Can You Catch Your Own Airball? (Rule Explained)

Airballs are some of the worst shots you can make in a game.

But can you catch it in hopes of redeeming yourself from that embarrassment?

In most basketball leagues other than the NBA, catching your own airball is legal. As long as the official deems it as a shot attempt, a player can catch it and attempt to score again.

But there’s more to this rule than you might think. Let’s find everything out in this guide.

Can You Catch Your Own Airball? (Rules for Different Leagues)

There are different basketball leagues in the world. Most of them have the same rules but some vary in different aspects.

One prime example of this is precisely our topic in this post. In almost every other league than the NBA, it’s legal to catch your own airball.  

LeagueCan you catch your own airball?
NBANo – it’s traveling
High SchoolYes

The NBA has a strict and specific rule regarding players catching their airballs. They don’t want the shooter to be the first one to touch the ball after an airball.

Basically, if the shooter catches his own airball, it will be called travel in the NBA.

But for other leagues like FIBA, NCAA, and high school levels, they’re more lenient. In the end, the call will be dependent on the referee.

If the officials deem it as a shot attempt, then they may allow it. But if it’s just to get out of defenders, then they may call it a travel.

What is an Airball in Basketball?

Airball in basketball

An airball occurs when a player attempts a shot, but it doesn’t hit the rim, backboard, or the net.

Aside from that, the shot shouldn’t be blocked or touched by the opponent to be considered an airball.

Basically, it’s one of the worst shots a player can make since they are way off from the target. So, an airball is usually an embarrassing mistake that players make even in professional leagues.

On the other hand, a missed shot is different and slightly better than an airball because at least it hit something.  

Can You Rebound Your Airball in Pickup Games?

A lot of players love to play pickup or streetball games. These are basketball games that are played for fun often without officials.

So, if that’s the case, you can imagine the chaos that would ensue if players cited different league rules.

But the consensus in most pickup games is to call your own fouls and violations. This works as most of them are obvious to everyone playing and spectating.

But if a player catches his own airball in a pickup game, it can get confusing. We know that every other league than the NBA allows it.

So, in the end, the players will have to decide whether to allow it or not. The majority wins in this case since these aren’t official games.

But the good thing is that players usually aren’t strict about basketball rules in pickup games. They’re there to have fun, practice, and play with everyone.

What Happens if You Don’t Catch Your Airball?

If you don’t catch your airball when you shot it, then the following situations may occur:

  • It will go out of bounds
  • It can be rebounded by your teammate
  • It can be rebounded by the opposing team

If the ball went out of bounds and you’re the last one to touch it, then the opposing team will get possession. The airball is considered your turnover.

But it can also be rebounded by your teammate in which case the shot clock will continue running. It will not reset because it didn’t hit the rim.

On the other hand, it can be rebounded by the opposing team, and they can go to their court to score.

Is catching an airball a rebound or an assist?

Since we now know that catching an airball can be allowed in most leagues other than the NBA, is it counted as a rebound or an assist?

Technically, an airball is a result of an attempted shot that didn’t hit any part of the rim, net, or backboard.

So, when a player catches an airball, it’s considered a rebound. This is true even if the player who caught it is the same one who shot it.

But if the airball seems like a pass, then it’s considered an assist if the catcher scores.

In the end, it’s up to the scorekeepers and officials to determine whether a player attempted a shot or a pass.

Is a self-pass off the backboard legal?

A player tossing the ball in the backboard and catching it to score is completely legal. This is legal because the ball touched the backboard.

In fact, a lot of players do this when they’re trapped with clear passing routes. This is more easily done when the player is near the basket because he can follow it up easily with a layup or a dunk.

When you watch the NBA, a lot of players attempt this during All-Star games where the defense is lax.

That’s because attempting to do this in a regular game is going to be hard. The opposing players will scramble to get the rebound the moment a player throws it at the board.

Basically, this is a last resort move for players. They would rather risk others getting the rebound than just turning it over.

But you might be wondering if this is considered a rebound? No, it’s simply a continuation of the play. But it’s a different story if the player attempted to shoot it and rebounded the ball. 

What Happens When You Airball a Free Throw?

When you airball a free throw, it will be counted as a missed free throw. It can’t be rebounded by anyone if it’s the first free throw.

The officials will simply let the player shoot the other free throws if there are any left.

Free throws are free shots given to players who were fouled. They can also be given to the opposing team when a team commits a violation such as a technical foul.

Airballs are one of the most embarrassing mistakes you can do in basketball. But it can be more embarrassing when you airball a free throw.

But air balling free throws are more common than you might think. In the NBA, a lot of legendary players have air balled free throws at least once in their careers.

But Shaquille O’Neal has air balled a ton of free throws as he had a career free throw average of 52.7%.  

Effective Tips to Prevent Airballs in Basketball

Airballs are mistakes in basketball that are sometimes uncontrollable. Even the best shooters like Steph Curry have experienced them a lot.

But if you’re prone to making a lot of airballs, then it’s a different story.

Although we can’t guarantee that you won’t be missing your shots, we hope these tips can at least prevent you from making more airballs.

1. Perfect your shooting mechanics

The first thing that you need to have as a player is a proper shooting form. There is a lot of advice out there when it comes to the best form you can have.

But the basics of it is to start by dipping the ball then get it up until it’s slightly above your head. Then, use your primary hand to shoot while the other hand is a guide.

Lastly, make sure your fingers are the last ones to touch the ball and follow through.

2. Take smart shots

If you notice, a lot of airballs occur when you’re taking poor shots. The key to getting a high field goal percentage is to take the best shots all the time.

To do this, you must prioritize taking open shots rather than contested ones. If you’re not open, it simply means that there’s a better play out there than taking the shot.

Furthermore, you should have a feel when a defender is slacking so you can take a shot. The best players always choose their shots wisely.  

3. Face the board more

It’s statistically easier to shoot when you face the backboard directly than when you shoot at the sides.

That’s because when you shoot facing the board, there’s a chance that it can get a friendly bounce. As opposed to shooting at the side where you can airball it easily.

So, you should first practice shooting on the front of the board more before you attempt difficult shots.  

4. Practice regularly

In connection with the third tip, we also encourage players to practice regularly. If you’re getting airballs regularly, it just means that you haven’t developed that muscle memory.

If you practice at least a hundred shots a day, then you can easily get to your rhythm and shots in a real game.

You will also immediately know if your shot will go in or not based on instinct and muscle memory.

Final Thoughts

Catching your own airball is legal in most basketball leagues other than the NBA. That said, it’s not easy to do it especially if you shot far from the basket.

But instead of practicing to catch your airballs, you can improve your shot to make fewer or no airballs at all.

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