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Let's assume an offensive player takes a shot on the basket.

If a defensive player catches the shot in the air without goal tending, is that considered a block, a steal, or both in the statistics?

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According to the NCAA 2018-19 season Statistician manual Section 1 Article 6:

Blocked shots are counted as attempts when, in the opinion of the statistician, the ball clearly was in flight before being blocked; the player was in the obvious act of shooting with the shooting hand moving toward the basket; or the player was airborne and moving toward the basket with the intention of a dunk or layup and the ball in position for the shot. If there is doubt about whether the player was in the act of shooting, the interpretation shall be that he or she was not.

Section 6 of the same document outlines a steal as follows:

A steal is credited to a player when the player’s positive, aggressive action(s), which includes contact with the ball, causes a turnover by an opponent. This may be accomplished by:

A. Taking the ball away from an opponent in control of the ball.

B. Getting a hand on the ball in control by an opponent and causing a held ball to be called, and having his or her team be awarded the ball for a throw-in.

C. Batting a ball in control by an opponent to a teammate.

D. Batting a ball in control by an opponent away from and off the opponent and out of bounds.

E. Intercepting an opponent’s pass.

F. Deflecting an opponent’s pass to a teammate.

G. Deflecting an opponent’s pass away from and o an op- ponent and out of bounds.

Based on the finding that a block is defined specifically in the context of the act of taking shot, this would ultimately be defined as solely a block/blocked shot by the statistician even if possession was changed to the defending team.

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When I first read the question, I read it as the player grabbing the ball after it missed the rim. But Coach-D pointed out that the better interpretation is that the ball is caught immediately after the shot. I've changed my answer to reflect that scenario.

The NBA rulebook does not have concrete definitions for some of these terms, so I'm going to refer to the FIBA Statisticians Manual.

Steal:

A steal is awarded to a defensive player when his action causes a turnover by an opponent. A steal must always include touching the ball, but does not necessarily have to be controlled.

  • Intercepting or deflecting a pass
  • Taking the ball away from an opponent holding or dribbling the ball
  • Picking up a loose ball after a mistake of an offensive player

Steals happen interferes with normal handling or passing of the ball, not from a shot. No steal is awarded.

Block:

A blocked shot is awarded to a player any time he appreciably makes contact with the ball to alter the flight of a FGA and the shot is missed. It recognises a clear rejection or deflection of a shot by a defensive player. The ball may or may not have left the hand of the shooter for the block to be counted.

The defensive player's catch is indeed responsible to change the shot, so a block (and a rebound) are awarded.

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  • You should probably add the definition for rebound too. It may turn out not to be one of those either (or at least, not for the player who catches the ball). – Nij Nov 25 '19 at 8:47
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If it is a "shot" - a player attempting to score - then it is a block and a rebound. A shot cannot be a steal.

Below is someone summarizing basketball scoring. As mentioned there are no "official" guides made by NBA or like federation so these are basically guidelines passed down and often different organizations will vary (there is no variation on your situation but there is on assists, turnovers, and FGA). But I could have easily been the person writing the guidelines below.

So it is clear if it is a Field Goal Attempt (a shot) that if a person jumps to catch it, that is a block. But in bold below - it also clearly shows it is a rebound. Every time a team gains a possession of a ball there needs to be a stat that reflects that. The options are a steal, a rebound, foul, turnover, or a made basket. Even if the other team goes for a rebound and knocks it out of bounds the rewarded team is honored a "team rebound" that is not attributed to a player. The team rebound confuses people because it does not add up in the player stat sheet.

In the past, basketball statistics were a luxury available only to professional and major college teams. For the average coach, statistics were a nightmare, requiring great amounts of time and effort in acquiring and training statisticians and then manually compiling the various stats and percentages. For most coaches stats were just not worth all the effort. But, computers have changed all of this. They have taken the huge burden and responsibility of statistics off the coaches’ back, while providing them a wealth of information that coaches only a decade ago dreamed about. And, the best news of all is that the same software that is currently being used on the university and professional teams is now available for any team on any levels. There are even tablet and hand held versions available.

To be of value, though, statistics must be accurate. Inaccurate or incomplete stats have about as much value as no stats at all. Today’s software programs insure accuracy in stat keeping. By using prompts, they actually lead statisticians into making correct data entry. No longer will there be score sheets with more rebounds than missed shots, more steals than turnovers, or more assists than made shots. Software programs, such as Cybersports for basketball, also have built in logic and powerful editing capabilities along with intensive built in help utilities that include official rules and guidelines. In addition, instant cumulative or season statistics are also now available, a task that once took weeks to achieve.

Official Statistics Rules and Guidelines FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT (FGA)

A field goal attempt is credited to a player anytime the ball is shot, thrown, or trapped at the proper basket. The act of shooting begins with the shooting motion and ends when the ball has left the shooter’s hand.

A field goal attempt is not credited when a player is fouled in the act of shooting and the try is unsuccessful.

A field goal attempt is not credited when an official rules that a foul occurred prior to the attempt.

A field goal attempt is not credited when an official rules that a violation occurred prior to the attempt.

