What is Goaltending in Basketball?( And Levels Differences )

For all sports, no one wants the opposing team to score any points, this is obvious. The end goal is for your team to have the most points and how do you do this? By scoring as many points as you can and stopping the opposing team from scoring as many points as possible. Although blocking points is the goal of the team on defense, there can be consequences for a player’s chosen actions to do so. In basketball, goaltending is a violation that can turn the game in the favor of the opposing team.

What is Goaltending in Basketball?

Goaltending, in basketball, is  “any of several violations that prevent a goal from being scored” that happens as a player tries to block a shot by touching the ball as it’s going down to the basket or while the ball is on, within, or over the basket rim. There has to be beyond a reasonable doubt that the intentional shot being made had a chance of going in the basket. Goaltending would not be called during fluke shot attempts. It’s an easily avoidable violation which is why it’s not often seen. It’s not as common as a foul that you’ll see in every game. Goaltending is also a difficult call for officials to make.

The Penalties for Goaltending

Offensive and defensive players can both commit goaltending and because of this there are several penalties depending on who commits the goaltend. When goaltending is committed it is more commonly made by defensive players than offensive players.

Defensive Goaltending

Goaltending committed by a defensive player results in points awarded to the opposing team. If the shot attempt is at the 2 point zone, the offended team is awarded 2 points. If the attempt was at the 3 point zone, the offended team is awarded 3 points. These are simple penalties that automatically award the opposing team with points for a shot they “technically” could have made.

If an opposing player is fouled by a defensive player while making a shot and another defensive player commits goaltending for the attempted shot, both foul and goaltending penalties are places. The opposing team receives the appreciate points for the shot attempt and is given a free throw. Even after the whistle is blown for a foul, goaltending can be called after. A technical foul is placed to the offending team when a defensive player commits goaltending pn the free throw attempt.

As the clock winds down, goaltending can still be called. A buzz-beater attempt that is illegally blocked even after the time has expired, will be considered goaltending.

Greatest NBA “Goaltending” Compilations:

Offensive Goaltending

Offensive goaltending happens rarely in basketball and the penalty is simple. If an offensive player commits goaltending, their team loses possession of the ball. The score does not count if a shot is made during or as a result of goaltending.

If both teams commit a violation, no points can be scored and the game will resume with two opposing players at the center circle to do a jump ball.

History of Goaltending and Why It’s Illegal

Goaltending, for the most part, is to lessen the gap in height disparity between shorter players and taller players (say 5’9” vs 6’7”). There are many physical characteristics and abilities that play into an advantage in basketball, height playing a big factor. For those who can not get above the rim, this is a chance of having a fair playing field.

Goaltending in basketball, like several other penalties, makes for a more competitive game. Increased popularity for the game of basketball brought in taller players and more athletic players than originally and this disparity caused many altered shots and guiding missed shots in the basketball. In 1944, the NCAA was the first to implement goaltending as a violation.

Defensive Goaltending Ban History

The influence of banning goaltending is accredited to two players, George Mikan and Bob Kurland. George Mikan is known as the first big man in professional basketball that absolutely dominated the court. Standing at 6’10”, Mikan was able to catch the opposing team’s ball on its downward flight into the basket. This caused the NCAA to ban this particular move as a part of goaltending. Bob Kurland influenced the ban of leaping above the rim to grab an opponent’s shot.

Offensive Goaltending Ban History

Bill Russell is credited for influencing the ban of offensive goaltending. Russell, when he anticipated, was able to guide his teammates’ missed shots into the basket.

Goaltending by Levels

There are minor differences between the levels of basketball for their rules on goaltending. Here’s a breakdown of the NCAA, High School, and International levels rules about goaltending.

High School Goaltending Rules

It’s not common for goaltending to happen at the high school level because of size, skill, athleticism, and more variations that are at large during this developmental life stage. At the high school level, it does not count as goaltending if a player touches the ball after the ball makes contact with the backboard while the ball is above the basket ring level. This is the only difference between high school and collegiate level basketball goaltending rules.

NCAA Goaltending Rules

The NCAA and NBA have similar goaltending rules. Blocking a ball in its downward flight to the basket or touching the ball while it’s in the cylinder above the room is what defines goaltending for both.

Where the difference lies is between NCAA Women’s Basketball vs NCAA Men’s Basketball.

For NCAA Women’s Basketball, goaltending is called when the ball is above the basket ring level entirely and a player interferes with it. For NCAA Men’s basketball, goaltending is called when any part of the ball is above the basket ring level of the rim. To put it simply, women’s goaltending equals the bottom of the ball above the rim, men’s goaltending equals at least the top of the ball above the rim.

