What Is a Charging Violation?

A Discussion of a Very Difficult Call

Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Strictly speaking, the "charging" foul is defined as "illegal personal contact by pushing or moving into an opponent's torso." The classic example:

  1. player with the ball is driving towards the basket to attempt a shot
  2. defender steps into his path to impede his or her progress
  3. the ball-handler does not react quickly enough to avoid the defender, initiating a collision

Of course, most charge calls - especially NBA speed - are not that simple. To draw a charge call in the NBA, the defender must be "set" in proper defensive position; he can't step in the way of a player already in the air, and he can't be moving forwards. But contrary to popular belief, the defender does not need to be standing still. A player can move laterally or backward and still draw a charge call, so long as his torso is in position before the shooter begins his upward motion.

Defensive players are also required to give shooters room to land after completing the shot attempt.

The NBA Rulebook

The NBA rulebook states that "if an offensive player causes contact with a defensive player who has established a legal position, an offensive foul shall be called and no points may be scored. A defensive player may turn slightly to protect himself, but is never allowed to bend over and submarine an opponent."

Against a dribbler in the open court, the defender simply needs to be in front of him and provide enough distance for that player to reasonably stop or change direction. On a drive near the basket, the defender must be in position before the dribbler begins his upward shooting motion.

A charge is also called if "the player initiates contact in a non-basketball manner" such as leading with his foot.

The Restricted Area

On NBA courts, there is a semicircle painted on the floor which marks the area four feet from the center of the basket. Defenders cannot attempt to draw charges within that zone, which is known as the restricted area.

The restricted area was expanded in 1997. That decision was designed to limit the practice of players standing directly underneath the basket in order to draw charges. The league also clarified its blocking rules in 2004, and in 2007 changed the rules for when two referees disagree on a block/charge call. The implementation of different rules against flopping has also changed how blocks and charges are called.

Blocking Fouls

The opposite of a charge is a blocking foul. Blocking fouls are typically called when a defender gets into position too late or does not give the offensive player sufficient room to complete the act of shooting before initiating contact.

Drawing the Charge vs. Flopping

Some defenders have been known to fake - or wildly exaggerate - contact with offensive players in the hopes of drawing charge calls from referees. This practice is known as "flopping."

Starting with the 2012-13 season, the NBA will review questionable calls and issue fines ranging from $5000 to $30,000 to players found guilty of flopping.