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Why do NBA players double dribble?

The NBA has quite a few complicated rules, but one of the simpler ones is double dribbling. So it is surprising that we often see players double dribble. 

Why do NBA players double-dribble? There are a few reasons why players double dribble including lockdown defence causing a player to panic, players not thinking or trying to deliberately get around the rules

What exactly is a double dribble? The NBA Rule book has this very simple sentence in it:

“A player may not dribble a second time after he has voluntarily ended his first dribble.”

That’s it. Pretty simple and yet it still happens regularly at even the highest level.

No player really wants to double-dribble as it results in a change of possession immediately. But there are a few reasons why we have seen NBA players double dribble. 

1. Lockdown defence 

The most common reason for players’ double dribbling is because they have no other option when they are being locked up on defence. You will often see players beginning to panic when defenders get up close and personal. Defenders getting close can cause the offensive player to pick up the ball. 

When a player has picked up the ball, they cannot start dribbling again. But players will panic when you get up in their faces. It is why we see players begin to start dribbling the ball again. This is a double dribble and will almost always be picked up by the referees. 

2. NBA players not thinking 

One of the simpler reasons for players’ double dribbling is that players don’t think. An NBA game is a high-intensity, high-focus game. There are so many different things to think about, particularly for the guys in control of the ball.

It is the same reason as to why we have seen guys like Russell Westbrook and Lebron James walk with the ball and not think about it. There is a lot going on in an NBA game and so players just sometimes forget not to double dribble. 

3. Trying to get around the rules 

One of the other reasons that you will see is players trying to circumvent the rules. Double dribbling allows players another chance to try to get to the rim or get past a player. If a player can do it without the referees noticing, it gives them an advantage over the opposition. 

Are you allowed to double-dribble in the NBA? 

Double dribbling is not allowed within the NBA. The official NBA rulebook states that “a player may not dribble a second time after he has voluntarily ended his first dribble”. Essentially, once you pick up the ball after dribbling, you cannot start dribbling again. 

There are a few exceptions to this rule that allow a player to dribble for a second time. These exceptions are if he lost control of the ball because of A field goal attempt at his basket, provided the ball touches the backboard or basket ring, an opponent touching the ball or a pass or fumble which touches the backboard, or basket ring or is touched by another player. 

Why is double dribbling not allowed in the NBA? 

The rulebook is in pace in order to keep the balance between offence and defence. NBA players being allowed to dribble the ball gives them an advantage on offence and puts them at a disadvantage on defence. If you were to allow players to have a second dribble, this would give too much advantage to the offensive players. 

While the NBA is looking to lean more towards the offensive players, allowing a second dribble would be a massive advantage for offensive teams. It would give attackers much more freedom and likely make scoring easier. The NBA does not want to make it too much harder for defenders. 

A lot of the rules in the NBA are in place to benefit the players on offence as the NBA is trying to make their product exciting for fans to watch. But to still have the competitive element, players are not allowed to double dribble. 

What is travelling in basketball? 

A travel in basketball is when a player runs with the basketball or takes more than two steps with the ball in hand. While the NBA rulebook does not define what a travel is, it says that “A player who gathers the ball while progressing may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball, or if he has not yet dribbled, one step prior to releasing the ball”. 

The rules define that players are allowed a gather step which is the step as they are taking while collecting the ball. Players are then allowed to take two steps but need to release the ball before taking the third step. If a player takes an additional step then this is considered a travel. 

The penalty for travelling is very clear in the rules. It states that “The ball is awarded to the opposing team on the side-line, nearest spot of the violation but not nearer the baseline than the foul line extended”. 

Can you pump fake then dribble? 

In basketball, you are allowed to dribble after a pump fake, as long as you haven’t dribbled before you pump faked. A pump fake is very commonly used in basketball to help an attacker get open and try to score. It is a perfectly legal move. 

A pump fake does not include moving the feet, so you are allowed to dribble after a pump fake. However, if you have dribbled before the pump fake, you cannot pump fake after. If you do this, it will be a violation and the ball goes to the opposing team for an inbounds pass. 

What is an illegal dribble in the NBA?

Dribbling in the NBA is when you bounce the ball with one hand. NBA rules state that when you touch the ball with two hands at the same time, this ends the dribble. So if you are to continue dribbling after it would count as a double dribble which is an illegal dribble. 

An illegal dribble is pretty much any dribble that violates the rules of the NBA. The most common types of illegal dribbles that you see in the NBA are double dribbles, with travelling a sort of illegal dribble.