What is a Flagrant Foul in Basketball?

Basketball is a tough sport. There are plenty of fouls that occur throughout every game, and they can stack up extremely quickly. However, not all infractions are created equal. Some fouls are much more severe than others.

This article looks at flagrant fouls to show one of the more extreme ends of the spectrum. Seeing how they are called, why they’re in place, and the rules behind them, will provide a better understanding of the game as a whole.

Common and Technical Fouls

Before getting into flagrants, it’s first important to cover what they are not. There are three general foul categories in basketball: common, flagrant, and technical. All of those are penalties, but their severity, punishment, and reasoning are all different.

Common fouls refers to anything that gets called on the court without being too severe. That includes things like blocking, charges, reaching, shooting fouls, and moving screens. Such penalties typically lead to free throws or a change in possession, but never both.

Common fouls are the least severe of any fouls. Not only do they happen quite a bit over the course of play, but players are able to accrue six in a game before they get ejected. That’s not necessarily true with technicals or flagrants.

In contrast, technical fouls get handed out when a player violates the spirit of the game. While these can be violent in nature, such as hitting an opposing player, they don’t have to be.

Anything that interrupts the game, including throwing the basketball or yelling at a referee, can lead to a technical foul. Unlike common fouls, which only result in either free throws or a change in possession, technical fouls cause two free throws and the shooting team keeps possession.

Flagrants 1 and 2s

While technical fouls come with severe penalties, they aren’t quite as bad as flagrants. Flagrant fouls are common fouls that involve excessive or violent contact which can injure or seriously harm the fouled player. That includes body slams and undercuts.

Such fouls can be done intentionally or unintentionally, and they come with the same penalty as technical fouls (two free throws and possession). However, where they differ is in their severity. Flagrant fouls tend to be much more aggressive.

The NBA splits flagrants up into two categories. A Flagrant 1 (also known as a Flagrant Penalty 1) occurs when a player commits unnecessary contact against an opponent. This can be anything from a particularly hard foul to a tough shove or push.

A Flagrant 2 (Flagrant Penalty 2) occurs when a player commits unnecessary contact that would normally be deemed a flagrant 1, but does so in a way that’s excessive. A Flagrant 2 also calls for an immediate ejection. A player who commits two Flagrant 1’s in a game is also ejected.

The refs determine what type a flagrant is by breaking down how hard the foul was, where on the body a player was hit (the head being the most likely to be a flagrant), as well as any other acts that a player made before committing a foul.

That’s a long process, but an important one. Flagrants are the most severe fouls in basketball, and it’s important to review contact before making that decision.

Final Words

Flagrant fouls come in two different forms, but both are egregious in nature. That’s the reason they have multiple levels, and why the NBA takes them so seriously. They do not happen a lot, but everyone takes notice when they do. 

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