What is a Reach-In Foul in the NBA?

Basketball is a game of rules. There are things you can do and, more importantly, there are things you can’t do.

In any game, play progresses at a steady pace. Both teams go up and down the floor trying to score on their respective baskets. However, when a team does something illegal, a foul is called and play stops.

Fouls are a common part of the sport, and they come in many forms. For instance, an offensive player running over a defensive player is a charge, while a player hitting someone’s arm while shooting is known as a shooting foul.

Though both teams commit many kinds of fouls over the course of the game, no fouls are more common than reach-ins.

A Foul that Isn’t

The first aspect of a reach-in foul is perhaps the most confusing. Many different fouls are labeled as reach-ins, but a “reach-in” does not exist within the official NBA rules. Rather, it is simply a term to describe most non-shooting fouls committed by the defense.

In basketball, there are three distinct foul types: blocking, holding, and pushing. All three occur when the defense gets in the way and makes contact with an offensive player as they dribble the ball. However, a reach-in, as it is known in today’s basketball, is a bit more specific.

Though the three main foul types can be reaching fouls, they don’t always have to be.

For instance, if a player drives to the basket and the defense shifts over and knocks them with their body it is a blocking foul that is not a reach. In the same situation, if the player shifts over and makes contact with the ball handler’s arm, it is a reach.

That may seem like a small difference, but it is important in understanding the rules of the game. A “reach-in” is a classification more than anything else. To understand that, we need to take a closer look.

The Difference in Defense

Though basketball is undoubtedly a contact sport, each player on the court is allowed a bit of personal space. That does not mean you cannot get close to someone, it simply means that you have to play defense in a way that doesn’t directly clash with their body.

When that space is crossed during shooting, you get a shooting foul. When that space is crossed while a player is dribbling, you get a reach-in foul.

Despite the name, a reach-in foul doesn’t constitute just the act of reaching in. If a defender makes a play on the ball by extending their arm, it is not a foul if they do not make contact. It is simply a defensive play.

Contact: The Bottom Line

A foul only occurs when the defender hits the ball handler. A reach-in doesn’t have to be a literal reach into or across the body. It simply occurs when contact happens.

An example of this is when an offensive player is holding the ball in what is known as the three point-stance right before they put the ball down to dribble.

If the defender tries to steal the ball, but their hand hits the handler’s arm instead, it’s a reach-in. Though that is not the same instance as trying to take the ball while a player is dribbling, it falls under the same category.

That does not mean you can’t put your hand on another player, defenders can use their forearm to get position while in the post, but it does mean you can’t swipe.

Know Your Space

Fouls are a part of basketball. Though they seem easy to understand, they are not quite as simple as many guesses.

A reach-in foul doesn’t exist in the rules. Rather, it is a way to refer to certain types of blocking, holding, and pushing fouls. That may sound odd, but once you know the different parts of the game it is easy to follow.

Playing good, hard defense is an important part of basketball. Just make sure to keep your hands to yourself.

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