How Many Fouls Do You Need to Foul Out in the NBA?


A Sacramento Kings player starts to drive to the rim.

When a foul is called in basketball, it may seem like it is a one-time issue. But, if an individual player begins to rack up too many personal fouls in a given game, they may get into trouble. Even worse, if they reach a certain threshold, that player will foul out of the game.

So, how many fouls do you need to foul out in the NBA?

A player fouls out of an NBA game once they commit six personal fouls. Once a player fouls out, they can no longer play in the remainder of the game. A player is generally considered to be in ‘foul trouble’, or at risk of fouling out, once reaching four fouls in an NBA game.

The number of fouls that cause a player to foul out varies between different leagues and levels of basketball. At every level, though, players are disqualified from the game once they foul out. Read on to learn more about fouling out at all levels of basketball and all of the details behind the rule.

How Do Fouls Work in Basketball?

Let’s start with the basics – how do fouls work in basketball? Fouls in basketball refer to illegal contact by either an offensive or defensive player. Fouls are broken into several categories, all of which are treated slightly differently in terms of consequences.

Types of Fouls in Basketball

There are four main types of fouls in basketball: personal, team, technical, and flagrant fouls. For the purposes of learning more about fouling out, we will refer to personal fouls in this article, since they are how fouling out is determined.

In the NBA, personal fouls include common fouls as well as flagrant fouls. However, technical fouls are not included in this personal foul count. Team fouls have no influence on fouling out.

How Often Do NBA Players Foul Out?

Fouling out used to be considerably more common in the NBA back in earlier, more physical eras. As the game has become more spaced out and less driven by interior post play, fouling out has gone down dramatically.

Additionally, rotations are deeper in today’s NBA, so players play fewer minutes in any given game and as such have a lower chance of committing a large number of fouls in their time on the court. Players are also conscious of foul trouble and likely to change their playstyle if they start to rack up several fouls in a short period of time.

Because of these factors, fouling out is not very common in the NBA. It doesn’t happen every game and is typically only seen in games that are quite physical or that require a lot of minutes out of individual players.

Who Has Fouled Out the Most in NBA History?

Shawn Kemp of the Seattle SuperSonics fouled out the most in NBA history, getting tossed from 115 games in his 14-year NBA career.

What Happens When You Foul Out in Basketball?

When you foul out in basketball, your game is over. Players who foul out have to return to the bench and can no longer participate in the game.

Fouling out doesn’t directly result in a suspension or a fine at the NBA level. With that being said, players can incur fines or suspensions through the specific fouls that they commit during the game.  

How Many Fouls to Foul Out in the Olympics?

The Olympic Games are a global display of sports, featuring both well-known and lesser-known sporting events. The Summer Olympic Games are held every four years, and basketball is a key part of those games. However, the rules of basketball are slightly different in the Olympics.

The number of fouls necessary to foul out is one of those differences. In the Olympics, it only takes five fouls for a player to foul out of any given game.

How Many Fouls to Foul Out in the WNBA?

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has some varying rules from the NBA. However, one of the similarities is that players are only allowed a limit of six fouls in any given game. After their sixth foul, they are removed from the game.

How Many Fouls to Foul Out in College Basketball?

A college basketball player gets fouled as he goes up for a shot.

College basketball rules are generally a bit more restrictive than in the NBA. The foul-out rule is no different in this respect, as players are only allowed five fouls before they foul out.

Unlike in the NBA, foul-outs are quite common in college basketball, most notably during March Madness. With their seasons on the lines, many teams resort to intentionally fouling the other team while trailing late in games, forcing them to make free throws to keep their lead. As a result of this strategy and the lower foul limit, college basketball foul-outs are considerably more common.

Another key difference between NBA and college basketball rules regarding fouling out is that technical fouls do count as personal fouls and don’t get a player closer to fouling out.

How Many Fouls to Foul Out in High School Basketball?

High school players headed to the college level don’t have to change up their approach much when it comes to foul trouble. As it only takes five fouls to foul out in high school basketball.

How Does the Bonus Work?

As players get close to fouling out, their team also accumulates large numbers of team fouls. This may put the opposing team in the bonus.

The bonus is a penalty that occurs once a certain number of fouls have been committed by one team during a certain period of the game. Once a team is in the bonus, every foul committed against them results in free throws, even if it is not a shooting foul. So, an individual player fouling out isn’t the only consequence of exorbitant fouling.

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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