Charging in Basketball: A Complete Guide to How It’s Called

Outdoor red, green, and blue basketball court.

If you watch basketball on TV, you’ll know just how physical the game can be. A lot of the physicality comes down to jostling for position but certain acts are deemed worthy of a foul. I.E. making contact with a player mid-shot or running through a player to get to the basket. The latter is known as charging.

So, what is charging in basketball?

Charging is a type of foul where an offensive player collides with a defender in a legal guarding position. Charging results in a personal foul for the dribbler and a loss of possession for the offensive team. Charging often happens when a defender gets in front of a dribbler driving to the basket.

Getting called for charging can be a momentum killer, as it counts as a foul and awards the other team possession. With that said, taking a charge is no easy task and can be downright painful. If you’d like to learn more about charging, this article was made for you.

What Is Charging in Basketball?

Charging is a type of offensive foul. There are several ways to commit charging. All of them require that the defender is in a legal guarding position to take the charge: feet planted and with their body facing the offensive player.

Charging can be committed with or without the ball. Here are the ways that you can charge:

  • You can get called for charging if the defender gets set before you leave the ground for a layup attempt.
  • Charging can also be committed while dribbling. If the defender has their feet planted in a stationary position, then they’re in a legal position. Because the player in motion is the dribbler and is capable of initiating contact, they’re also responsible for avoiding contact. Running over a player in a legal guarding position is a charge.
  • Lastly, if you’re dribbling toward a defender but you pass the ball before colliding with the defender (in a legal position), you may still be assessed a charging foul. You’re still responsible for avoiding running into a stationary defender, even if you don’t have the ball.

How to Take a Charge in Basketball

As the NBA official website states, you must beat the offensive player to the spot where the collision occurs to draw a charge. This means you must give the dribbler time to change their direction to avoid contact.

Even if you’re there in time, you must plant both feet on the ground and maintain a stationary position until the offensive player collides with you. You don’t need to be as still as a statue, but you must keep your body facing forward until there’s contact.

This means if the offensive player is airborne, you must give them space to land. You can’t undercut them after they leave the ground, not only because it’s dangerous, but it results in a defensive foul.

The best way to take a charge is to keep your knees bent and feet wide apart. A wider stance keeps you low to the ground and it won’t hurt (as much) when you fall to the ground.

Charge vs Blocking Foul

The NBA dedicates an entire section of its rulebook to the “block/charge” rule. A block/charge situation is any collision between an offensive and defensive player, where the referee must determine whether the contact should result in a block or a charge. 

These situations are difficult calls for referees as collisions happen so quickly that officials may not see everything well enough to call the appropriate foul. In making this decision, an official may consider the following:

  • Did the defender have his feet planted?
  • Did the defender remain stationary?
  • Did the defender move his arms and/or hands? If so, was it to protect from impact or to push the dribbler?
  • Did the dribbler have time to change direction?
  • Was the offensive player airborne? If so, was the defender set before the offensive player left the ground? Did the defender give space for the offensive player to land?
  • Did the collision happen in the Restricted Area?

Officials aren’t always in the best spot on the floor to call blocking and charging fouls. Even if they are in a good position, the collision may happen too fast for them to assess any of the above questions. This leaves some collisions up to the judgment of the referees.

Exactly how difficult is it to differentiate blocking and charging fouls? Even NBA officials struggle with it. According to The Sport Journal, officiating crews correctly called just 34.2 percent (about one out of three) of offensive fouls during close games.

By close games, we’re talking the last two minutes of a game when the score is within three points. This includes missed non-calls that should have been called offensive fouls.

What Is a Block in Basketball?

Not to be confused with a blocked shot, a “block” can also refer to a “blocking foul.” If you hear a broadcaster say “block,” pay attention to the context.

A blocking foul is a defensive foul committed by a player who fails to properly take a charge. This occurs in several situations:

  • The defender is too late in jumping in front of the dribbler and the dribbler does not have time to react and change direction, forcing a collision with the offensive player.
  • The defender undercuts an airborne offensive player. Once a player is mid-air, specifically while attempting a dunk or layup, he doesn’t have much control over where he lands. If a defender slides under an airborne player, he is impeding the shooter’s ability to safely land.
  • The defender isn’t standing in a legal guarding position. Even if they give the dribbler plenty of time to react, the defender may still commit a blocking foul if they’re not in a legal guarding position. This includes but isn’t limited to: shuffling feet, jumping, and leaning left or right to try to draw contact.

If a defender commits a blocking foul while the offensive player is in a shooting motion, the foul becomes a shooting foul.

What Is the Restricted Area in Basketball?

Basketball court with a hotel in the background.

The restricted area is a zone under the goal that protects offensive players when they are driving to the basket. A semicircle under the goal marks the restricted area. This semicircle is 4’ in diameter.

So, what exactly does this area restrict?

A restricted zone violation occurs when a defensive player attempts to draw a charging foul while standing in the semicircle. Defensive players cannot take charges when they are in the restricted area.

It doesn’t matter if their feet are planted and they’re standing still. If either of the defender’s feet is inside or on the restricted arc, the collision will result in a blocking foul on the defender.

The restricted area protects offensive players because there is already limited space to safely land when attempting a dunk or layup. The zone is small enough that if a defender stays inside through the offensive player’s entire layup attempt, there will likely be a collision.

This zone serves two purposes:

  1. It’s a safety measure for offensive players.
  2. It reinforces the block/charge rule, which requires defenders to give airborne shooters sufficient space to land.

Charging in the NBA

The NBA records “charges drawn” as a hustle statistic. Other hustle statistics include loose balls recovered, contested shots, and deflections. These statistics don’t show up on the box score but measure a player’s effort and activity on the court.

Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors led the NBA in charges drawn during the 2019-20 season. Despite being one of the shortest players on the court, Lowry finds every possible advantage to his small stature. This is especially useful in taking charges.

Lowry stays low to the ground and reacts quickly to ball movement and player movement. Because of these factors, Lowry often picks the right spot on the floor to take charges. 

Lowry’s ability to draw charges is especially remarkable because traditionally, forwards and centers take the most charges.

In past years, big men such as Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Ersan Ilyasova, and DeMarcus Cousins have been among the most frequent charge-takers. This is because block/charge situations often happen close to the basket.

The NBA has officially tracked charges drawn since the 2016-2017 season, but other statistical resources have done their own record-keeping.

FiveThirtyEight created a statistic called “charge rate” that shows which players are most successful at taking charges when they’re part of a block/charge situation.

In three years from 2014 to 2017, Sacramento’s Anthony Tolliver converted 42 charges drawn in 54 collisions, making a charge rate of nearly 80 percent!

As a dribbler, being too aggressive and out of control can lead to charging. You should always look out for defenders sliding in front of you for contact.

As a defender, you must have solid form, good awareness, and be able to react quickly.

If you are willing to sacrifice your body to draw charges, your teammates and coaches will thank you! But be careful – drawing charges can be painful, and if you’re unsuccessful, you might get into foul trouble.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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