I've recently started playing basketball and was wondering about some of the comments made about this (pretty cool) NBA commercial featuring LeBron James. It looks like he takes 1 step after receiving the ball before dribbling it, is that considered to be a travel? I doubt the NBA would make a commercial showing a blatant violation so I'm assuming it's valid but want to know what the exact rule is.

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    Admittedly you do not see the legs, but it looks like travelling to me, even worse, he actually starts to dribble and quickly changes his mind to hold the ball to take another step. I am pretty sure this would be called on a European game. In the U.S. they favor good moves over textbook rules as far as I know.
    – posdef
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 12:37

2 Answers 2


You would think they wouldn't include a blatant violation, but they did. From the NBA Rules Section XIV:

f. In starting a dribble after (1) receiving the ball while standing still, or (2) coming to a legal stop, the ball must be out of the player's hand before the pivot foot is raised off the floor.

From listening to my friends who I would consider avid NBA fans, travelling and carrying seem to be the most common complaints where modern referees often ignore the written rules.

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    Thanks for the link. I guess as long as they ignore this rule uniformly it evens out and is still fair for every team. Commented May 1, 2012 at 15:23
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    I can actually back this up -- traveling is almost never called in the NBA anymore. If it is, it has to be pretty damn blatant, like running half the court without dribbling.
    – Aarthi
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 19:35
  • From that video it is not clear his pivot foot is off floor.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 16:06

There's also some additional information regarding traveling in the 2011-12 NBA Rulebook:

Section XIII—Traveling

a. A player who receives the ball while standing still may pivot, using either foot as the pivot foot.

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.

The first step occurs when a foot, or both feet, touch the floor after gaining control of the ball.

The second step occurs after the first step when the other foot touches the floor, or both feet touch the floor simultaneously.

A player who comes to a stop on step one when both feet are on the floor or touch the floor simultaneously may pivot using either foot as his pivot. If he jumps with both feet he must release the ball before either foot touches the floor.

A player who lands with one foot first may only pivot using that foot.

A progressing player who jumps off one foot on the first step may land with both feet simultaneously for the second step. In this situation, the player may not pivot with either foot and if one or both feet leave the floor the ball must be released before either returns to the floor.

Columnists have blasted the rule:

And while you’re at it, clean up traveling, too (the two-steps-and-bunny-hop is especially insulting to the memory of Dr. James).

-- Shaun Powell

So the rule specified in @Will Cole's answer conflicts somewhat with this one. According to this 2009 ESPN article, the league has generally instructed refs not to enforce the rule.

  • We're mainly talking about the initial two steps before dribbling, not the gather step at the end of the video. I don't think there's a conflict between the two rules. Commented May 2, 2012 at 4:59
  • Interesting! So if Lebron James was moving when he caught the ball (it's not completely evident the way the clip starts), then it may be valid under these new rules? Commented May 2, 2012 at 15:36
  • @MichaelMyers, yes but the ESPN article points out: "The NBA has put into writing a rule allowing players on the move to gather the ball, after driving or catching it, and then take two steps." That quote should apply to the two steps before dribbling that you've mentioned - that and the NBA directive to ignore traveling in general.
    – JW8
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 16:06

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