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What Is Goaltending In Basketball?

What is Goaltending in Basketball?

Goaltending is an infraction in basketball when a defensive player interferes with a ball shot at the basket. The rule is present across various levels of play, ranging from High School to college to men’s and women’s professional leagues, the NBA, and WNBA.

There is a similar type of infraction, known as basket interference, but there are key differences between the two. Let’s examine goaltending in further detail.

What is the Penalty for Defensive Goaltending?

The penalty for defensive goaltending is automatic points depending on where the offensive player took the shot. Typically, goaltending occurs on shots near the basket, resulting in two points for the offensive team. However, in a rare case where goaltending occurs on a shot beyond the three-point line, the offensive team is awarded three points.

The player who took the shot on which the infraction occurred will get credit for the points. The official scorer must be sure to record this appropriately because it will impact the player’s scoring average and shooting percentage. 

Although this is extremely rare, a player that blocks a shot during a free throw try will be a technical foul, and the team and player shooting will be awarded a point.

Is There a Difference Between Goaltending and Basket Interference?

Notice that the entire basket structure includes not only the hoop, also known as a rim but a backboard and net. From a referee’s perspective, there is also an imaginary cylinder that extends from the hoop upwards. 

A goaltending infraction occurs when a player touches the ball on the downward path toward the basket. This trajectory can be on any shot from the floor, including free throw attempts. Sometimes it is difficult to determine the exact moment a shot reaches its apex and begins downward. 

What is Basket Interference? 

Basket Interference occurs when an offensive player touches the ball in the imaginary cylinder. Players also cannot touch the net or the rim to keep the other team from scoring.

There is an exception to this rule when a player shoots a layup or performs a slam dunk. Players cannot hang on the rim after a dunk unless it is to protect themselves or another player from a fall. Hanging on the rim, in other instances, results in a technical foul.

What about Offensive Goaltending?

Goaltending is not limited to defensive players. Offensive goaltending occurs when a player moves the rim down to assist the ball through the hoop.

When this happens, the offensive team does not get credit for a basketball, and the opposing team gains possession of the ball. No personal fouls or technical fouls are given in this scenario.

When was a Goaltending Penalty First-Called in the NBA?

The rule was first implemented in the NCAA in 1944 and adopted by the NBA the following year. The officials in both leagues rarely had to implement the rule because, in early eras, basketball players generally could not reach the area above the rim.

Because of the first true big man in basketball, George Mikan, who stood at 6 feet, 10 inches tall, the goaltending rule came into existence and has been a part of the game ever since.

What is the Difference Between Goaltending & Blocking?

The biggest thing to consider when determining the difference between blocking and goaltending is the shot’s trajectory when the ball is touched. A legal blocked shot is when the defensive player touches the ball on its upward trajectory before it reaches its apex. When the ball is on the downward path when touched, it is a goaltending infraction.

If a player is going for a rebound and the ball is still in the cylinder when touched, that also qualifies as a goaltending infraction, awarding the shooting team points. Before anyone can go for the rebound, the ball must be away from the cylinder.

International Goaltending Rules

While the rules for goaltending are pretty universal, there is a difference between the international rules and the NBAL rule. In the international game, players can touch the ball after it hits the rim. This is a big difference: a ball could be coming straight down through the cylinder for a basket but can be blocked, negating a possible basket.

Special Circumstances Regarding Goaltending

When it comes to shots from the floor, a player can legally block the shot any time before the ball reaches its maximum point. However, if a player blocks a free throw at any point in its flight, the result is a goaltending infraction. This counts as a technical foul against the infracting playing and a point for the shooting team. It must be made aware that a technical foul on a free throw is extremely rare.

It doesn’t matter how much time is on the clock when it comes to goaltending. This can happen with no time on the clock, so long as the shot left the player’s hand before time expired. This is also a rare case, but it did happen in 2012-2013 when Jermaine O’Neal’s goaltend at the buzzer contributed to a narrow defeat of the Phoenix Suns at the hands of the Houston Rockets.

How To Avoid a Goaltending Penalty

1. They should make sure that they do not make contact with the ball while it is still in mid-air. If they do, they risk knocking it out of bounds or preventing it from going through the hoop entirely.

2. Players should be careful not to grab the rim while the ball is on its way down. Doing so will result in an immediate goaltending violation.

3. Players should give the shooter enough space to make their shot; if they are too close, they may inadvertently block the shot or interfere with the shooter’s follow-through.

Conclusion: What is Goaltending in Basketball?

Goaltending in basketball is a rule during the play of the game to prevent players from interfering with shots that could go into the basket. The rule is similar to basket interference, with the primary difference that goaltending happens when the ball is touched on its downward trajectory.

Basket interference is when an offensive player touches the rim or does not help the ball go in or when a defensive player does so to keep the ball out of the basket. The long-standing rule has been part of basketball at the NCAA level since 1944 and the NBA level in 1945.

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