A Technical Foul in Basketball

"Techs" or "T's" have an interesting history in basketball

Basketball shoving
Jeff Gross/Staff/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

"Technical foul" is a catch-all term used to describe a wide range of infractions and rules violations that occur in a game of basketball. Technical fouls -- also referred to as "techs" or "T's" -- are most commonly called for unsportsmanlike conduct, such as arguing with the referee.

Common Technical Foul Situations

Referees can -- and will -- call technical fouls for any number of infractions. But, a few violations are the most common, including:

  • Excessive timeouts: Calling timeout when a team has no timeouts remaining will draw a technical foul, as Chris Webber learned -- much to his chagrin -- during the 1993 NCAA Championship game.
  • Delay of game: A delay of game is usually called when a player prevents the other team from retrieving the ball after a made basket, keeping that team from inbounding the ball and starting its offense. In the NBA, the first delay of game infraction draws a warning, with a technical foul called for each subsequent delay.
  • Hanging on the rim: Players are only allowed to hang on the rim if doing so would prevent them from landing on another player.
  • Fighting
  • Taunting
  • Flopping
  • Violations of the defensive three-seconds rule 
  • Improper substitutions
  • Any physical contact with opposing players while the ball is not in play: Hitting a player on the arm while he's attempting to shoot would be a personal foul. A similar hit after the referee blows the whistle to stop play would merit a technical.

    Free Throws and Suspensions

    When a technical foul is called in an NBA game, the opposing team is awarded one free throw. Any player in the game at the time of the foul can take the shot. Play resumes from the point that the foul was called. In high school and college basketball, two shots are awarded.

    In the NBA and most other levels of basketball, a player or coach called for two technical fouls in a single game is immediately ejected. NBA players called for 16 technicals in a single season earn a one-game suspension, with additional one-game suspensions for every two technicals thereafter.

    Top Tech Earners

    • Hall of Famer Karl Malone holds the career record for technical fouls with 332.
    • Rasheed Wallace holds the single-season record with 41 in 2000-2001 -- with a total of 317 technicals during his career -- and was ejected from more than 300 games during his 16 seasons in the NBA.
    • On Dec. 2, 2012, in a game against the Phoenix Suns, Wallace received two technicals in under 90 seconds, earning the fastest ejection of his career. The first was for a hard foul on the Suns' Luis Scola, the second for shouting his trademark phrase "Ball don't lie!" after Goran Dragic missed the ensuing free throw.
    • In one of the more controversial calls, referee Joey Crawford called a technical foul on San Antonio's Tim Duncan -- on the bench at the time -- for laughing.