Who gets the ball at the start of each Quarter, Half and Overtime in Basketball?


Ever wonder which team gets the basketball at the start of the quarter or half? Doesn’t it seem confusing as to why a team gets the basketball again when they won the tip. This actually confuses a lot of spectators and even basketball players. It really is simple who gets possession, let me explain.

The way the basketball possession is determined at the beginning of a quarter, half, or overtime will depend on the rules which govern the play. In the NBA the winner of the tip-off at the beginning of the game will also get the basketball at the start of the fourth quarter. While the team that lost the tip will get the basketball at the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd quarter.

So we know how the NBA works as far as possession goes at the beginning of each quarter, but what about other leagues such as high school, college, and FIBA are the rules the same for overtime also? Let’s take a look.

basketball game with players lined up for Jump ball

NBA Possession

In the NBA there is a jump ball between the two teams at the start of the game. When the referee throws the basketball up in the air the tallest player from each team battles to tip it to their teammate. The team that wins the tip will get the basketball at the start of the fourth quarter while the team that lost the tip will get the basketball at the start of the 2nd and 3rd quarter.

For example, if we use Team A and Team B, It would look like this; Team A won the tip, it then goes Team B at the start of quarter 2 and quarter 3, while Team A would get the ball at the beginning of the 4th quarter.

Team Possession
A Won Tip, 4th Quarter
B 3rd and 4th Quarter

Overtime

If two teams are tied at the end of the regulation we know the game goes into overtime. But who gets the basketball to start? Well actually it’s simple, there is a jump ball to start the overtime at center court. For each additional overtime, there is a jump ball to start.

What is the possession arrow?

Before we move forward and discuss the other leagues and levels of basketball, let’s take a look at what the possession arrow is and how it works in basketball. This is important so that we understand who gets possession of the ball at the beginning of a quarter or half.

The possession arrow is located at the scorer’s table and is an arrow that points to a team. The team that has the arrow pointing at their bench gets possession of a dead or jump ball. Referees are human and there are questionable calls that happen during a game that could be decided either way. This is an easy way to determine who gets the ball without the need to slow down the game. This is why the possession arrow exists.

To make this easy to understand, the possession arrow works as follows; the team that wins the tip-off has the basketball therefore the arrow would point to the opposite team. Any time there is a tie-up between two players fighting for the ball, a jump ball or the basketball went out of bounds but the referees are unsure who touched it last, it will go to the possession arrow. Whichever bench the arrow is pointing to is that team’s ball.

If a team is rewarded with the possession arrow then the arrow is switched to the opposing team now. This as called the alternating possession rule in basketball. The NBA does not use the possession arrow.

 

Possession arrow for High School, College, and FIBA

At all 3 levels of play each of which has different rules to govern their basketball games. The alternating possession is used with the arrow. The way that the possession is determined at the beginning of the quarter is whichever team has the possession arrow pointed to their bench receives the ball at the start of the quarter. The arrow immediately switches to the opposing team when the ball is inbounded.

The only difference between the rule books of these 3 levels of basketball is overtime and this is how it works.

High School and College Overtime Possession

For High School and College Basketball, overtime works as follows, two teams are tied at the end of regulation and the possession arrow is not used to determine who gets the basketball, it resets. The possession of the basketball is determined at the beginning of overtime with a tip-off or jump ball just like the start of the game.

The winner of the tipoff gets rewarded with the ball while the team that lost the tipoff gets the arrow and will receive the basketball when there is an alternating possession due to a jump ball situation.

FIBA Overtime Possesion

In FIBA it is a little different than the NBA, College, and High School. The way overtime works for which team gets the basketball is not by a jump ball but by the alternating arrow. So the team with the arrow gets the basketball at the start of overtime while the arrow is switched immediately to the opposing team, just as it’s done at the beginning of the quarter or half.

 

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