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.

  • 6
    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, 2012 at 19:42
  • 2
    I guess the video became private. It says: "This video is unavailable".
    – gdrt
    Apr 20, 2017 at 10:00
  • 1
    @Michael Myers Could you please add another video as the linked video is unavailable. Aug 29, 2017 at 15:58
  • 2
    Broken link to the video :/
    – fedorqui
    Nov 21, 2017 at 8:17
  • Found an e-book that includes this question. books.google.com/books?id=lENPDwAAQBAJ
    – user14817
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:34

5 Answers 5


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.


It is legal 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.

For reference, see Section III - Dribble of NBA Rule 10.


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, 2012 at 21:39

In FIBA games, deliberately throwing the ball on the backboard without attempting a shot is equivalent to the player bouncing the ball on the floor.

It is then allowed only if you hadn't dribbled yet, in which case, you can dribble no more after you catch the ball again, but you can only pass or shoot. In all other circumstances (for example if you had already dribbled, or if you start dribbling after catching the ball) is a double dribble violation.

See art. 24 of FIBA's "Offical Basketball Rules 2017 - Official Interpretations - valid as of 1st February 2018".

Art. 24 Dribbling

24-1 Statement. If a player deliberately throws the ball against a backboard (not attempting a legitimate shot for a field goal) this is considered as if the player has bounced the ball on the floor. If the player then touches the ball again before it has touched (or been touched by) another player, this is considered as a dribble.

24-2 Example: A1 has not yet dribbled when A1 throws the ball against the backboard and catches it again before another player has touched the ball.

Interpretation: After catching the ball A1 may shoot or pass but may not begin a new dribble.

24-3 Example: After ending a dribble either in the continuous motion or standing still, A1 throws the ball against the backboard and catches or touches it again before it has touched another player.

Interpretation: A1 has committed a double dribble violation.

  • Actually that changed in the rules of 2018 and it is now legal also in FIBA Oct 14, 2018 at 20:03

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.

  • 7
    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?
    – user527
    Jan 11, 2013 at 15:11
  • 3
    Please provide relevant links to support your answer. Jan 11, 2013 at 15:15
  • I don't understand why this is downvoted... it's the correct answer according to NFHS. Oct 26, 2015 at 9:47
  • @JeffWidman It's was downvoted due to lack of evidence.
    – user16112
    Dec 12, 2018 at 13:37

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