Basketball is played all around the world using the same set of rules... except in North America, of course!
Below is a list of major rule differences between FIBA (International) Rules and many of those used in North America. The list is meant to give more detailed information than some other comparisons (more suitable for usage by referees), but is by no means exhaustive.
Each point listed will address the following sets of rules:
|NBA||National Basketball Association, the world's premier professional league, with teams in the United States and Canada.|
|WNBA||A professional women's summer league founded by the NBA in 1997.|
|NCAA Men||US National Collegiate Athletic Association. There are some rule variations between Men and Women's rules.|
The NBDL (the NBA's fall development league) uses NBA rules for purposes of this discussion.
I do not have current information on US High School rules (National Federation rules), so I have chosen to omit them. They are similar in philosophy to NCAA Men's rules, but they have some peculiar quirks. The NCAA also puts a comparison in the back of their rule book each year, which is available online. Check some of the sources listed in my Hoop Links for more current information on NF Rules.
A reminder that this page is ©2000–2009 Anthony Reimer. If you want to reproduce this handout (for a clinic, for instance), you need to seek permission from me. In many cases, there will be no royalty charged so long as proper recognition is given. Having said this, I have been out of active officiating for quite some time, so if you want to use this comparison as a basis for a new, publicly-available rules comparison and keep it updated, please contact me and I will consider releasing this under the same terms as my Pre-game Card.
Three Point Line (measured from the centre of the basket)
|FIBA||6.25 m (20' 6.25") |
High-level competitions move to 6.75 m (22'1.75") in October 2010
|NBA||an arc of 23'9" (7.24 m), which intersects with lines parallel to the sideline which are 22' (6.7 m) away at their closest point to the basket|
|WNBA||20' 6.25" (6.25 m)|
|NCAA Men||19'9" (6.02 m), increasing to 20'9" (6.325 m) for 2008–09 season|
|NCAA Women||19'9" (6.02 m)|
Restricted Area (a.k.a. "The Key" or "The Lane")
|FIBA|| A trapezoid 3.6 m (12') wide at the free throw line and 6 m wide (19' 8.25") at the baseline |
High-level competitions move to 4.88 m (16') wide rectangle in October 2010
|NBA||16' (4.88 m) wide rectangle|
|NCAA Men||12' (3.6 m) wide rectangle|
|FIBA||4 - 10 minute quarters; OT periods are 5 min each|
|NBA||4 - 12 minute quarters; OT periods are 5 min each|
|WNBA||4 - 10 minute quarters; OT periods are 5 min each|
|NCAA Men||2 - 20 minute halves; OT periods are 5 min each|
Game Clock Operation — Last Minutes of Play/Field Goal
The clock stops after a successful field goal...
|FIBA||In the last two minutes of the second half and any OT period|
|NBA||In last minute of quarters 1, 2, 3, last 2 minutes of quarter 4 and any OT|
|WNBA||In last minute of every period|
|NCAA Men||In the last minute of the second half and any OT period|
Shot Clock — Time Allowed to Shoot
|NCAA Men||35 seconds|
|NCAA Women||30 seconds|
Shot Clock — Operation
All rules agree that a team must attempt (release) a shot before the clock expires and that for it to be a legal attempt, the ball must strike the ring. After a legal attempt, the clock is reset to its maximum value and does not start again until a team gains control (or is awarded possession for a throw-in). Likewise, a change of team control causes the shot clock to be reset. Shot clocks are stopped when play stops. Clocks are never reset when a defensive player causes the ball to go out of bounds (the word "violation" used below does not refer to out-of-bounds violations). The rules diverge on which situations cause a reset, how much that reset will be, and when the clock will restart.
|NCAA Men|| |
Time Outs — Number and Duration
|NCAA Men|| |
Electronic Media Game:
Time Outs — How To Call, When Allowed, Privileges
|NCAA Men|| |
Jump Ball, Held Ball, Alternating Possession
|NCAA Men|| |
|NCAA Men|| |
|NCAA Men|| |
Team Fouls (Penalty or "Bonus" Free Throws)
Note: In all rules, if a shooting foul occurs, or any other foul that would lead to free throws regardless of the foul count, the normal penalty shall supersede any penalty related to foul count.
