Understand the Rule – 3 Seconds

Published on: May 02 2019
Author: FDBA
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When you say 3 second rule to those involved with basketball you think this is a pretty simple rule to understand but as you look into it there is a lot more to this rule than a simple 3 second count. We have all heard the call of “3-seconds” or “How long ref”. I like to take the philosophical approach to the rules of basketball to get the understanding as to why it is part of our game to begin with. This rule is part of our game to stop the really tall 7-foot player setting up camp under the ring against the 6 foot player to gain an unfair advantage in offence. So now let’s look at the rule to get a better understanding of how we call it.

Article 26 – 3 Seconds

26.1.1 – A player shall not remain in the opponents’ restricted area for more than 3 consecutive seconds while his team is in control of a live ball in the frontcourt and the game clock is running.

A few important things to note here:

  1. The ball must be in the front court. The 3 second count won’t start while the ball is in the backcourt.
  2. While the team has control of a live ball. They must be holding, dribbling or passing the ball between themselves.
  3. The game clock is running. The count won’t start until the ball has been passed in from a throw-in and the offensive team has control.

Pretty simple to follow so far?  This is now where is gets a little more complicated and where this rule may not being fully understood.

26.1.2 – Allowances must be made for a player who:

  1. Makes an attempt to leave the restricted area.
  2. Is in the restricted area when he or his team-mate is in the act of shooting and the ball is leaving or has just left the player’s hand(s) on the shot for a field goal.
  3. Dribbles in the restricted area to shoot for a field goal after having been there for less than 3 consecutive seconds.

Let’s break down each point:

  1. A player who has been in the key for almost 3 seconds (let’s call it 2.9 seconds) is making a legitimate attempt to leave the key and they are in the key for a total of 5 seconds.
  2. The player has been in the key for almost 3 seconds (2.9 seconds) when his team-mate begins the act of shooting, it takes this player another 2 seconds to complete the shot attempt.
  3. The player has been standing in the key for close to 3 seconds (2.9 seconds) and receives the ball, dribbles towards the ring and begins his shot attempt; this player has now been in the key for 5 seconds.

In all 3 of the above examples this is legal play and no violation has occurred.

When I coach referees on the 3 points above I like to use the word “PAUSE”. Why? Because for the above points; Example 1 if the player begins the action we “pause” our 3 second count for them to continue to make the effort to leave the key but if that player chooses to not make the effort to leave the key or in Examples 2 & 3 they choose to pass the ball rather than continue their shooting action then the court would commence with the likely outcome of the referee calling them for a violation.

The final part of the 3 second rule which is important is:

26.1.3 – To establish himself outside the restricted area, the player must place both feet on the floor outside the restricted area.

  • To get out of the key you must have both feet touch outside the key area.

As you can see there is a lot more to the 3 second rule and I hope that this has now given you a better understanding.

If you have a rule that you would like broken down email referees@frankstonbasketball.asn.au and we will look into it and break it down for you next month.

Chris Morrey – Frankston Basketball Referee Advisor