What Happens if Basketball Gets Stuck on the Rim?

For the most part, there aren’t too many surprises in basketball. The game has a quick flow, which creates its fun pacing, and most contests continue in a set. However, some strange situations do come up every now and then. This guide breaks down one of the most unusual.

The following paragraphs cover what exactly happens in the strange event that the ball gets stuck on the rim during a game. This guide looks at all aspects of the occurrence, including why it happens, when it happens, and exactly how often it comes about.

Not Going Anywhere

Though it’s an extremely rare occurrence, the basketball can get stuck on the rim from time to time. For reference, that refers to when the ball either sits up on the back of the rim and doesn’t fall down, or when it gets wedged between the rim and backboard and won’t move.

In either case, play immediately stops. Even if players can jump up and knock the ball out, that’s not allowed. In fact, if someone were to jump up and knock the ball out before the referee blew a whistle it would go down as either basket interference or goaltending.

Rather, the ball has to be unstuck in some way. Players have to wait for a whistle once the ball gets stuck. That’s normal protocol, and it’s how most players react. Sometimes they can get too eager, but that rarely ever happens.

The only exception to that rule is when the ball gets stuck on the rim during a buzzer-beater attempt. As exhibited by Kawhi Leonard during a contest against the Hornets, the ball goes down as a missed shot and, per the rules, the game ends. You can watch this video for more.

That’s because the officials don’t roll back the clock. Time goes off while the ball is in the air, and then counts down as the ball misses. Once it gets stuck, the referees take it to center court and hold a jump ball. As soon as a player touches the ball, time runs out.

Live vs. Dead Balls

When looking at the NBA rulebook, a ball getting stuck on the rim follows the live and dead ball rules. That means that it results in a jump ball between any two opposing players, both of whom are appointed by their team.

There are ten different scenarios that result in such a situation. The first ones are at the start of a game, the start of any overtime period, a double free throw violation, or a double foul during a loose ball.

Jumps can also come about from a double foul that occurs when two referees have a difference in opinion on what team should be punished, a fighting foul that occurs during a loose ball, or if the officials are not sure who last touched the ball and the replay is inconclusive. 

In any case, once the ball is stuck and ruled dead, play resumes in a specific way depending on level and league. In the NBA, the ball is taken to the top of the key and a jump ball between both teams is conducted at the free throw line.

For both highschool and college, while the rules are the same about the dead ball, there’s no actual jump. Rather, the possession arrow simply switches to whoever gets the ball next. In FIBA, it just leads to a change of possession.

Quite a Rare Occurrence

As mentioned, a basketball getting stuck on the rim doesn’t happen all of the time. In fact, it occurs much less than once a game. According to groups that count stuck balls throughout the season, there are roughly 50 or so such instances each season.

Putting that into numbers, there are a total of 2,460 games a season, and those games have hundreds of shot attempts. That means it occurs in roughly two percent of contests.

It can happen more than that, but it’s not something that most players will see a lot. That’s because there are a few specific circumstances that need to occur for the ball to get stuck at all.

First, close shots almost never get stuck. Rather, it only happens when the ball is shot 12 or more feet from the basket. On top of that, the ball then needs to get stuck at the exact space between the backboard at the rim. Anywhere else, it will simply bounce away.

The ball can also get stuck on the small flat piece of metal between the rim and the backboard. That almost never happens, but it still counts as a dead ball that follows the normal rules.

Final Words

While it’s rare for a basketball to get stuck on the rim, it does happen. The strange event causes a dead ball in the NBA, and in some leagues it’s a change of possession. It might not be something that comes up a lot, but it’s helpful to understand to better know the game as a whole.

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