UCLA vs. SMU: Bruins win on goal-tending call

In 2015, on round of 64 o the NCAA tournament, a controversial goaltending call was made in the last seconds of the UCLA(No. 11 seed) vs SMU(No. 6 seed) game. In the last 13 seconds of the game, Bruin’s player Bryce Alford attempted a shot from left-wing, and Mustangs’ player Yanick Moreira deflected the ball near the rim. The outside official ruled the play as goaltending although it is unclear whether the ball would have made it in, had it not been for the interference. Remember, as stated earlier, blocking would only be considered goaltending if the shot without a reasonable doubt would make it in the basket otherwise. This goaltending call changed the outcome of the game, SMU was no longer in the lead and in the end, UCLA won by 1 point, a 60-59 win.

International Goaltending Rules

International basketball leagues, the Basketball World Cup, and the Summer Olympics all fall under the jurisdiction of FIBA (The International Basketball Federation). Rules are somewhat different under FIBA compared to the American leagues. What they both have in common is that blocking the ball in its downward flight towards the rim of the basket is considered a goaltending violation.

There are two main differences between FIBA and American leagues’ goaltending rules. If the ball has a chance of going in the basket, players are allowed to touch the ball when it hits the rim whether it is above or below the rim. If the is still on an upward trajectory when it is above the rim or above the imaginary cylinder, players may interfere without it being considered a goaltending violation. These rules apply to free throws as well when it is the last free throw attempt.

The Difference Between Goaltending and Blocking

Although they look quite similar, the difference between goaltending and blocking relies on the timing of a defender’s jump. When a defender stops the ball as it’s released from a shooter’s hand in a goal attempt it is considered a blocked shot, which is legal. Blocked shots are legal as long as it happens before the ball touches the backboard or hits the rim of the basket and is going in an upward trajectory. Timing a block is difficult for those in every level of basketball. The difference between goaltending and blocking is so thin, one second off can cause a player to commit a goaltending violation.

The Difference between Goaltending and Basket Interference

Basket interference and goaltending are closely related violation rules that can be hard to differentiate at a glance. The main difference between goaltending and basket interference is that goaltending is called only when a shot attempt is interfered with on its downward flight toward the basket. If a player touches the rim of the basket, the net, the backboard, or the live ball when the ball is over or on the rim it is considered basket interference. Calling a basket interference vs goaltending when the ball is over the rim within the imaginary cylinder lies on the trajectory of the ball when the shot is taken. The ball bouncing off the rim and in the air above the rim within the imaginary cylinder is basket interference while the ball being in its downward trajectory will call for goaltending.

Basket Interference on offensive player

In this UConn vs Syracuse game, you can see a clear example of basket interference. When the shot attempt is made the ball bounces off the rim and above it in the imaginary cylinder in which Steven Enoch touches the ball and guides it into the rim. This basket interference was made by an offensive player, which means no points were awarded for the shot.

Controversial Goaltending Calls

Goaltending can be a very difficult call to make and because of this it is very controversial. Here are two examples of controversial goaltending calls.

NBA GameTime | Reactions to Atlanta Hawks CONTROVERSIAL WIN vs Dallas Mavericks 111-107

The Dallas Mavericks filed a protest in 2020 to have the league office allow them to replay the final 9.7 seconds of the game against the Atlanta Hawks. The controversial goaltending was called against Maverick’s Dorian Finney-Smith during Trae Young’s shot attempt. John Collins made a put-back for the shot. The goaltending call was overturned but the points from the put-back still counted. If they were allowed to replay the last seconds of the game it could have resulted in the Maverick’s tying with the Hawks sending them into overtime or with a Maverick’s win.

Clearly GoalTending by Rudy Gobert on Damian Lillard Layup | Portland vs Utah 02.07.2020

The goaltending call that was not made in the Portland Blazers vs Utah Jazz game in 2020 is highly controversial as it basically set up the Jazz to win. As Blazers’ Damien Lillard attempted a layup Jazz’s Rudy Gobert commits goaltending by touching the ball when it hits the window. The officials did not make a goaltending violation call on Gobert. Had they made the call, Lillard’s attempted layup would have awarded the Blazers with two points which would tie them with the Blazers at the time 116 to 116. This all happened in the last 13 seconds of the game, meaning the game could have gone to the Blazers if goaltending had been called. In the end, the Jazz won the game 117 to 114.

Final Words

Goaltending is a hard call to make at a glance and isn’t a violation you see at every game unlike a foul. Because it is a hard call to make it can be very controversial when it happens because the penalty either results in automatic points for the offensive team or no points at all for a goal made. There are minor differences between NBA, NCAA, High School, and International Basketball regarding goaltending but all view goaltending as a violation when a player interferes with the ball on its downward path to the rim. Goaltending relies on the timing of a player’s jump and at all levels, it can be an extremely difficult thing to gauge.

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