What is a Charge in Basketball?

In basketball, most fouls are defense oriented. When a defender hits an offensive player, runs them over during a drive, or stops them from making a move, it’s a foul. However, while defensive fouls are much more common, there are plenty of offensive fouls too.

This guide dives into those infractions by looking at charges. By seeing how the infractions happen and why they exist, the following sections shed light on offensive fouls as a whole.

Understanding Charges

Charges are not common, but they are still a key part of basketball. The foul is a great way for the defense to get a turnover, especially when the offensive is being aggressive.

There are two things that need to happen for a change to occur. First, the offensive player needs to make strong contact with the defender. That typically means enough to physically knock or run them over when going to the basket. They don’t have to fall, but they typically do.

Next, the defender that gets run over has to have an established position on the court. That means they have both feet firmly on the ground, are not moving, and have their torso square in a way that’s directly facing their opponent. 

If all of those requirements occur, it’s a charge. However, if the defender gets run over but isn’t firmly set, it’s a blocking foul and leads to free throws. If the player is firmly set and doesn’t move by fully absorbing the hit, it leads to a change of possession for the defense.

It’s also critical to note that players are able to take charges everywhere on the court except for the restricted area ( the four foot arc on the bottom of the key). If a player is inside that, even with position, and gets run over, it’s not a charge. They have to be outside it.

Illegal Screens

Charges are the most common offensive foul in the NBA, but they aren’t the only one that exists. There are two other common offensive fouls in basketball as well.

The first is the illegal screen. Screens are a natural part of basketball, and a key piece of any rotational offense. However, they need to be set in a specific way. A player must remain stationary once they establish a screen. If they move to initiate contact, it’s a foul.

On top of that, screens are one step away from the defender. If a player sets a screen into a defender or is so close to the defender that they cannot move, it’s also illegal. In both cases, it leads to a change of possession and the ball goes to the defense.

Illegal Contact

The other offensive foul is known as illegal contact. That might sound like a charge, but there is a key difference between the two. 

Where a charge occurs when an offensive player runs over a defender, illegal contact happens when an offensive player makes unnecessary contact with a defender. That includes moves like push offs, shoves, or a player slamming their body into the opponent down on the block.

In all situations, the offensive player initiates contact first and uses it to knock the defender off balance or move them out of the way. They must do so intentionally, and it must occur in a way that hinders the defender from doing their job. If that happens, the defense gets the ball.

Final Words

Charges are one of the more unique fouls in basketball, and one of the least commonly called. That combination makes them a bit nebulous. Even so, understanding them is important to understanding basketball. It’s also good to give context for other offensive fouls as well.

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