A field goal attempt is not credited when offensive basket interference or goal tending occurs on the try.

A field goal attempt is not charged if a shot is taken near the expiration of time for a period or shot clock when the shot is not made and the shot was either a desperation attempt or not a reasonable attempt to make a field goal.

Blocked shots are counted as field goal attempts.

FIELD GOAL MADE (FG)

A field goal made is credited to a player when an attempt is successful or when an official awards points for defensive basket interference or goal tending.

A made field goal is credited when a player tips the ball into the basket.

A made goal is credited when a player is fouled in the act of shooting and the try is successful.

When a field goal is made at the wrong basket, it is mentioned as a footnote, and is not credited to any individual player.

A field goal made is not credited when a defensive player tips the ball into the basket, but instead is mentioned as a footnote.

REBOUND (REB)

A rebound is credited to a player or team every time a field goal or free-throw attempt is unsuccessful. A rebound is credited to a player when:

A player who immediately gains possession of the ball after a missed shot.

A jumper whose team gains possession on a jump ball situation created by two opposing players rebounding the ball simultaneously.

A player who tips a missed shot in an attempt to score.

A player on a tap-out if a teammate receives the ball; otherwise, to the opponent gaining possession.

A player retrieving a blocked shot.

Team Rebounds are credited to a team when:

A missed or blocked shot goes directly out of bounds or is deflected out of bounds before individual player possession can be established.

A free-throw attempt misses the rim completely, and the ball is awarded out of bounds.

A missed shot bounces over the backboard or touches a guide wire or support of the backboard.

Dead Ball rebounds are credited to a team when:

Possession is retained after a missed free-throw attempt which is followed by another attempt.

Possession is retained after a missed technical foul shot.

Time expires prior to a player or team gaining possession of a missed shot.

A foul occurs on a missed shot and the ball becomes dead before a player or team can gain possession.

A rebound is not credited on a missed shot when:

A player is fouled in the act of shooting and the try is unsuccessful.

A player is awarded a substitute free-throw because the opposing team committed a free-throw violation.

An official rules that a foul or violation occurred prior to the attempt.

A team is awarded two points on defensive goal tending or basket interference.

STEALS (ST)

A steal is credited to a defensive player who is directly responsible for causing an opponent’s turnover. Steals are credited to a defensive player who:

Intercepts or deflects to a teammate an opponent’s pass.

Takes the ball away from a dribbler or taps the dribble to a teammate.

Takes away or taps the ball to a teammate from an opponent who is holding it.

Taps the ball or deflects a pass off an opponent out of bounds.

Creates a held ball by grasping the ball while an opponent is holding it, and the defensive team gains possession.

Steals are not credited when:

The opponent’s turnover is caused by a violation (traveling, double dribble, etc.).

The turnover is a result of an offensive foul.

ASSIST (AST)

An assist is credited to an offensive player whose pass, in the statistician’s judgment, is directly responsible for a for the principal pass that resulted in a successful field goal. The pass needs to be a major portion of the play in order for an assist to be given. Assists are not dependent on the degree of difficulty however an assist should be more than a routine pass that just happens to be followed by a field goal. Every made field goal could have an assist except for any unassisted play such as:

A successful tip or rebound shot.

A successful field goal following a steal when no passing occurs.

An assist may be given on a successful field goal attempt by a player after he dribbles, if a pass contributed directly to the dribble and resulting basket.

An assist is usually but not always credited to the player making the last pass prior to the successful field goal.

Only one assist may be credited for each successful field goal.

On situations where multiple passes lead to a successful field goal, the statistician must judge or determine which pass contributed most.

TURNOVER (TO)

A turnover is credited to an offensive player whose actions are directly responsible for losing ball possession to the opposing team prior to shooting. When a team has gained control of the ball or having become entitled to the ball does not put the ball in flight for a try at a field goal before an opponent gains control of the ball - then a turnover situation exists.

Individual turnovers are credited when:

An offensive player who loses the ball to an opponent while holding, dribbling, passing or receiving.

An offensive player who is called for a violation (traveling, double dribble, etc.) by an official and the ball is awarded to the opposing team.

A player who commits a personal foul or is called for a technical foul while team has or is entitled to possession of ball.

A team turnover is credited when:

A team is in or entitled to possession of the ball, and a technical is called on the coach or the bench.

If no player can be judged responsible then the team is charged with the turnover.

Turnovers are not credited when:

A double violation or a double foul occurs, and ball possession is retained.

A violation occurs during the first of a two shot foul.

FREE THROW ATTEMPT (FTA)

A free throw attempt shall be credited anytime a player shoots a free throw.

A free throw attempt is not credited when an official disallows a free throw attempt because of a violation by the shooter or a teammate.

A missed free throw attempt is not credited when the shooter is awarded a substitute throw because of a free throw violation by the opposing team.

A free throw attempt is not credited when a double violation results in a jump ball.

A free throw attempt is credited when the ball fails to touch the rim on the attempt.

FREE THROW MADE (FT)

A Free throw made is credited to a player when the attempt is successful or when an official awards one point because of defensive goal tending or basket interference.

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