Traveling. It's about movement.


Traveling is often misunderstood and miscalled. With a quick or crafty basketball player, it can be a challenge to determine if a travel violation or legal movement has occurred. The guiding principle of being sure before calling a violation fits particularly well for traveling. It is better to pass on a questionable travel violation than to take away the advantage gained by an offensive player via legal movement.

With the best of intentions, consistently getting the travel call right is hard. Without a solid understanding of the rule and careful study of travel situations, positive consistency is beyond reach.


This article addresses the traveling rules as defined by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Basketball Association (NBA), Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur (FIBA). Fortunately, basic concepts and much of the detail is consistent across these rules. The differences are identified here.

The remaining sections of this article are:
Definition: A comprehensive definition of traveling is provided. The full content of each travel rule is available separately along with selected highlighting of differences at phillyref.com travel rules. Supplementary NFHS, NCAA, NBA and FIBA cases are also available.
Simple Truths: Applying a few simple truths goes a long way to avoiding basic travel miscalculations.
Jump Stop: This extension of allowable pivot foot movement is described.
Pivot Foot: The key traveling concept of establishing a pivot is outlined.
Travel Gotchas: Back for three, bunny hop, head start, late dribble and post shuffle are among the common missed travel violations that are identified. Some video examples are provided.
Travel No Gotchas: Some travel calls ain't travels. These include a legal jump stop, hustle slide, advancing without control of the ball and multiple steps during a dribble.
Definition

Traveling is illegal movement by a player controlling (but not dribbling) a live ball inbounds.

    The specified illegal movement is:
  1. Lifting the pivot foot (or either foot if no pivot is available)
    1. and returning it to the floor before passing or shooting*
    2. before releasing the ball to start a dribble
  2. Lifting both feet and returning either to the floor before passing or shooting
  3. Dragging or sliding the pivot foot, or either foot if no pivot is available,
  4. Falling to the floor without maintaining a pivot foot or when no pivot is available.**
  5. Rolling or progressing on the floor, after sliding while holding the ball.
     *The jump stop is a legal exception.   **FIBA rules allow unintentionally falling to the floor.

    Additional illegal movement is:
  1. From a standing position, touching the floor with any part of the body other than a hand or foot. (NFHS only)
  2. Gain an advantage by controlling the ball and sliding on the floor. (NBA only)
  3. Controlling the ball on the floor and making progress by sliding. (WNBA only)
  4. Controlling the ball on the floor and attempting to get up without dribbling. (NFHS, NCAA, FIBA).
  5. Being the first player to touch the ball after a missed field goal attempt that does not touch the backboard or the rim. (NBA and WNBA only)
Simple Traveling Truths
  • Traveling often but not always involves illegal movement of the pivot foot
  • A player cannot travel while dribbling
  • A player who is not in control of the ball cannot travel
  • A player cannot travel while the ball is out of bounds such as during a throw-in
Establishing the Pivot foot

Determining the presence or absence of a pivot foot is central to understanding traveling.

    A pivot foot is established after a player catches the ball as follows:
Both feet on the floor when a foot is lifted the other foot is the pivot
Both feet off the floor
    touches on one foot followed by other first foot to touch is the pivot (except WNBA)
rear foot is the pivot (WNBA)
    touches on one foot, jumps off foot
     and lands simultaneously on both
     (or one foot, FIBA only)
neither foot can become pivot (except WNBA)
either foot can become pivot (WNBA)
    lands on both feet simultaneously when a foot is lifted, the other foot is the pivot
One foot on the floor (except moving in NBA/WNBA)
    second foot touches next foot first on floor is pivot
    jumps off foot and lands simultaneously
    on both (or one foot, FIBA only)
neither foot can become pivot (except WNBA)
either foot can become pivot (WNBA)
One foot on the floor (moving in NBA/WNBA)
    stops before 2 steps foot originally on floor is pivot
    stops on second step foot that touched floor on first step is pivot (NBA)
rear foot is the pivot (WNBA)
    jumps off foot and lands simultaneously
    on both (or one foot, FIBA only)
neither foot can become pivot (except WNBA)
either foot can become pivot (WNBA)
Jump Stop

A jump stop is legal movement that occurs when a player
1. catches the ball while moving (airborne or not) or dribbling
2. stops with one foot on the floor
3. jumps off the foot on the floor and lands simultaneously on both feet*

After a jump stop is completed, no pivot foot is available except under WNBA rules. WNBA rules allow either foot to be the pivot foot after a jump stop.

*FIBA rules also allow landing on one foot in step three above.

Traveling gotchas (illegal except if noted otherwise, each assumes that player is in control of the ball) Traveling no gotchas (legal except if noted otherwise)
Back For Three:
Player inside the 3 point line takes 2 steps back behind the 3 point line before shooting.

Bunny Hop:
Frequently occurs when a player receives a pass, takes a small hop and then jumps to shoot.

Fall From Grace:
Player controls a rebound and falls to the court. This is not traveling under NBA, WNBA or FIBA rules.

Head Start
Player lifts pivot foot before releasing ball, often as the beginning of a drive to the basket.

Jump, Drop Touch:
Player leaves the floor for a field goal attempt and purposely drops the ball before shooting or returning to the floor. Same player is first to touch the dropped ball.

Jump stop and step:
After a legal jump stop, player takes an additional step before releasing the ball (legal under WNBA rules)

Late Dribble:
Moving player catches ball and lifts and returns the pivot foot to the floor before dribbling.

NBA 3 Step:
Player takes it to the hoop with 3 steps.

Post Shuffle:
Player shuffles feet in post area, frequently to establish position before a shot or after a rebound.

Spin 2 Step:
Player lifts pivot foot and returns it to floor as part of spin move.

21 Travels in 40 seconds:
Clips from the USA Men's basketball team in the 2008 Olympics. How many travel violations can you count?
Airball:
Player attempts a shot that fails to hit the rim or the backboard. Player takes several steps and is first to touch and retrieve the ball. No violation has occurred under NFHS, NCAA and FIBA rules. A travel violation has occurred under NBA and WNBA rules.

Drop, No Touch:
Player leaves the floor for a field goal attempt and purposely drops the ball before shooting or returning to the floor. A teammate or opponent retrieves the ball.

Hustle Slide:
Player dives to the floor, gains control of the ball and slides. Player may legally slide as far a momentum takes him/her.

Legal Jump Stop:
Player catches the ball while moving (airborne or not) or dribbling, The player stops with one foot on the floor and jumps off that foot to land simultaneously on both feet.

Multi-Step Dribble:
Player takes 2 or more steps during dribble.

NBA Standup:
Player on the floor and holding ball, stands up without dribbling. This is legal by NBA/WNBA rules, but illegal by NFHS/NCAA/FIBA rules.

No control:
Player takes several steps while attempting to gain initial control

Throw-In Move:
Player throwing the ball moves beyond the 3-foot restricted area for a spot throw-in (a throw-in violation, not a travel)