Basketball is a game of rules. So much so that it’s almost as much about what you can’t do as it is about what you can do. 

There are plenty of infractions you need to avoid when on the court. Understanding those different violations, as well as why they exist, is critical.

Throughout this article, I will explain how violations work in basketball, how they differ from fouls, as well as some of the different types you can commit. 

Only once you know what to avoid, can you work hard and learn to play as clean of a game as possible.

Defining A Violation

Before getting into specifics, it’s first important to define what a violation means in the context of the game. Basketball has several classes of illegal actions that a player cannot make. 

A violation is the lowest infraction, sitting just below basic fouls like blocking or charges.

When a violation occurs, the game stops. There is then a penalty put on the team (and player) that committed the infraction. While violations can happen to the defense from time to time, they are mostly in place to keep the offense honest.

In addition, unlike fouls, they do not typically end up in free throws for the other team. Rather, they almost always result in a turnover

There are three different types of violations that can occur in basketball, and each one gives the ball to the other team.

1. Ball-Handling Violations

When a team is on offense, they create violations by mishandling the ball. That means dribbling in an illegal way, or dribbling somewhere you shouldn’t. This category includes:

  • backcourt violations
  • carrying (also known as palming)
  • double-dribbling
  • traveling

Traveling is when you take three or more steps without dribbling, which instantly results in a turnover. Carrying/palming, which is the same category, is a form of traveling where you dribble by grabbing the ball and then turning it over in your hand before putting it on the court.

In that same vein, double dribbling occurs when you dribble in a way that causes the ball to rest in one or both of your hands before you put it back on the floor. Dribbling with two hands at any point also causes a double dribble (and as result, a turnover).

Going backcourt, the fourth ball-handling violation, happens when you bring the ball across the half-court line and then cross it again. Once you move across half court, you can no longer go backwards unless the ball is deflected back across the line by a defender.

2. Excessive Time Taken Violations

Beyond ball-handling violations, there are four different penalties related to taking excessive time. These are:

  • 3-second violation
  • 5-second rule
  • shot clock violation
  • time line violation

3-second violations can occur on both offense and defense. They happen when a player stands in the key with no one around them for three or more seconds without leaving. An offensive violation results in a turnover, where a defensive one results in a technical free throw.

The 5-second rule states a player cannot hold the ball when inbounding for more than five seconds. 

A shot clock violation happens when the shot clock runs out without the offense attempting a shot that at least hits the rim. If they airball or only hit the backboard, it’s a turnover.

A bit more obscure is the timeline violation. In NBA, an offensive team has eight seconds after inbounding the ball to get it across the half court line. If they take too long, either through defensive or lethargy, it goes to the other team.

3. The Other Type of Violations

There are two other kinds of violations, neither of which fall into the above categories. They are basket interference and goaltending. Both violations are two sides of the same coin, and they have to do with preventing a shot from going in (or out) of the basket.

Basket interference occurs when an offensive player touches the ball while it’s still above the rim in order to make it go in the basket. Goaltending happens when a defensive player touches the ball while it’s above the rim (or if it’s already hit the backboard) and makes it go out.

Interference results in a turnover, while goaltending awards the offensive team as many points as the shot would have been worth.

Final Words

Violations do not happen as often as fouls, but they are an incredibly important part of basketball. Without them, the offense would have a ton of leeway. That would then lead to even more scoring than there already is in today’s game.

By having set violations, the game speeds up. The offense has to make quicker choices, which then leads to a more entertaining product. It also raises the skill level and creates better players. Though you don’t want to commit them, violations are a key part of the entire sport.