I want to take a look at control of the ball, dribbling and what happens when a player loses control of the ball then what they are then allowed to do to regain it.

This is another area of frustration from referees who hear the constant yell of “Carry”, “Double Dribble” or even “Travel” when a player is dribbling and loses control of the ball before re-gathering again. It might look strange but that doesn’t mean they have infringed on the rules.

I will start with;

Article 13 – How the ball is played.

13.1 – Definition

During the game, the ball is played with the hand(s) only and may be passed, thrown, tapped, rolled or dribbled in any direction, subject to the restrictions of these rules.

13.2 Rule

A player shall not run with the ball, deliberately kick or block it with any part of the leg or strike it with the fist.

However, to accidentally come into contact with or touch the ball with any part of the leg is not a violation.

An infraction of Art. 13.2 is a violation.

This is all pretty clear so far so but I am sure a many people will be surprised to find out that the whole of the leg is considered to be part of the foot (foot violation) and accidental contact with the leg is legal play.

So now we know how the ball can be played, but what happens when we lose control of the ball while dribbling or trying to catch the ball, are we allowed to pick it up again? Let’s skip ahead to Article 24 and I will break it down as we go, there is a lot we need to consider and take in.

Article 24 – Dribbling

24.1.1 – A dribble is the movement of a live ball caused by a player in control of that ball who throws, taps, rolls or bounces the ball on the floor.

This all ties in with 13.1 and how the ball is played but more importantly it is how the dribble can begin. An important note here is that it must touch the floor.

24.1.2 A dribble starts when a player, having gained control of a live ball on the playing court throws, taps, rolls or bounces it on the floor and touches it again before it touches another player.

The example here I like to use is that a player who has control of the ball throws it up in the air over the defenders head and catches it again before it hits the floor, this is an Illegal move and will be called a violation but if they make the same move and allow it to hit the floor before touching it again this considered a dribble and is perfectly legal.

A dribble ends when the player touches the ball with both hands simultaneously or permits the ball to come to rest in one or both hands.

The ball being touched with both hands simultaneously (dribble with both hands) is a double dribble. The ball coming to rest in one hand, more often than not is the hand going under the ball and coming to rest before the dribble commences again (carrying violation) but think of the player who might be able to palm the ball in one hand, the ball is still coming to rest, this is not something you will likely see in local competitions but if you do this is an illegal move.

During a dribble the ball may be thrown into the air provided the ball touches the floor or another player before the player who threw it touches it again with his hand. There is no limit to the number of steps a player may take when the ball is not in contact with his hand.

You can take as many steps as you like when you are dribbling as long as the ball is not in contact with your hand. Think of throwing the ball out in-front of you (beginning the dribble), taking 10 steps and then taking your second dribble. This is a legal action.

I have now covered how you can play the ball and how you can begin and end your dribble but what happens when you fumble or lose control of your dribble, pass or catch.

24.1.3 – A player who accidentally loses and then regains control of a live ball on the playing court is considered to be fumbling the ball.

This is one part of this rule that gets incorrectly interpreted. Accidental loss of control is not a dribble. A couple of examples I can provide you:

  • A player who attempts to catch a ball but drops it. The ball may have touched their hands, then the floor and then their hands again. This is not a dribble and so this player may after re-gathering it commence a dribble.
  • A player who has already completed their dribble and puts both hands on the ball but doesn’t control it, accidentally drops or fumbles the ball, it touches the floor and the player regains control of it again by picking it up. This is perfectly legal and no violation has occurred.

24.1.4 – The following are not dribbles:

  • Successive shots for a field goal.
  • Fumbling the ball at the beginning or at the end of a dribble.
  • Attempts to gain control of the ball by tapping it from the vicinity of other players.
  • Tapping the ball from the control of another player.
  • Deflecting a pass and gaining control of the ball.
  • Tossing the ball from hand to hand and allowing it to come to rest in one or both hands before touching the floor, provided that no travelling violation is committed.
  • Throwing the ball against the backboard and regaining the control of the ball.

The above points are all pretty self-explanatory.

24.2 – Rule

A player shall not dribble for a second time after his first dribble has ended unless between the 2 dribbles he has lost control of a live ball on the playing court because of:

  • A shot for a field goal.
  • A touch of the ball by an opponent.
  • A pass or fumble that has touched or been touched by another player.

A few points to note in this part:

  • A player may commence their dribble again after as shot for field goal (it doesn’t have to touch the ring, it just needs to be a legitimate attempt).
  • Any time the ball is touched by an opponent and dislodged by them the player may then begin a new dribble, think when a player who has ended their dribble, attempts to pass to a teammate and the ball leaves the offensive players hands but the pass is blocked by the defender and re-gathered by the offensive player and without the ball touching the floor, the player holding the ball may then begin their dribble again which is legal play.
  • But you must also consider the interpretation from the case book, interpretation 24-7:

Interpretation 24-7

Example: A1 ends his dribble and deliberately throws the ball on B1 leg. A1 catches the ball and begins to dribble again.

Interpretation: A1 double dribble violation. A1 dribble has ended as the ball was not touched by B1. It was the ball which has touched B1.

So to deliberately throw the ball at an opponent so that you can commence your dribble again is not legal. The player must touch the ball not the ball that touches a player, a deliberate touch or deflection by the defensive player B1 which would allow for A1 to commence their dribble again.

Now I have covered how the ball is played, the dribble and when a player loses control I want to go back to why I started to put this article together.

There are endless times each week I hear the cry of “CARRY” from players and spectators when the player dribbling the ball loses control and it bounces up above shoulder height, is regained and they continue their dribble. From the above rules and examples all the player has done is lost control of the ball or fumbled and then continued their dribble again. So no matter how awkward or strange a play may look it all comes down to the one word, “CONTROL”.

Chris Morrey – Frankston Basketball Referee Advisor