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In this video, a college basketball player steals the ball, races down court, and avoids the defender by throwing a pass to himself off the backboard.

In all the (disorganized) basketball games I've played in, a shot had to hit the rim before the shooter was allowed to rebound. And that looks like a shot to me.

Obviously the officials allowed it, but I couldn't find an explicit mention in the NCAA Rulebook. Is this ruled as a shot, and if so, why is it legal? I'd be interested in the answer for any level of basketball, though NCAA is the most relevant.

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I know this sounds cynical, but a lot of rules get relaxed if they make for more viewers. Advertisers love plays that get people on their feet. – corsiKa Feb 17 '12 at 19:42
up vote 42 down vote accepted

For the NCAA, it is scored as follows (from page 10 of the 2011 Official Basketball Statisticians’ Manual):

A.R.15. Adams throws a pass to himself or herself off the backboard, and then shoots and makes the basket. Ruling: Credit Adams with a FGA and FGM, but no assist or rebound.

For the NBA, according to this Q&A (from 2009) with Bernie Fryer (Vice President of Referee Operations and Director of Officials in the NBA), it is also allowed:

Are you allowed to throw the ball off the backboard, grab your own rebound and dunk it without landing? -- Blaise Bernie's answer: Yes. Under the traveling rule, a player who attempts a shot or pass may not be the first to touch the ball unless it touches the backboard, rim or another player. Therefore, a player can intentionally pass the ball to himself off the backboard or rim.

Actually, a week or so ago Kobe Bryant was double teamed near the 3-point line, had no one to pass to and had already picked up his dribble. He was about to fall down, which would have been traveling, instead he alertly threw the ball off the backboard, caught it and dribbled back to the top of the key. This wasn't an alley-oop but was similar. Michael Jordan was famous for doing the same thing on occasion.

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Haha double teamed with nobody to pass to. Only Kobe :p – LeftyGlick36 Apr 30 at 10:39

It is not illegal to throw the ball off the backboard as a pass to yourself. The only time it is illegal is when attempting a free throw. While attempting a free throw the ball must hit the rim as well.

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Not that I doubt you, but are you able to provide a citation for this? – corsiKa Feb 17 '12 at 19:53
It is legal on all levels. NBA, College, and High School. In some high school divisions you can actually catch your own air ball. i will try to back this up. – Greg Feb 17 '12 at 20:33
Probably best encapsulated in the dribble rules section: Section III-Dribble at – JW8 Feb 17 '12 at 20:34
Can someone add more info about its legality during a free throw? – Yaitzme Feb 25 '14 at 18:22

It is definitely legal in the NBA. I'm not sure about the NCAA.

source: YouTube video of Kobe Bryant

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For what it's worth, video of it happening and not being called doesn't prove it is allowed within the rules; it simply shows that in this anecdotal case it wasn't called. – corsiKa Feb 17 '12 at 21:39

While you can catch your own air ball, it must be an attempted shot, and not an attempt to pass to yourself. Generally it's clear what the player was attempting to do. When it's not clear, it's up to the referee's judgement what the player's intent was. I am a certified official in high school and college.

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Welcome to Sports SE! As a certified official, is there a standardized set of rules that you adhere to, or is it dependent on the league(s) you officiate in? – ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ Jan 11 '13 at 15:11
Please provide relevant links to support your answer. – Orangecrush Jan 11 '13 at 15:15
I don't understand why this is downvoted... it's the correct answer according to NFHS. – Jeff Widman Oct 26 '15 at 9:47

protected by ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ Jan 29 '15 at 14:18

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