What is Goaltending in Basketball?

what is goaltending in basketball

Goaltending is a penalty in basketball when a player interferes with a ball via a scoring chance. The rule is across the NCAA, NBA, WNBA, and High School. This penalty has several features that separate it from a basket interference call, which is a similar penalty. Keep reading more to see examples of goaltending, the history of the penalty, and more below.


What is the Penalty for Defensive Goaltending?

what is the penalty for defensive goaltending

During a basketball game, a defensive goaltending violation results in automatic points for the offensive team. The points that go to the offensive team result in where that shot took place. For example, if the goaltending violation took place from a three-point shot, the offensive team receives 3 points.


For the box score of the game, the shooter will receive point credits even with the assistance of goaltending. That is important for any fantasy basketball player that their player still receives point credit on a goaltend. 


Finally, if a player blocks a shot during a free throw attempt, the team receives a technical foul. Also, that block shot automatically counts as one point.


What’s the Difference Between Goaltending and Basket Interference?

When referees look at a basket in the NBA, they take note of several parts about it. Namely, baskets have a backboard, a net, a hoop, and an imaginary cylinder that traces the space of the hoop upwards.


For a player to commit goaltending, they must touch the ball while it is on a downward trajectory on the way to the basket. This downward trajectory can start as either a free throw or a field goal attempt. Further, the goaltending rule stipulates that the ball must be above the hoop to qualify for a penalty but not touching the invisible cylinder.


Suppose a defensive or offensive player touches the ball while it is in the imaginary cylinder. The play is automatically called basket interference. Players also can’t touch the net or hoop to prevent the other team from scoring. The only exception is if a player is touching the hoop due to a dunk or layup.


What about Offensive Goaltending?

Offensive players can also commit goaltending penalties, which is offensive goaltend. This often happens when offensive players move the rim down to help the ball go into the net. If the ball goes into the hoop due to offensive goaltending, the offensive team receives no points, and the goaltender’s team loses possession of the ball.


What is the Difference Between Blocking and Goaltending?

what is the difference between a blocking and goaltending

If you’re wondering whether a block was a goaltending violation, pay attention to the trajectory of the ball. It would be a block if the ball were in upward flight, say from a field goal attempt. The rulebook specifies that downward flight is necessary for a goaltending penalty.


Similarly, a player going for a rebound may get a goaltending violation if the ball is in downward flight above the hoop. The ball must be below the basket ring level for someone to safely recover the ball for a rebound.


When was a Goaltending Penalty First-Called in the NBA?

The NCAA made goaltending a violation in 1944, while the NBA made that official in 1945. For many years, officials in the NCAA and NBA thought goaltending was impossible because no one could reach the area above the hoop. However, in 1944, goaltending was outlawed in NCAA basketball, thanks to George Mikan.


At the time, Mikan was one of the tallest and most athletic basketball players, standing at 6’10” and nearly 250 lbs. The NBA added a goaltending rule one year later, in 1945.


Special Circumstances Regarding Goaltending

While a defensive player can block a field goal attempt at any time before it reaches its apex, there are different rules for free throws. If a defensive player touches a ball at any time during a free throw attempt, basketball rules qualify that as a goaltend. This infraction counts as a technical foul against the offending player, giving a point to the opposing team.



Goaltending can occur after the final buzzer of a basketball game. This happens if a player shoots the ball before time runs out, making it a live ball. After attempting to block a shot after the final buzzer, Phoenix Suns player Jermaine O’Neal was called for goaltending during a 2012-2013 NBA game. His penalty granted the Houston Rockets two points, causing them to beat the Suns 101-98.


International Goaltending Rules

For the most part, international basketball goaltending rules are similar to the NBA. However, the primary difference between the NBA and international rules is that the international game allows players to touch the ball after it hits the rim. That means even if the ball is coming straight down through the hoop after hitting the rim, a player can block that shot and not get a goaltending violation.


Conclusion: What is Goaltending in Basketball?

In summary, goaltending is a rule during a basketball game to ensure that no players interfere with the routine flight of a ball into the hoop. While this rule is closely related to basket interference, a key difference sets it apart. Namely, goaltending happens while the basketball has a downward trajectory to the hoop, while a basket interference can occur on the rim, the net, and more to help the ball go in or stay out.


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