Why do teams hold the ball at the end of a basketball game?


Holding the basketball at the end of the game is pointless to some, especially when a team has already won the game. SHOOT THE BALL ALREADY! This is why fans watch basketball, they want to see the players play. Well, believe it or not, trying to score when your team is up can lead to fights.

The reason why teams hold the ball at the end of the game is that it’s considered bad sportsmanship to try and score by the winning team. The game is already won with no chance of the losing team coming back. When the winning team attempts to try and score this is known as running up the score in basketball and can cause fighting and dirty plays amongst players.

Let’s take a further look as to why holding the basketball is not only a good sportsmanship play but also a basketball IQ play. We will take a look at the rules associated with holding the ball at the end of the game and how long you are allowed to hold the ball? 

Why don’t they shoot the damn ball already?

Have you ever played a game of any sort and when you were losing you wanted to stop playing or just wanted it to end already? Imagine if, in that game, the player or team would never let up or give you a chance to even make an attempt all the way to the last second in the game. They tried so hard that it killed any confidence you had while running up the score in the process.

I bet you would be pretty mad, wouldn’t you? I know I would be because I had this happen to me in a Men’s league basketball game. The team that we were playing were shooting nothing but three-pointers and were getting hot. Before you knew it we were down by 40 points by half. Yup! We were awesome.

In the 4th quarter, I took a three-point shot with around 3 minutes left in the game. A player decided to undercut me and fouled me. I was pissed, and although I got the foul it felt deliberate. I turned to him and asked him nicely wtf are you doing. The chatter began and it got worse, we were face to face and I was ready to go. The team continued to not let up and there were less than 2 minutes left. A friend of mine on our team was so mad he body checked a guy by boxing out as he took another three. He flew right into his own bench. Both teams stormed the court.

The officials called the game after everyone had calmed down. This is why you don’t run up the score or continue to jack up threes at the end of a basketball game. Players take offense to this and it can get ugly really quick. That team we played didn’t slow down once and probably took over 50 threes that game with their starting lineup finishing the game.

College Basketball point Guard Dribbling the Ball up the court during a game

What Proper Sportsmanship looks like at the end of a basketball game

The proper thing to do to show good sportsmanship at the end of a basketball game if you are up a lot of points is this; First, you want to have your bench players playing in the game and not your starters. Most teams realize that these players are just happy to play minutes and when they are on the court they are trying their best to do well in order to impress the coach and get more minutes for future games.

Secondly during the last two minutes of play or less you want to run out the shot clock to a few seconds before attempting to score. This is not always the case if both teams are playing the bench. But in the last moments of play when the team that is winning ends up with the last possession with no time on the shot clock, they should run the shot clock out for the rest of the game and not shoot the basketball.

This is a universal unwritten rule in basketball, that promotes good sportsmanship towards the other team, win or lose.

Holding the ball at the end of the game?

Now that you know what the right thing to do is and the wrong thing, let’s assume you are the losing team. Does the losing team try and score? Yes, the losing team is going to try and score every chance they get. You might think it’s unfair that you aren’t supposed to score right away or shoot the ball, but the losing team can. This is because it shows good character for the winning team.

The winning team still gets to shoot the basketball before the shot clock runs out. This is to prevent a violation and slowing down the game. Remember you want to run the shot clock down as much as possible and then shoot. Is it acceptable to continue to shoot 3’s? Yes, it’s fine as your running the shot clock down to the last couple of seconds and not shooting at the beginning of the possession.

What does holding the ball mean in basketball?

When we talk about holding the basketball, we’re not speaking of holding as in the foul violation rule but holding the basketball from a coaching standpoint. Holding the basketball is a way to kill time when a team is trying to run out the clock for the benefit of securing the win. In basketball, this is done towards the end of the basketball game. At some point in the game, killing time is much more important than scoring points.

A classic scenario is towards the end of the game when a team is up 4 points with 48 seconds left on the clock. The team up by 4 points has the basketball and will run the shot clock down to a couple of seconds before shooting. This is called clock management. If the ball does not go into the basket the opposing team may rebound it and will have 24 seconds or so to score 4 points.

Tip: Sometimes teams will foul on purpose in the last minute to put the opposing team on the line to force them to make free throws. This allows the team that is down in points to get the ball back and try to score and cut the lead down. This is done as many times as needed in the last minute of play in order to tie or take the lead.

What is the time limit of holding the ball by the player in the game?

The time limit for a team holding the ball is the number of seconds left on the shot clock. The time limit for a single-player to hold the ball is 5 seconds without dribbling, staying in place or being stationary. The referee will start their count when the defender is in the bubble space of the player. If the ref reaches 5 and the player doesn’t move it is the other team’s ball. The ref will not count if there is no defender in the bubble space of the player with the ball and can hold the basketball until the shot clock is about to run out. A player may hold the basketball as long as the shot clock, as long as they are dribbling and moving around.

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