Everything you need to know about fouls in the NBA


Does anyone else sometimes get perplexed when the whistle blows during a game? It’s usually clear something has happened and the game needs to be halted for a second, but typically it’s hard to say what the call might be.

Whether it is an NFL flag, an NHL penalty or an NBA flagrant foul, the list is endless and countless violations are often called throughout a single game.

In terms of basketball, the NCAA and NBA have rules and regulations that can be quite confusing. And when March Madness or the NBA Finals are on the line, some foul calls can stir up quite a bit of controversy. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into how NBA fouls are categorized and what happens when one is called.

What is a technical foul in the NBA? 

Technical fouls fall into seven different categories in the NBA, including:

1. Excessive Timeouts 

If a coach or player calls a timeout but doesn’t have any more, a technical foul is called.

2. Delay-of-Game

A delay-of-game is called if:

  • Players prevent the ball from being put into play immediately after a call.
  • Players interfere with the ball after a field goal or free throw.
  • Players do not pass the ball to the nearest official right after a personal foul or violation is assessed.
  • Players touch the ball before the throw-in is released.
  • Defenders cross the boundary line before the ball is thrown in.
  • A team holds up game play.
  • A player, coach, or trainer interferes with a ball that has crossed a boundary line.
  • A free throw shooter steps beyond the three-point line in between his two shots.
  • A player enters the game with his shirt untucked. At first it is a warning and each time after, a technical foul will be assessed. 

3. Number of Players

If the ball is put into play after a team has more than five players on the court, a technical foul will be called on the team and that team would lose possession. If a team starts with fewer players (four or less), that team will also be penalized.

4. Basket Ring, Backboard or Support

If a player deliberately hangs on the basket, including the ring, net or backboard, that will be deemed a technical foul.

5. Conduct

Any player can be issued a technical foul if their behavior is detrimental to the game. Two technical fouls are allowed for each player, coach, trainer, or bench person before they are removed from the game. The opposing team gets a free throw attempt when a technical foul is assessed.

A technical foul can either fall under the category of non-unsportsmanlike conduct or unsportsmanlike conduct. An example of a non-unsportsmanlike technical foul would be a delay-of-game, coaches box violation or a player shattering the basket’s backboard. An example of an unsportsmanlike technical foul would include disrespectfully addressing an official, use of profanity or taunting. 

If the unsportsmanlike foul includes fighting, punching, or a flagrant foul penalty, the participant will be removed from the game.

6. Fighting Fouls

If a player, coach or trainer fights, they will be taken out of the premises right away, whether the play is in progress or the ball is dead.

7. Fines

If necessary, players will have to pay monetary fines. For instance, if a player gets a flagrant foul, they must be removed, reported to the League Office, and fined a minimum of $2,000.

What is a flagrant foul in the NBA?

A flagrant foul falls into two categories: FF1 and FF2. 

A flagrant foul – penalty (1), or FF1 – is called if a player interferes with his opponent in an unnecessary physical way. While a flagrant foul – penalty (2), or FF2 – is called if that unnecessary contact is excessive and keeps continuing.

Both types of flagrant fouls result in a penalty of two free throws and the team that was fouled gets possession. A flagrant 2 results in the player being ejected from the game and fined a minimum of $2,000.

What is a personal foul in the NBA?

A personal foul is the type of foul we all assume when we hear the word “foul.” It is the most common call out of all of the foul types, usually resulting from a breach of the rules. If a player initiates illegal contact with a player, intentionally or unintentionally, affecting the play, the player will be issued a personal foul. 

Personal fouls result in either changes of possession or free throws, depending on the severity of the foul.

How many fouls does it take to foul out in the NBA?

NBA players foul out after six personal fouls (which consist of a combination of personal and technical fouls) or two technical fouls.

Controversial foul situations in the 2022 NBA Playoffs thus far:

Numerous questionable whistles have been blown so far during the 2022 NBA Playoffs, including the surprising 18 fouls called in the first quarter of the Celtics vs. Nets playoff opener. This was the most fouls in a first quarter all season until the Timberwolves and Grizzlies racked up 20 fouls in the first quarter later that week.

Not to mention Draymond Green’s ejection from the Golden State game after a flagrant foul during Game 1 of their second-round series with the Grizzlies last week. 

During Milwaukee’s Game 3 matchup against Boston on Saturday, May 7, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer had to be restrained by his players during his protest of a no-call.

Chris Paul was called for six fouls only 23 minutes into his gameplay during the Suns’ matchup against the Mavericks during Sunday’s Game 4. This was the quickest foul-out of his 17-year career and it sparked quite some controversy.

We can only imagine what’s to come, as the playoffs still have about a month before the NBA Finals begin on June 2.



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