What Is A Reach-In Foul In Basketball? Explained


 

Basketball rules can be confusing, especially reach-in fouls. The play is so quick it is hard to tell watching what exactly is going on until the slow-motion replay. But even then we question calls against the team were cheering all the time, such as the case with the reach-in foul.

What is a reach-in foul in basketball? A reach-in foul is a term used to describe the defender attempting to reach in and steal or poke the basketball from the ball handler. In the attempt, the defender makes contact on the arms or impedes the ball handler’s progress or path, in which a foul will be called against the player trying to steal the ball.

Believe it or not the reach-in foul is not actually in the rule books of basketball, this is a term coined by the commentators and fans to describe the simple act of illegal contact that was made against the ball handler.

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Examples Of Reach-In Fouls

One of the most common reach-in fouls I see is when the ball handler dribbles up the court. The player then crosses the defender over dribbling the ball from his right to the left hand. During this time the defender anticipates the crossover and attempts to steal the ball leading to a reach-in foul in the process.

Another common reach-in foul is when the point guard is at the top of the three-point line waiting for the offense to set up or move. The player guarding the ball knows that the point guard is not moving for a couple of seconds and makes an attempt to steal the ball only to have it protected from the ball handler. The defense goes in for the steal very aggressively and gets called for the reach-in.

Another example of a reach-in foul is when the player with the ball is in the triple threat position looking to make a move. The defender may try to poke the ball out of the player’s hand but draw contact on the player’s arm.

 

Fun Fact: Bubba Wells holds the fastest player to foul out of an NBA game in 3 mins. Wells played for the Dallas Mavericks and they was facing Michael Jordan’s team the Chicago Bulls. The idea by coach Don Nelson was to foul Dennis Rodman and put him on the line. It looked like a good strategy on paper as Rodman shot very poorly from the free-throw line, but not that day he ended up being 9 for 12 from the line.

 

Personal Space “The Bubble”

Picture the player with the ball with a bubble around them. Anytime you reach in the bubble and try to steal the ball you are risking popping the bubble (or in this case fouling). If you reach aggressively and unsuccessfully without the ball you easily pop the bubble. If you impede the player’s progress the bubble will pop also. Don’t pop the bubble it’s simple, no contact, no foul will be called.

 

Proof Not In The NBA Rule Book Or Any Rule Book

So if we take a look in section 1 – Types found at NBA.com Rule Book.

The referee in the case of a reach-in foul would blow the whistle and more of then than not call an illegal use of hands to the scorer’s table.

Looking at section B. Foul Types is where you see the rule and how the term reach-in foul came into play for the average basketball fan to understand the violation.

You will also notice there are some exceptions as to when you can be a little more physical using your forearm while playing defense. This is the case when a player has their back to the basket closer to what they call the defensive box. In other words where players post up.

 

B. Personal Foul

Section I—Types

A. A player shall not hold, push, charge into, impede the progress of an opponent by extending a hand, arm, leg or knee or by bending the body into a position that is not normal.  Contact that results in the re-routing of an opponent is a foul which must be called immediately.

B. Contact initiated by the defensive player guarding a player with the ball is not legal.  This contact includes, but is not limited to, forearm, hands, or body check.

  1. A player shall not hold, push, charge into, impede the progress of an opponent by extending a hand, arm, leg or knee or by bending the body into a position that is not normal.  Contact that results in the re-routing of an opponent is a foul which must be called immediately.
  2. Contact initiated by the defensive player guarding a player with the ball is not legal.  This contact includes, but is not limited to, forearm, hands, or body check.
    1. EXCEPTIONS:
      1. A defender may apply contact with a forearm to an offensive player with the ball who has his back to the basket below the free-throw line extended outside the Lower Defensive Box.
      2. A defender may apply contact with a forearm and/or one hand with a bent elbow to an offensive player in a post-up position with the ball in the Lower Defensive Box.
      3. A defender may apply contact with a forearm to an offensive player with the ball at any time in the Lower Defensive Box.  The forearm in the above exceptions is solely for the purpose of maintaining a defensive position.
      4. A defender may position his leg between the legs of an offensive player in a post-up position in the Lower Defensive Box for the purpose of maintaining defensive position.  If his foot leaves the floor in an attempt to dislodge his opponent, it is a foul immediately.
      5. Incidental contact with the hand against an offensive player shall be ignored if it does not affect the player’s speed, quickness, balance and/or rhythm.

 

Fun Fact: Alvin Robertson holds the record for the most steals in a season with 301 in the 1985/86 season averaging 3.61 steals a game.

 

Why The Term Reach-In Foul If It’s Not In The Rules?

The term stuck for a number of reasons, when watching basketball it can be difficult to see what exactly happened until the replay because of how quick the action happens. Looking at the rule book it is apparent it can be confusing as exactly what rule they are using. It is so much easier to say reach-in foul and understand what happened on that play.

I believe all fouls should be made more simple and general, it would be much easier for the fans to understand what was called on the court without shaking their head because they are unsure.

 

Can You Reach-In At All?

I don’t want to add any more confusion if you are at this point scratching your head, but yes you are allowed to reach-in to try and steal the ball. Maybe the term reach-in isn’t the greatest choice of words for a foul in which you are allowed to do. I always coach my players and tell them it just has to look like a foul, unfortunately.

Referees are humans too, the difference although is they have been trained to view situations at a very fast speed. They see the game due to their practice and training much better than the average spectator.

If it looks as if you are reaching in and no contact was made you are more than likely to be called for a foul. If you reach-in and no contact is made you generally are ok, but not always. Most coaches teach not to reach in at all for these very reasons mentioned above.

 

Fun Fact: Cal Bowlder of the Atlanta Hawks vs The Portland Trailblazers on November 13, 1999 received 7 personal fouls a record said to be never broken.

 

Q & A

What is a loose ball foul?

A loose ball foul is when neither player from either team has possession of the ball and battles for the loose ball and in the process, one player commits a foul. More on What is a Loose ball Foul In this link.

How do you steal the ball without creating a reach-in foul?

There are 2 of the safest ways to greatly reduce your chances of having a foul called against you and being able to steal the ball.

The first is simply to grab the ball with two hands from the player when they are not dribbling or are in triple threat position. This is very hard to do but if you can get a hold of the ball with both hands and turn at the same time so that your butt is now facing your defender you can get the steal or at least draw a jump ball.

The second way is to get in a position close enough to the ball handler and with your palms facing the sky to swipe up. Refs are less likely to call a foul unless it was intentional and an obvious foul because of contact. Not only is this an effective way to steal but the offensive player doesn’t see the hand coming from down to up as he is looking to make his next move.

 

Is the over the back considered in terms of the reach-in foul?

The short answer is No.

 

I hope this article helped you learn something new and understand a little more about the reach-in foul. I greatly appreciate and thank you for your time.

 

Further Readings:

 

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