|NCAA Men|| |
Technical Foul — Penalty
|FIBA||2 free throws and possession of the ball at centre; no possession at centre if the foul occurs before the first half (game would still start with a jump ball).|
|NBA||1 free throw per technical foul; play resumes at the point of interruption; foul is charged to individual in question (and automatic fine assessed)|
|NCAA Men||2 free throws, play resumes at point of interruption.|
|NCAA Women||2 free throws, play resumes at point of interruption. Technical fouls for excess time outs shall be penalised by two free throws, plus loss of possession of the ball.|
All rules disallow players from touching the ball on its downward flight toward the basket if it still has a chance to go in. Reaching through the basket to play the ball is also a violation. The major differences centre around what happens when a shot hits the rim and may or may not go in.
|NBA||Legal, however a defensive player may not stay in the lane (a.k.a. key, restricted area) for longer than three seconds if he is not actively guarding an opponent (penalty: technical foul, shot clock reset to 14 if necessary)|
Free Throw Activity
Note: In all rules, the shooter of the free throw must wait for the ball to strike the rim before they can touch or cross the line.
|NCAA Men|| |
|NCAA Women|| |
- Player Numbers
- FIBA: Only the numbers 4-15 may be used in international competition (in exhibition or domestic play, any one- or two-digit number is acceptable)
NCAA: 00, 0, 1-5, 10-15, 20-25, 30-35, 40-45, 50-55; not both 0 and 00 on the same team;
NBA, WNBA: any one or two digit number; not both 0 and 00 on the same team.
- Ball Over Backboard
- FIBA: The ball is still in play if it passes over the backboard in either direction, providing that it does not hit a basket support
NBA, WNBA, NCAA: Ball is out of bounds if it passes over the backboard in either direction (NBA/WBNA wording is "passes behind the backboard")
- NBA/WNBA rule is a little more liberal than the current NCAA and FIBA rules when a player is coming to a stop. The NBA/WNBA rule is identical to the pre-1994 FIBA rule; in essence, once you have come to a legal stop, you always have a foot to pivot with. NCAA and current FIBA rules can leave a player without a pivot foot. As well, if you land with a staggered stop (i.e. one foot, then the other, with one foot clearly in front of the other), the back foot is the pivot foot in NBA/WNBA. In NCAA/FIBA, the first foot to touch is the pivot.
- Injured Player
- FIBA: Referee stops play at an appropriate time to deal with injury (slightly different times in FIBA and NCAA). If an injured player is entitled to free throws and must leave the game, the substitute shall attempt the throws.
NCAA: Referee stops play at an appropriate time to deal with injury (slightly different times in FIBA and NCAA). New in 2009–11: In Men's play, if an injured player is entitled to free throws and must leave the game, the opposing coach selects the player (from the four remaining on the floor) to take the throws unless it is due to an intentional or flagrant foul. (Women's play: Same as FIBA.)
NBA, WNBA: Team must call 20 second or full timeout to stop for injured player. If an injured player is entitled to free throws and must leave the game, the opposing coach selects a player from the shooting team's bench to take the throws unless it is due to a flagrant foul (penalty 1 or 2).
- Closely Guarded Player / 5 Second Violation
- FIBA: Player holding the ball for 5 seconds, actively guarded within one metre, anywhere on the court
NCAA: front court only, holding or dribbling the ball (not a combination of both) for 5 seconds, within 6'/2 m (Women: 3')
CIS Men 2006: Player holding the ball for 5 seconds, actively guarded within one metre, front court only.
NBA: No closely guarded rule; Illegal to dribble with your back to the basket for 5 consecutive seconds while you are between the baseline and the free throw line extended.
WNBA: No rule
- Backcourt Violation("Over and Back") / Front Court & Back Court Status
- If you are standing with the ball and have one or both feet touching the back court, you have back court status. If you are dribbling from backcourt to front court, all three points (dribbler's feet and the ball) must be in the front court, otherwise the ball retains back court status. New in 2008: This is now the case for all rules (FIBA change).
FIBA: Player who establishes a new team control while airborne and then lands in the backcourt has not commited a violation. Also, team control exists on a throw-in, so if the ball is thrown in from the front court to a player with back court status, it would be a backcourt violation.
