How to Do a Jump Ball in Basketball

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A jump ball is the start of every basketball game. Two chosen players from each team face off to determine who takes the first possession of the ball. Whether you're the one doing the jumping for your team or a player hoping to recover the ball after the tipoff, knowing how to play a jump ball is basic knowledge for every basketball player.

  • Perform a proper warm-up and stretching prior to the jump ball to ensure your body is prepared for vertical jumping and to help prevent injury. The team pregame warm-up is sufficient.

  • Stand facing your opponent in the center circle of the court. Both feet should be inside your half of the circle, with your back toward the basket your team is defending.

  • Lower into an athletic stance with one foot as close to the center line as possible.

  • Prepare to jump as the referee tosses the ball into the air higher than you or your opponent can jump.

  • Jump upward as high as possible once the ball leaves the referee's hand in an attempt to tap the ball toward a teammate. Do not tap the ball until after it reaches its highest point. If you or your jumping opponent fail to make contact with the ball before it hits the floor, another jump ball will take place.

  • Attempt to tap the ball to your team's point guard so that he or she can move the ball up the floor toward your basket.

Tips & Warnings

  • Depending on specific league rules, the referee may also call for a jump ball when a held ball occurs, when a ball goes out-of-bounds off of players from both teams simultaneously, and when an official is in doubt of who touched the ball before it went out of bounds. In some leagues, a jump ball is not used to determine possession after the opening tipoff, but rather, teams are given alternating possession of the ball as indicated by a lighted arrow on the scorer's table.
  • During the jump ball, neither player may tap the ball more than twice. You must remain inside the circle until the ball has been tapped. A player may not catch or touch the ball again after the jump ball until one of the eight other players outside the circle has touched the ball.

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