is by the defense while the ball is in play, the offensive team retains possession of the ball on the sideline nearest the spot of the violation but no nearer the baseline than the foul line extended.
  3. If the violation occurs during a throw-in, the opposing team retains possession at the spot of the original throw-in with all privileges, if any.

Let’s break this down a bit. A kick ball violation will always result in the possession of the team opposite of the team who committed the violation. Play will be stopped and the team awarded the ball will in-bound the ball at the spot of the foul.

Unless the team awarded the ball was originally on offense, in this case the ball cannot be in-bounded anywhere closer to the basket than the free throw line. Although, if the team awarded the ball was already in-bounding, they will take the spot of the original throw-in.

What is the Penalty for a “Kick Ball” in other Basketball Leagues?

WNBA

The WNBA rules on kick ball/strike ball appear identical in the OFFICIAL RULES OF THE WOMEN’S NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION 2018 as it does in the NBA counterpart.

FIBA

The governing body of basketball at the Olympics and the basketball World Cup (a.k.a FIBA World Cup), International Basketball Federation has its own version of a kick ball.

As stated in the Official Basketball Rules 2018, Art. 13 How the ball is played:

13.2 Rule

A player shall not run with the ball, deliberately kick or block it with any part of the leg or strike it with the fist. However, to accidentally come into contact with or touch the ball with any part of the leg is not a violation.
An infraction of Art. 13.2 is a violation.

In FIBA the penalty for a violation is as follows, Art. 22 Violations:

22.2 Penalty

The ball shall be awarded to the opponents for a throw-in from the place nearest to the infraction, except directly behind the backboard, unless otherwise stated in these rules.

NCAA

Similar to the NBA and FIBA, NCAA considers a kick ball a violation rather than a foul. The ruling can be found in the 2019-20 NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL RULES, Rule 9 Violations and Penalties, Section 6. Kick, Fist, Through Basket from Below:

Art. 1. It is a violation when a player intentionally kicks the ball, strikes it with the fist or causes it to pass through the basket and enter the cylinder from below. (See Rule 9-15.2.b)

Art. 2. Kicking the ball is striking it intentionally with any part of the leg or the foot. Accidentally striking the ball with the foot or leg shall not be a Violation.

The same ruling appears in the 2019 & 2020 NCAA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL RULES.

Final Words

When it comes to basketball, knowledge is an advantage. Whether it is in strategy, technique, or the rules. By having more complete knowledge of the game, you can work around it with finesse and express your game to its fullest.

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