Basketball Rules on Assists

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Every possession in a basketball game leads to a treasure trove of statistics. If a player makes a basket, he's awarded 2 points, along with a made shot. If he misses, his field goal percentage shrinks, while someone else grabs the loose ball and is given a rebound. Sometimes, a made shot also merits an assist--but not every pass counts in the statistics column.

What is an Assist?

  • Sports assists are awarded when one player directly helps another player score. In hockey, up to two players are awarded assists on each goal. They often are the last two offensive players to touch the puck before the scorer, meaning they don't even need to pass the puck to a teammate to earn an assist. It's far different in basketball, where only one assist at most can be awarded for each basket. The point guard usually is his team's assist leader, since he or she is responsible for running the offense and therefore has the ball most. Eight of the top 10 assist totals from the 2009-10 NBA season were recorded by point guards.

What Counts

  • In basketball, an assist is awarded when a player makes a successful pass to a teammate, who in turn makes a basket. The scoring player is allowed to take as many steps are allowed under the rules, but in order for the assist to count, he must dribble the ball no more than once. There is no time limit, so an assist is awarded even if the shooter waits several seconds--without dribbling--before launching a shot. There are several different ways to record an assist. The alley-oop pass has the passer throw the ball near the hoop, where the receiving player catches it and scores in one motion. A bounce pass, in which the passer skips the ball off the court to the recipient, also counts as an assist if the ensuing shot is made.

What Doesn't Count

  • If the receiving player dribbles the ball more than once before scoring, an assist no longer is in play. Since only one assist can be awarded per play, the second passer on a made shot cannot record an assist, even if his or her pass was pivotal to the play. A pass that hits the backboard is not eligible for an assist, nor is a pass that ends up in another player's hands first. If a player passes to himself, either off the backboard or the floor, and makes the shot, he or she earns points for the basket but is not given an assist.

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  • Photo Credit basketball in hoop image by Sandra Henderson from Fotolia.com
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