The Traveling Rule

The Traveling Rule

The Traveling Rule

I’ve decided that during the course of the 2016-2017 OVAC basketball season, I’m going to try and write an article each week dealing with a particular rule of the game. I’ll give some examples, and maybe even some links to videos, so that the readers can become more familiar with the rules as they are actually written and applied.  For those who may wonder about my qualifications, I have been a basketball official since 1985.  I have worked both the WVSSAC high-school and NCAA Division II levels, and have been fortunate to be selected to work championship tournaments in both.  I am the current rules interpreter for the Ohio Valley Board of Approved Basketball Officials, a post I have held for a number of years.  And finally, for whatever reason, I just enjoy studying the rules. Today, I want to talk about the traveling rule.  Aside from perhaps the block/charge rule, traveling is probably the single most misunderstood rule in the game.  Fans believe that it’s traveling if a player takes more than one step without dribbling.  They believe a player who dives on a loose ball and slides across the floor has traveled.  And they believe a player who fumbles the ball while driving to the hoop has traveled.  Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Traveling is defined as “moving the pivot foot in excess of prescribed limits.”  Therefore, the first step in applying the rule involves properly identifying the pivot foot.  There are lots of different possibilities here, but I will try and simplify this step by telling you that once a player catches the ball and takes a step with one foot, the other foot is going to be the pivot foot  (There are multiple other scenarios for establishing a pivot, but I want to keep this as simple as possible).  Once the pivot foot is established, the only restriction is that the player cannot lift that foot and return it to the floor without releasing the ball on a shot or pass.  Note here that the player is NOT prohibited from lifting the pivot foot; he is only prohibited from putting it back down on the floor while still holding the ball. The rules also specifically deal with the situation where a player dives on the floor to secure a loose ball, and then slides across the floor for some distance.  That happened in a game I officiated last night, and of course the fans went nuts when I didn’t blow my whistle.  I didn’t blow it because it wasn’t traveling.  A player is permitted to secure a loose ball and then slide.  The only thing he is prohibited from doing is rolling over, sitting up or attempting to stand without first dribbling.  The rule-makers aren’t going to penalize a player for making a great hustle play. Finally, we come to the fumble.  A player cuts to the hoop, and as he attempts to gather the ball to go up for a layup, he loses the handle and bobbles the ball a bit while continuing to move to the hoop.  Again, the fans go nuts.  And again, there is no violation.  In order to have a pivot foot, a player must be HOLDING the basketball.  By definition, HOLDING the ball is different than FUMBLING the ball.  A player who is holding the ball can establish a pivot foot, and can therefore be guilty of traveling.  A player who is fumbling has no pivot foot, and therefore cannot travel.  And to answer the question of nearly every coach I have ever explained this to, yes, that means a player can fumble the ball from one end of the floor to the other without violating.  If you take anything at all from reading this article, I hope it is this:  IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A PLAYER TO TRAVEL UNLESS HE IS HOLDING THE BASKETBALL. There is much more I could write about this rule, but that should be enough to keep your head spinning for awhile.  If you have specific questions, or if you would like me to write about a particular rule, feel free to comment.  Next week, I’ll deal with the block/charge rule.