This week’s offering about the rules of the game of basketball explores what I believe to be the single most misunderstood play in the game: the block/charge. As is the case with most of the other rules of the game, years of listening to Dick Vitale, Billy Packer, Bill Walton and other commentators who have very little understanding of the rules has caused the casual fan to have a serious misperception of what the rule requires, and how it is applied. For instance, most fans believe that in order to “draw a charge” the defender has to be stationary. Pretty much every time I call a charging foul on the court, I hear someone from the stands screaming at me that “he (the defender) was moving!!!” The fact is that the rule very specifically provides that a defender is permitted to move while guarding the offensive player, and he can still be in position to draw the charge. Let’s take a look at the important provisions of the blocking/charging rule.
The first step in analyzing the crash is to determine whether or not the defender was in legal guarding position (LGP)
at the moment of contact. There are two, and only two, requirements for a defender to initially obtain LGP: 1) He must have both feet on the playing court (inbounds), and 2) He must have his torso facing the offensive player. That’s it. If he has met both of those criteria, the defender is in initial LGP. Once he has established LGP, he can do darn near anything to maintain it. He can jump straight up. He can move sideways. He can move angling away from the offense. He can turn or duck to absorb contact. The only thing he can’t do is be moving toward the offensive player at the moment of contact. Assuming that the defender has established an initial LGP, the next issue in deciding block versus charge is to analyze the contact itself. If the contact is what we officials like to refer to as “torso to torso”, it’s a charge every time. If, on the other hand, the dribbler is able to get his head and shoulders past the torso of the defender, we have something entirely different. We can either be dealing with a blocking foul, or we can have what we refer to as a “no call.” Generally, it’s a block where the defender gets LGP, but then while the defense is moving laterally in order to continue defending, the offense gets his head and shoulders past the defender, and contact ensues. That is the classic block. The no call occurs when the defender is completely stationary. That is, he stakes out his little part of the lane, and he never moves an inch. The offensive player comes flying around a screen and is hurtling down the lane, only to be confronted by a defender who has been standing there for a good two or three seconds. The offensive player tries to avoid the defender by jumping to the side, and his legs strike the defensive player. Both players hit the floor and the fans wait for the whistle. And they wait. And wait some more. The correct call in this circumstance is probably a no call. Why? Because the defender did nothing wrong. There is a fundamental principle of officiating that I require all new officials in my training class to memorize: Every player is entitled to a spot on the floor provided he gets there first without illegally contacting an opponent
. In the play above, the defense got there first, and he did nothing wrong after getting there, so we can’t call a foul on him. And the offense got head and shoulders past the defense, so we can’t justify calling a foul on him. In this instance, despite the fact that we have bodies on the floor, neither player has violated the rules, so no whistle should be blown. Most of the time 50 percent of the fans think the officials are wrong; this play is one of those rare circumstances where 100 percent of them are convinced we missed it. That’s it in a very small nutshell. There are exceptions to this rule, as there are to pretty much every rule in the book. However, if you understand the concept of legal guarding position, you will go a long way toward correctly analyzing the block/charge call.