How Many Steps Can You Take in Basketball?

Basketball is a game of set rules, and those rules help shape the sport as a whole. Most are clear cut and easy to follow, but there are a few that have a bit more nuance. More specifically, the rules based around traveling and how many steps players are able to take. 

To help clear up those nebulous regulations, the following guide covers exactly how much a player can walk in a game of basketball. That better shed light on the sport, as well as illuminate one of the more interesting rules in the sport.

A Short Walk

To go over the number of steps a player gets in basketball, it’s first important to understand the concept of traveling. In basketball, anyone moving with the ball must be dribbling (bouncing the ball off the court). If they don’t do that, either by walking or running, they get called for a travel.

That seems fairly straightforward. If a player has the ball and wants to move, they need to dribble. However, that’s not always true. There is an exception that states the player with the ball gets two steps after picking up their dribble in order to pass or shoot.

One More Move

The extra steps are important because they create wiggle room. A player can drive into the lane, pick up their dribble, and still use their steps in order to find an open man or finish off a tricky layup. It allows for the offense to get more creative, and cuts down on turnovers.

The other reason the rule is so important is that it helps create a flow. Basketball is a back-and-forth game that wants to limit stops as much as possible. The more baskets that are made, the better that flow becomes. The two steps help make that happen.

Just note that those two steps only apply to players who stop dribbling in order to go into a pass or a shot. If an athlete finishes dribbling and then simply takes two steps, or if they take a step or two before starting a dribble, it counts as a travel and isn’t allowed.

The “two step rule” only exists when the player is already in motion. In any other instance, if the ball handler moves without dribbling, it’s a violation and leads to a turnover.

The only discrepancy to that is in FIBA. There, players are able to take one “gather step” before going into their two true steps. In that way, they get three steps that can only be used in very specific situations.

More than Enough

Two steps might seem low, but they get more and more useful the further up the chain you go. Where a high school player might only use those two steps on finishing a tricky layup, a much bigger NBA player can use them to get all the way from the three-point line to the rim.

It all depends on the size of the athlete, as well as how well they can move while taking two steps. In college and the NBA, two steps might as well be the entire key. That only furthers how useful the extra time is at creating a play or finding an alternative way to the basket.

Final Words

Traveling is one of the most unique rules in basketball. The violation is rarely ever called, and it only comes up in obvious situations. That’s because players understand how many steps they get, and how to use them to their advantage. They get two, and they make the most of them.

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