Take a look at this video of the 2004 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship Game between UConn and Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech made a 3-pointer with 11.7 seconds left. Then a UConn player grabbed the ball to inbound it and the referee started the 5 second countdown. The UConn player looked around to try to inbound the ball, and after 3 seconds, he threw the ball to another UConn player who had run out of bounds. After 2 more seconds, the second UConn player finally inbounded the ball. Based on the referee's arm motions, it appeared the second UConn player inbounded the ball just after the 5 second count, which should be a violation, but none was called.

Is switching inbounders after the referee has started the 5-second count allowed only in college, or is it allowed in the NBA as well? Does the referee start over with the 5-second count after there is a switch of inbounders?

1 Answer 1


Although it might be rare, this play is actually perfectly legal in both the NCAA and NBA (see the link below).

Rule 7 Section 6 Article 6 of the NCAA Rulebook does state that: "The thrower-in shall release the ball not more than five seconds after the throw-in count begins. The pass shall go directly into the playing court, except as provided in Rule 7-4.6."

Rule 7 Section 4 Article 6 states: "Any player of the throw-in team may make a direct throw-in or may pass the ball along the end line to a teammate(s) who is also out of bounds."

The pass to a teammate who is out of bounds does not reset the 5 second clock, so the reason UConn appears to get more than the alotted time to inbound the ball is due to human error. Some referees are quicker to call the infraction than others. Also the referee's arm swings do not necessarily denote him counting 1 second. It's merely to indicate to everyone that he is counting.

Here's where you can download the NCAA Rulebook if you would like to research further.

NBA Rulebook

  • The rulebooks are not clear that the 5 second count doesn't reset, but it would make sense that it doesn't. Otherwise a team could have 2 players out of bounds who keep passing the ball to each other every 4 seconds to avoid a violation. Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 10:43
  • Citation from NBA rulebook - Rule No. 8, Section III, c: "He may pass the ball to a teammate behind the endline" Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 10:47

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