What Is Goaltending In Basketball? We’ve Got the Answer for You!

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While this may sound hard to believe, there was a time when huge players dominated the area under the belt. They quickly stop or block any shot in the air.

To change that, goaltending violation was born. This regulation is one of the most difficult to recognize and confusing.

What is goaltending in basketball? If you are also wondering about this violation, how it works, and its penalties, this article will help you.


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Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

What Is Goaltending In Basketball? 

Goaltending is an offense in basketball where players illegally obstruct the ball when they have a reasonable chance of scoring.

Usually, this save occurs when the player touches the ball on or just above the rim. Another situation is when the defender blocks the falling ball.

The goaltending error applies to all league levels from high school, WNBA, NCAA, to NBA. Even so, it is an unrecognizable error for the referees and often causes controversy during the match.

Many people also often confuse goaltending with basket interference and blocking. However, these calls have some specific differences.

Offensive And Defensive Goaltending 

The goaltending error rule at the first launch was mainly focused on defensive actions

If the defense is breached, the attacking team will immediately receive points. 

The number of penalty points corresponds to the throwing position of the attacking formation.

So, if it’s a long throw, the attacking team gets three points. More specifically, the scorer will still receive points for the last throw.

This issue is essential in fantasy basketball games because players will receive points despite goaltender intervention.

Another example of defensive goaltending is when a player intentionally blocks a shot during a free throw attempt. The referee will immediately confirm this is a technical error. The penalty for this throw is one point.

It wasn’t until a decade later that the concept of offensive goaltending was introduced.

This action occurs when a player touches the ball out of orbit beyond the imaginary cylinder and towards the basket. Therefore, the ball is easier to go into the net.

Usually, these types of violations are rare. Its consequence was the transfer of possession of the ball and no points being awarded.

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The basketball net and hoop

Why Is Goaltending Illegal? 

Like other NBA basketball rules, goaltending is illegal because it reduces the game’s competition and affects fairness.

As this sport became more popular, many taller and stronger players joined in. 

Their form is a significant advantage when they can change the ball to block or assist in scoring.

Therefore, goaltending violation was born to limit the significant influence of tall players causing an imbalance in the match. A similar rule is a three-second rule.

Bob Kurland and George Mikan are the pioneers of this ban. With a vast 6’10” height, Kurland and Mikan’s defense is very uncomfortable.

Usually, they will stand directly under the basket and catch the opponent’s throws. Almost no one can score with this method.

The person who made offensive goaltending grow was Bill Russell. His massive body dominates the college league.

Russell can miss his teammates’ throws. He could score from there thanks to his excellent bounce and considerable height.

Without this violation, Russell’s rebounds during his NBA career would have surpassed 21,620.

What Is The Penalty For Goaltending? 

Since goaltending is a violation that can occur in defense and attack, the penalty will depend on the position of the goaltender.

Typically, defensive goaltending behaviors are more common than offensive ones. The opposing team usually awards the penalty for defensive foul points. The bonus points will rely on where the ball was thrown.

If the player throws the ball inside the three-point line, they receive two bonus points if the opponent commits a foul.

Similarly, if the shooter is fouled during a goal or your teammate blocks the shot while it is on a downward trajectory, that is also defensive goaltending.

The penalty will be a bonus point and a free throw for the opponent’s goal-scoring attempt. The whistle or the timing is not the deciding factor, as the referee can still call this foul after blowing the judging whistle.

If a player intentionally obstructs an opponent while making a free throw attempt, that would be a technical error.

Even the referee can still call goaltending after the match has ended. The reason is that some players may intentionally block buzzer-beaters in the final seconds.

A similar situation happened during a 2019 NBA game. The Wizards won against the Knicks because of a goaltender’s intervention.

Conversely, when an attacking player intentionally intervenes to put the ball in the basket, his team loses possession of the ball. Besides, the score of the goal just made is not recorded.

In the rare cases where both teams are fouled, no bonus points will be awarded to anyone. Besides, the two teams will decide the ownership of the ball by a jumping ball.

What’s The Difference Between Goaltending And Basket Interference? 

When NBA referees look at the basket, they pay attention to specific parts.

A basket usually consists of a net, a hoop, a backboard, and an imaginary space cylinder that runs from the hoop to the top.

If a player wants to dribble, they must touch the ball while it is on a downward trajectory to the basket. This trajectory could start a goal-scoring attempt or a free throw.

In addition, a goaltending violation stipulates that the ball’s position does not touch the invisible tower but must be on the belt to be eligible for a penalty kick.

The situation is called basket interference in cases where the opponent touches the ball while it is in the imaginary cylinder.

In addition, players must not prevent the ball from entering the net by touching or going around the net.

What is goaltending in basketball

Frequently asked questions 


If you have any questions regarding goaltending, please continue reading below.

What’s The Difference Between Goaltending And Blocking?

The difference between goaltending and blocking is the trajectory of the basketball.

The block will be counted as blocking if a throw has an upward motion. Conversely, goaltending will take place when stopping balls with a downward trajectory.

Likewise, a player may violate goaltending if the ball goes above the belt when rebounding. To rebound safely, the player must ensure the ball is below the ring level.

What Is The History Of Goaltending?

The NCAA was the first organization to introduce goaltending rules, and the reason was primarily due to the way one individual, George Mikan, played. The 6’10” height allows him to loop the ball in the air as it flies towards the basket.

Is Slapping The Backboard Goaltending?

No, slapping the backboard is neither goaltending nor is it basket interference. So, there will be no penalty for this action.

Can You Goaltend A Free Throw?

No, you will make a technical mistake if you goaltend a free throw. The attacking team will get one point.

Can You Goaltend A Dunk?

If a player grabs the rim and dives, this is illegal. However, sending the ball directly over the boundary will never be considered goaltending.


What does goaltending mean in basketball? This action is a basketball offense involving deflecting or touching a ball coming down toward the basket or above or within the rim.

Although many people frequently confuse this rule with blocking or basket interference, they have apparent differences. However, the referee needs to be experienced to call the correct error.

Hopefully, this article by Scott Fujita has given you a better overview of this error. Try to find out about it and determine the game time.

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