In basketball, why win the opening jump ball if there's no advantage (possession will be rotated afterwards).

  • 2
    You specifically are asking about the NBA, right, and not NCAA or others?
    – Joe
    Mar 26, 2015 at 16:33
  • 1
    Mainly NBA, passing interest in the NCAA. Mar 26, 2015 at 17:22
  • 3
    NCAA of course has a specific advantage, as they don't have jump balls after the initial: they have a possession arrow, so the winner of the initial jump gets either equal or one more possession.
    – Joe
    Mar 26, 2015 at 17:52
  • I recall coming across a piece by some sportswriter, who claimed that it is better to start the 4th quarter with the ball (which is what happens if you win the jump ball, at least in the NBA).
    – user3564
    May 24, 2015 at 2:24

2 Answers 2


Because you want the extra possession in the 4th quarter.

The team that gains possession after the opening tap will put the ball into play at their opponent’s end line to begin the fourth period. The team losing the opening tap will put the ball into play at their opponent’s end line at the beginning of the second and third quarters.

NBA Rules History

Note for NCAA and lower - Jump ball is very important because all possessions are alternating including jump ball situations and second half possession. Original basketball rules settled things with a jump ball. Possession arrow was something to make things go faster and to be fairer to smaller teams (and to get rid of referees having issues throwing a good, fair ball for jumps).

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    Could you provide some evidence showing that one extra possession is a significant advantage?
    – Philip Kendall
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:36
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    @StackOverflowed - No. Loser gets ball in 2nd and 3rd quarters. Can't ever remember NBA having alternating quarters.
    – Coach-D
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:47
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    I think you're right at the end of the day, but I don't find guessing that statistics exist nor the opinion of NBA coaches (see: NFL coaches and going for 2 or going for 4th and 1) as useful contributions.
    – Joe
    Mar 26, 2015 at 16:33
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    What I'm saying is that all you have provided is words: what would be better is actual statistics. A link to a study. Actual data, that sort of thing. Without that, your answer feels right, but it's just guesswork.
    – Joe
    Mar 26, 2015 at 20:02
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    That's fine, but what I'm saying is you keep saying "stats would show" without providing stats. Don't say "stats would show..." if you don't have the stats, it's misleading.
    – Joe
    Mar 26, 2015 at 20:57

No real reason; as you say possession will be rotated afterwards. Probably the biggest advantage is the psychological benefit of having the first possession and thus the first opportunity to take a lead, but I imagine that's a very minor benefit.

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