Double Dribble: Definition and Basketball Rules (with Video!)

Young boy playing basketball

One of the more obscure basketball rules is the double dribble because it rarely happens over the course of a professional basketball game. The National Basketball Association, or NBA, rules prohibit players from beginning a second dribble after they have voluntarily ended the first. The phrase “double dribble” describes the violation of this rule.

What is the definition of a Double Dribble?

Once an offensive player picks up his dribble by catching the ball with both hands, he must pass it to a teammate or shoot it. The player cannot begin a second dribble after ending the first. If he dribbles a second time after voluntarily ending the first, he commits a double dribble violation.

What is a Legal Second Dribble?

A player may begin a second dribble if:

1. If a player dribbles to shoot, and the shot hits the rim or backboard and he gets it back

2. He lost control of the first dribble due to a defender touching the ball

3. Another player touched the ball as a result of his own pass or fumble

These violations can happen by a ball handler in the frontcourt and backcourt. This is why many full court presses lead to illegal dribble infractions because the defensive player can catch the dribbler off guard. It should be noted this is a different violation than a palming violation.

What is the penalty for a double dribble in basketball?

According to the FIBA rulebook, if a player begins a second dribble illegally, the referee will call a 'double dribbling' violation and that player’s team will lose possession of the ball. The opposing team will gain possession of the ball at the sideline nearest the violation but no closer to the baseline than the foul line extended.

If a double dribble occurs and the player attempts a field goal, it is nullified. Double dribbling, like a shot clock violation, is not a personal foul so it will never result in a free throw or technical foul, only a turnover and an inbounds throw-in for the other team. It should be noted that the penalty is the same in the NCAA. There is no penalty to committing a second violation