Grabbing a Basketball From Another Player
Maintaining possession of the ball is one of the core activities in a basketball game. In the course of normal game play, cleanly grabbing the ball from an opponent is an excellent skill that contributes to your team's success. On the other hand, fouling opponents while trying to steal the ball or snatching the ball from opponents at an inappropriate time results in a variety of punishments depending on the context of the violation.
Steals and Fouls
A legal steal happens when a defensive player takes the ball from his opponent without committing a personal foul. However, the defender receives a personal foul and the steal isn't legal in two instances: If the defensive player strikes the offensive player with an arm or leg while attempting to wrest the ball free, or if the defensive player's body comes into contact with the offensive player and impedes his movement or knocks him off balance. The result of the foul depends on the number of fouls the offending team previously committed in the current quarter or half. The fouled team either passes the ball in from the sideline, or the fouled player receives two free throws attempts. In college basketball, however, the fouled player may instead shoot a one-and-one free throw series. Again, the result for college teams depends on the opponent's foul situation.
Occasionally, neither player gains a noticeable advantage when a player attempts to steal a ball from an opponent. If both players have a firm grasp on the ball at the same time, the referee blows the whistle to stop play and calls a held ball. In professional basketball, when play resumes, the two players competing for the ball face off in a jump ball. A jump ball requires that the referee throws the ball in the air between the two players, who then try to tip it to a teammate. In college and high school basketball, the team with the tiebreaking "possession arrow" in their favor receives the ball. With few exceptions, the possession arrow favors the team who did not receive the ball when play started for the most recent period of play or the most recent occurrence of a held ball.
Delay of Game
Players can't grab the basketball from an opponent in dead-ball situations or when the clock is not running and the ball is not actively in play. Delay of game is called if a player snatches a ball from an opponent during most dead-ball situations. This citation is also called if a player takes the ball from an opponent who is either attempting to pass the ball in from the sideline or preparing for a free throw shot. The first time any player on a team receives a delay of game citation they receive only a warning; the second citation provides the opposing team with one free throw attempt, which is shot by any player of their choice.
Referees assess technical fouls in response to unsportsmanlike acts. A player who aggressively grabs the ball from an opponent in one of the dead-ball situations that typically calls for a delay of game citation is also in danger of being hit with a technical foul. Technical foul assessment is a highly subjective art; the reaction of the player who is subject to the illegal ball grab, comments made by the offending player while grabbing the ball and the referee's relationship with the player or current mood all influence whether grabbing a ball results in a technical foul. If a technical foul is called, then the fouled team sends any player on the court to the free throw line for a single shot. If the player receiving the technical foul gets another technical foul called during the course of the game, she faces an automatic ejection.
Dan Howard is a sports and fitness aficionado who holds a master's degree in psychology. Howard's postgraduate research on the brain and learning has appeared in several academic books and peer-reviewed psychology journals.