Basketball Rules for a Jump Ball


The jump ball occurs at least once a game in scholastic, college and professional basketball leagues. Depending on other circumstances, such as fights for possession and overtime, there could be multiple jump balls in a game. Although the rules for a jump ball are fairly simple, they must be followed with exactness. Because all the attention on the court is on a jump ball when it occurs, referees are likely to notice anything that is not up to the rules.

Waiting for the Ball

  • Regardless of whether you are referring to scholastic, college or professional basketball, the two players who line up for the jump ball must wait before touching the ball. After the referee throws the ball in the air, either player can begin his jump. However, neither player is allowed to touch the ball until it has reached its peak or it is on its way downward. If a player touches the ball while it is on its way up, the opposing team is immediately awarded possession. If the ball reaches the floor before it is touched by either player, the referee will perform the jump ball throw again.


  • The two participants in the jump ball must have both of their feet in the half circle located in the center of half court. They also must stay on their own sides of the half-court line before they jump. It does not matter where the players land. The other eight players on the floor must line up on the outside of the larger of the two half-court circles. These players may move to a new position on the outside of the circle after the ball has left the referee's hands. However, they may not enter either of the half court circles until one of the jumpers has touched the ball.


  • A player who participates in the jump ball is not required to make an effort to tap the ball. When a jumper does touch the ball, he is not allowed to touch it more than twice before another player touches it as well. The jumper is required to tap the ball to a teammate. He may not tap the ball to himself. He also may not jump and catch the ball while it is in the air. The jumper is also not allowed to hit a jump ball with a fist.

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