What Is an Offensive Foul in Basketball?

By Michele M. Howard

An offensive foul is committed by a player whose team has possession of the ball. This infraction typically involves illegal contact with a defending player to try to gain an unfair advantage. Commonly called against a dribbler who has control of the ball, certain offensive fouls can also be charged against a teammate without the ball.

Offensive Foul Examples

One of the more common offensive fouls, charging, occurs when the dribbler charges into a defensive player who has established a stationary, defensive position. The dribbler can also be charged with an offensive foul if he intentionally pushes or hooks a defender to move him out of his way. A teammate without the ball can commit an offensive foul if he forcefully moves into and through a defender who has legally obtained his position, pulls and then pushes a defender out of the way to gain space in order to receive a pass or holds a defender to keep him from making a play on the ball.

Foul Outcome

The player who committed the infraction is charged with a personal foul and the defending team is awarded the ball. NBA rules state that the foul doesn't count as a team foul and no points can be earned by the offensive team. Play stops, and the defending team throws the ball in from out-of-bounds on the sideline near where the foul occurred. The spot of the throw-in cannot be any closer to the baseline than the imaginary extension of the free throw line.

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