What is Up and Down in Basketball?

There are many, many rules in basketball. Most of them occur multiple times a game, but some rarely ever get called. Even so, it’s important for anyone watching or playing the sport to know all sides so they understand what’s legal and what’s not.

To give further insight into one of the rarer violations, the following article covers up and down. It goes over what the move is, how it exists in the context of the sport, and breaks down why it’s so important.

Going Up, Coming Down

Basketball is a game built around dribbling. Anyone with the ball must bounce it against the court as they move around. That’s at the core of the sport, which is why anything that breaks that movement is considered a violation. Up and down is one such example.

The illegal move occurs when the player with the ball jumps into the air and, rather than releasing to shoot or pass, land back on the court. It also happens when someone takes their two allowed steps after a dribble, jumps, and then lands without doing anything with the ball.

In the strictest sense, the move is not technically a rule in and of itself. It’s a term used to describe a form of traveling. Even so, the distinction is still important because the two calls are used to describe distinctly different things.

The Wrong Steps

Up and down is a tricky rule because, while it’s obvious when it happens, it often gets mixed up with other dribbling violations. Most notably, traveling. However, there is a big difference in that traveling occurs when a player takes steps without dribbling the ball or after picking up a dribble.

Players are allowed two steps in basketball, but only when they’re already moving, and only after they pick up their dribble to go into a shot or pass. If they take any steps before or after dribbling without doing either of those things, it counts as a travel.

On the other hand, up and down has to do with jumping. It’s still technically a form of traveling, but rather than taking any extra steps it centers around players going up off the court and landing without making any basketball moves.

Knowing that, some may wonder how a jump stop is not an up and down. Like the violation, the move occurs when a player jumps off the court and then lands without shooting the ball. However, it’s an exception to the rule.

According to the official NBA rules, a player is allowed to finish a dribble by jumping off of one foot and then landing with both feet during their second step. They can then pivot or go into a shot. An up and down, in contrast, is going from two feet to two feet from a three point stance.

Jumping up and coming down on the wing, elbow, or three point line is a violation. Jumping after a drive, coming down, and then going up for a shot is not. That may seem random, but there’s a good reason one is allowed and the other is not.

A Legal Fake

Though it may seem a bit odd to have the up and down rule in place when there are so many strict regulations about traveling, it’s an important distinction that needs to exist. That’s because, where traveling leads to an extra illegal move, up and down cheats the core of the game.

If players could freely jump up and down without releasing the ball, it would be much, much easier to get by a defender. Shooters, rather than having to commit, could just jump on the wing and then blow by their opponent as soon as they moved to block or contest the shot.

In order for defenders to do their job, that move simply cannot be allowed. Otherwise, scoring would be even easier than it already is, and there would be much more pressure put on the defense. That’s why the pump fake exists.

That move refers to when a player fakes a shot without taking their feet off the ground. That causes the defender to jump or get out of position in a legal way because, unlike an up and down, the shooter is tricking their opponent rather than outright deceiving them.

Players can get part of their feet off the ground, even going up on their tiptoes if they need. As long as they don’t leave the floor, it’s perfectly legal for them to act like they’re shooting. Once their whole foot comes up, even for a moment, it’s too far.

Final Words

Up and down is a rule that doesn’t happen often, nor does it come up too much throughout most games. Still, as with any foul or violation, it’s important to understand. The move breaks one of the fundamental parts of the game, which is why it’s not allowed.

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