What is The Basketball Tip Off? Examples of Winning Tip Offs

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - Final Four - Houston v Baylor

The start of the game at the high school, NCAA, WNBA and NBA level begins the same way—with the tipoff. While it may seem like a simple way to start the game, there is a whole set of rules governing not just the players tipping the ball, but all the other basketball players on the court. Making sure the opening tipoff goes right is essential to starting off the basketball game.


The game starts with two players and one ref at the center of the basketball court in what is called the jump circle or center circle. These two players, one from each team, are known as the jumpers, and they are usually the tallest players on a team. The official tosses the ball up in the air, at which point, the ball is considered to be “live.” The jumpers may then jump to tip the ball to their teammates in order to gain the first possession.

According to the rules of basketball, the jumpers must wait until the ball has reached its highest point before touching it. Jumpers are not allowed to grab or hold the ball, as they may only tip or hit the ball to a teammate. Jumpers may touch the ball twice during the tipoff, and once another player has gained possession of the ball, they may touch it again with no dribble or shooting restrictions.

Other Players

The other players on the court are also bound by certain rules during the tipoff. All players must remain outside the jump circle and must remain still until the ball has been touched by one of the players. If a player moves into the jump circle or moves at all before the ball is tipped, it is a violation, and the ball is awarded to the opposing team.

In all jump ball situations, if the ball is hit out of bounds before possession is gained, it is a violation and is awarded to the team who did not hit it out of bounds. If the ball is tipped and two opposing players gain equal and simultaneous possession of the ball, a new tipoff is done involving the two players who gained possession of the ball, not the two original jumpers.

Boston College v North Carolina

Possession Arrow

The alternating possession arrow is used in college basketball, and is set based on the results of the opening tip-off. Whichever team does not gain possession of the jump ball is awarded the possession arrow, which is used to determine who gets the ball in certain situations, such as:

  • A held ball, for example, where two players grab a rebound at the same time and hol
  • An out of bounds situation, where the official does not have certain knowledge of who hit the ball out of bounds
  • On double violations, such as a double lane violation, but not on double fouls
  • When the ball gets stuck between the rim and the backboard on a shot or pass attempt

After winning the opening tip off some players have a unique routine with some of their teammates. Lakers’ stars Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony’s is shown below: