It is also a well-known rule that if you have just received the ball, you can bounce it but if after you take it with both hands, you cannot bounce it again and you must either shot or pass it.

Most of the steals (a defender stealing the ball) occur when the defender tap the ball from the offender, usually causing the ball to bounce (at least once). When playing, I always thought that the stealing was the first bounce, and you cannot take it with both hands unless you intend to shot or pass it.

However, in several videos of the NBA I have seen that the following: defender tap the ball causing a steal, then ball bounces, same defender takes it with both hands, and starts dribling all the way to score.

Is this normal/legal?

EDIT: Just to give you an idea, I am leaving this links of plays from Russell Westbrook:

In this one, he does not take the ball again and just continue the dribling to score:


In this other one, he takes the ball with both hands after the steal, to then bounce it all the way to score:


  • When being taught basketball officiating in college for intramurals, the suggestion was that you don't start dribbling until you are the one maintaining control. That's why you can knock it away, then take more than two steps while establishing control, gather it with two hands after the bounce, etc. Until you are deemed to be firmly in possession, they won't count any moves against you. But certainly could be proven wrong with explicit rules. However, none of the responses I've seen have said that yet. Nov 7, 2016 at 3:41

4 Answers 4


In FIBA rules:

24.1.2. A dribble starts when a player, having gained control of a live ball...

The referee needs to determine if the player merely tapped the ball or already demonstrated dribble control.

From the official interpretations:

Art. 14 Control of the ball 14-1 Statement Team control starts when a player of that team is in control of a live ball by holding or dribbling it.

The official interpretations have examples where touching the ball with one hand is not considered control. eg No shot clock reset when knocking the ball out.

The First Westbrook steal is a tap away without immediate control. But he only used one hand in the dribble anyway.

The second video Westbrook knocks the ball down out of the opponent's hands. At the moment he doesn't have control and only after he gathers the ball with 2 hands does he have clear control. At that point he starts a legal dribble.

So a knock away steal does NOT count as your first dribble. (Art 24.) Only once clear control with one hand or 2 hands touch the ball is control established. From that point dribble rules apply.


In the first video I don't see any travel whatsoever.

In the second video he gains control of the ball (also called "gathering ball" i think) then starts his dribble with two hands and continues on to dunk. You can start your dribble with two hands (Google "power dribble")

It's also not a double dribble if you block a shot, it bounces, then start your dribble.

I guess I'm not clear on if you think it's a double dribble because he started his dribble after touching / holding the ball with both hands?

but yeah, Westbrook does travel a lot and seemingly gets away with it.. just not in these examples.


b. A player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball. A player who receives the ball while he is progressing must release the ball to start his dribble before his second step.

also some more info here (travelling section):


  • Yes, in the first video I also didn't thought there was any double dribble. The main difference between the two videos is the fact that he gains control of the ball after taping it against the floor, to dribble again. So, I am more interested in this think that you called "gathering ball" (I did not find a good explanation of it in google, can you elaborate a little bit more on this please?)
    – Darío G
    Oct 21, 2016 at 12:53
  • think of it like this: he poked the ball out of the guys hands, it hit the floor, he gains control of it. now he can pass, shoot, or start his dribble. he starts his dribble (starting a dribble with two hands is legal). basically he doesn't have control of the ball on his first contact with the ball, even though he more or less timed it so he could have just continued the other guys dribble
    – skrewler
    Oct 21, 2016 at 14:16
  • oh and sorry, rewatched the video. he actually doesn't start the dribble with two hands, but holds it with two hands. either way is legal though. This is relevant: youtube.com/watch?v=g8bWGqLXWdw
    – skrewler
    Oct 21, 2016 at 14:41

It's a legal steal because steals and turnovers do not count until the defender completely possesses the ball.

This is reference from wikipedia: Steal (basketball)

This is reference from nba.com: NBA video rulebook > Steal

Steal, credited to defender who takes the ball away from opponent

A steal is credited to a player that legally takes the ball away from an opponent, intercepts a pass, or otherwise obtains possession of the ball following an opponent’s turnover (provided the ball has remained in bounds and the clock has not stopped.).

  • Can you please add any references to support your answer?
    – Ale
    Oct 18, 2016 at 8:53
  • This doesn't explain whether and why the bounce resulting from the steal counts as a dribble by the stealer, and therefore whether they may take hold with both hands before dribbling "properly".
    – Nij
    Oct 18, 2016 at 9:08

A player can hold the ball with two hands and begin a dribble as long as they did not lose their dribble.

A dribble is a controlled offensive move.

It does not include bobbling a ball, tipping a ball on a steal, battling for a ball or any other sort of uncontrolled or defensive move. (There are too many rules for me to look up to cite).

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