Basketball Rules That You Didn't Know

Elevated view of a basketball player slam dunking

You don't have to be an NBA referee to know that you can't tackle in basketball, or that a standard field goal is worth two points. But the sport does feature some rules that are lesser known, at least to those who don't play the sport or follow it closely. Whether you're acquainting yourself with the rules before launching your basketball career or you just want to be able to hold a hoops conversation at the office cooler, get to know them.

Five-Second Count

You probably know about the three-second limit on standing in the free-throw lane and the shot clock, which limits teams to a certain length of time in which to shoot the ball. But if you're only watched professional basketball, you may be unaware of the five-second count pertaining to dribbling the ball. In college basketball, and in many high school leagues, an offensive player is limited to five seconds of dribbling -- kept by the referee's hand count -- while being closely guarded. This rule encourages tough man-to-man defense and crisp ball movement.

No Dunking During Warm-Ups

It's possible to be trailing or leading on the scoreboard at the start of a game, thanks to a rule that prohibits dunking during pre-game warm-ups. Teams usually run through pre-game lay-up lines, but must resist the temptation to slam the ball or risk being called for a technical foul -- which gives the opponent two free-throws before the game starts. This rule only applies to high school and college basketball; dunking during warm-ups is accepted in the National Basketball Association.

High Dribble

There's a common misconception that if you dribble the ball at chest height or above, it's considered a carrying violation. But that's not the case. As long as your hand remains on top of the ball rather than underneath it, it's a legal dribble. But if you dribble high, lose control of the ball, grab it and then continue dribbling, it's considered a double-dribble and you must forfeit possession.

Rebounding Your Own Airball

Another common debate centers on whether you can be the first to touch the ball after you shoot an airball -- a shot that doesn't hit the rim or the backboard. Anyone who's played in pick-up games has heard this argument. The truth is, as long as it's a legitimate shot attempt and not an attempt to pass the ball to yourself or a teammate, an offensive player may grab his own air-ball miss.