NCAA: An airborne player who is the first to secure control of the ball after a jump ball or throw-in may land with one or both feet in the back court without violating. On a throw-in, a player may legally throw the ball directly to a teammate in the backcourt.
NBA, WNBA: Same as FIBA. Additional exceptions made for frontcourt and midcourt throw-ins in the last two minutes (WNBA: 1 minute) of the 4th period and throughout overtime made directly to the backcourt, an airborne player securing the ball in jump ball situations, and in loose ball situations.
- 8 (or 10) Second Violation
- Once a team gains control of the ball in the backcourt, it has either 8 or 10 seconds (as specified below) to proceed to the frontcourt (i.e. the ball gains frontcourt status).
FIBA: 8 seconds. Count is not reset if possession is retained because of an out of bounds violation, an alternating possession throw-in, fouls of equal penalties, or offensive injury.
NBA, WNBA: 8 seconds. Count is reset if the defence kicks or punches the ball, is assessed a technical foul, or is issued a delay of game warning; or if play is stopped due to a player bleeding. For purposes of this rule, the ball gains front court status on a pass when it crosses the plane of the centre line.
NCAA Men: 10 seconds. Count ends (without penalty) if the ball becomes dead (e.g., if the defensive team deflects the ball out of bounds).
NCAA Women: No time limit (other than the shot clock).
- Number of On-court Officials
- FIBA: A three-official system will be used for World and Olympic Championships, and may be used for other championships; mechanics similar to NCAA.
NBA, WNBA: A three-official system is used (different mechanics than NCAA/FIBA).
NCAA: Either two or three officials.
- Rebounding Own Shot
- NBA, WNBA: Violation to be the first to touch ones own shot if it doesn't hit the rim or backboard (i.e. an "air ball").
All others: Legal (referee must judge that it was a try for goal, as poorly executed as it was ;-)
- Ball Size
- As of September 2004, all Women's rules (FIBA, WNBA, NCAA) use the so-called Size 6 ball (previously, FIBA had used the same ball size for men and women). All Men's rules continue to use the larger ball.
- Instant Replay
- NBA, WNBA: Triggered automatically (no discretion); used to determine good field goals at the end of period as well as time remaining in period when the foul occurs with 0:00 on the clock; used to determine severity of foul in Flagrant 2 (ejection) instance and any other factors that may have caused same; used to assist with identifying and penalizing players in an altercation; used for game clock malfunction at the end of a period; used to determine status of 2- or 3-point attempt (whether made or shooter fouled) when officials are in doubt. Anything at the end of the game that will not affect the outcome is not reviewed.
NCAA: When available, shall be used to determine good field goals at the end of period as well as time remaining in period when the foul occurs with 0:00 on the clock (same as NBA); shall be used to determine who left the bench during a fight (and if a fight occurred); may be used (discretion of officials) in specific ways related to Free Throws (e.g., shooter, number of throws), Scoring (2 or 3 point goal, scorer errors), Timing (clock malfunction, game clock or shot clock operational errors — specific limits apply), or to determine if a flagrant foul has occurred (new for 2009–11: can also reduce the penalty to intentional foul after review).
FIBA: No rule.
- Deliberate/Hard Foul (not leading to ejection)
- FIBA: Called Unsportsmanlike Foul. To be called if player is making no effort to play the ball or if it is a "hard foul." New in 2008: If there is no opponent between the offensive player and the basket and the player is fouled from behind or on the side, it is unsportmanlike.
NBA, WNBA: Called Flagrant Foul — Penalty 1. To be called if contact is "unnecessary." A clear-path-to-the-basket foul is not considered a Flagrant (1) foul, but the penalty (2 free throws + possession) is the same.
NCAA: Called Intentional Personal Foul. Similar interpretation to FIBA (except no specific clear-path foul, just fouling from behind). Contacting a thrower-in is an Intentional Foul.
- Charging Fouls under the Basket
- FIBA: Implementing a 1.25 m (4'1.2") no-charge semicircle for High-level competitions starting in October 2010 (for "medium" levels in October 2012). No rule until that time.
NCAA Men: New in 2009–11: Secondary defender must establish position in front of backboard and rim.
NCAA Women: No rule.
NBA, WNBA: 4' (1.22 m) no-charge semicircle.