Basketball Rules for a Self-Pass


According to basketball rules, passing the ball to yourself is technically illegal at all levels of the game; however, there are numerous methods of legally advancing or maintaining control of the ball that differ little from a self-pass.

Similar to other fouls and technically illegal plays, the manner in which a ball handler executes a self-pass can determine whether they are charged with a foul and lose possession of the ball in a basketball game.

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Official Rules

According to NBA Rules, you will be charged with traveling and lose possession if you are the first person that touches a ball after you have made a pass, rather than another teammate or a defensive player from the opposing team.

Rules of basketball for both the NCAA and International Basketball Federation both have similar concepts: All three groups agree that the ball must legally contact another in-bounds player for a throw-in to be completed.

Although "legal contact" refers primarily to whether the receiving player is fully in bounds, this term can also apply to situations of deliberately bouncing the ball off another basketball player.

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Using Another Player

NBA, NCAA and FIBA rulebooks all state that you can touch a ball after making a pass if the ball touches another player first, whether that be an offensive player or a defensive player. As such, it is technically legal to complete a self-pass that involves deliberately bouncing the ball off an opposing player's body.

This is also true for out of bounds throw-ins, as long as you have both of your feet in bounds before recovering the ball. However, if the referee judges that you have deliberately bounced the ball off an opponent in a way that might cause injury, you can be charged with a technical foul or personal foul.

Other Objects

In addition to contact with other players, contact with the rim or backboard can be used as a means of recovering your own pass. This form of self-passing is often used at the end of a fast break, typically as part of an acrobatic layup or slam-dunk attempt.

However, as FIBA rules clearly state, deliberately bouncing the ball off the rim or backboard can be considered a form of dribbling. As such, you may be charged with a traveling violation if the referee does not view your use of the backboard or rim as an actual field goal attempt where you went into the act of shooting.

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Leading the Ball

Although it is not clearly a form of self-passing, leading the ball is one of the most common ways to pass to yourself. This typically occurs when trying to catch a defender off guard by quickly changing your pace and rushing up-court.

You can use this legal form of self-passing in one of two ways. The first involves a dribbler bouncing the ball so it travels a great distance, then rushing to recover the ball and continue their dribble.

The second is by pushing the ball farther forward during a normal dribble, forcing you to rush up-court to continue your dribble after it bounces. This is commonly seen as a player from the now-offensive team grabs the rebound off of a missed shot attempt and pushes a fastbreak from the baseline or backcourt to the frontcourt in an attempt to beat the defense down the floor for an easy layup.