What Is A Carry In Basketball? (Why They’re Not Called)

It seems that a lot of pros today carry a lot.

But what exactly is it and why aren’t they not called often?

A carry in basketball is a type of violation wherein a player puts his dribbling to a momentary halt and lets the ball rest on one or both of his palms, then continues to dribble it again. It is also known as palming.

Learn below what exactly is a carry and how to avoid it.

What is a Carry in Basketball?

When you have the ball in basketball, you should either drive it to the basket by dribbling it, passing it, or shooting it right through the hoop. You can’t carry it and protect it like a baby. If that’s the case, you’re gaining an unfair advantage over the defense, and apparently, that’s not how you play this sport.

You’ll want to know precisely what a carry in basketball is to avoid committing it. It will also help to know what penalty you will pay if you violate this rule.

As the term implies, carrying in basketball refers to a violation wherein the player stops dribbling, carries the ball, and dribbles it again. It’s also related to other violations called traveling and double dribble.

To avoid this violation, the player must keep his palms facing downward while dribbling. He shouldn’t give his dribbling a pause when driving the ball. Otherwise, he’ll need to either pass it or shoot it.

When a player commits a carry violation and is called out for it, his team will lose possession of the ball. The referee will then award the ball to the opposing team.

Carrying Violation in Various Leagues

Every league stipulates rules on carrying in basketball. But if you’re wondering what is a carry in basketball across various leagues, we’ve curated handy references for you.


Rule No. 10 (Violations and Penalties), Section 2-d of the NBA rulebook states that the dribbler should not put any part of his hand under the ball and carry it from one point to another or bring it to a pause and then continue to dribble again.

Violating this rule will result in ball turnover. The ball will be handed over to the opposing team on the sideline nearest the spot of the violation, but no nearer the baseline than the foul line extended.


In the WNBA, the rule on dribbling is found in Section 3-a of Rule No. 10 (Violations and Penalties). It stipulates that a player shall not run with the ball without dribbling it. The same penalty is imposed on the violator. The ball will be awarded to the opposing team nearest the spot of the violation.


In Rule 5 (Violations), Article 24.1.2 of the FIBA rulebook, it was stated that a dribble is considered to end when the dribbler touches the ball with both hands at the same time or allows the ball to rest in one or both hands. As a penalty for the violation of this rule, the ball shall be awarded to the opposing team for a throw-in from the place nearest to the point where the violation has occurred.


College basketball is governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules. In the NCAA’s rulebook, Rule 9 (Violations and Penalties) specifically includes rules on traveling and double dribble in Sections 5 and 7, respectively.

Section 5, Article 1 states that a player shall not travel with the ball from one point of the court to another, while Section 7, Article 1 specifies that it is a violation when a player resumes dribbling after his first dribble has ended.

Both these emphasize that a player cannot allow the ball to rest on one or both his hands while dribbling.

High School

If a college has NCAA, then high school basketball has the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). In the NFHS rulebook, the Rule 4 (Definitions), Section 15, Article 4 stipulates that the dribble is considered to end when the dribbler catches or causes the ball to rest in one or both hands and when he palms or carries the ball by allowing it to rest in one or both hands.

What is the Hand Signal for Carrying Violation?

When a player is being called out for a carrying violation, the referee blows the whistle and extends his hand with the palm facing upward. Then, he signals the carry motion by turning his palm downward.

Is a High Dribble a Carry?

A common misconception in basketball is that a carry constitutes a high dribble. For example, a player loses control of the ball, which causes it to bounce higher than a normal dribble. Some argue that the player has committed a carry violation in this situation.

But the rules are not too strict on this. You cannot find a ‘high dribble’ violation anywhere in the rulebook of most leagues.

After all, the essential thing to remember for any dribbler is to keep his palm facing downward when dribbling the ball and not pausing the dribble. By doing so, he cannot commit a palming or carrying violation.

Why Don’t They Call Carrying in Basketball?

Whether an unwitting mistake of a beginner or a deliberate mistake of an aggressive player, carrying does happen in any game. But you might wonder why it isn’t called too often.

The main reason is that it’s hard to spot it in the first place, especially when players are too fast at disguising it. Second, referees might not want to interrupt the game with too many whistles and turnovers. So, instead of having a hard time deciding whether that one is a carry, they opt to be a little lenient and let the game continue.

The Controversy Around Carrying in the NBA

Some NBA enthusiasts claim that the carrying violation has become more frequent in the games. The problem is that the players guilty of it aren’t called out for the violation, and no penalty is imposed. Why is that so?

As mentioned, referees sometimes have a hard time spotting it. Seasoned players are too swift at disguising a carry violation. And sometimes, the audience mistakes a legal move for it.

Specifically, hesitation and crossover are the common moves that, if not performed correctly and efficiently, could result in a carrying violation. When executing any of these, a player should avoid letting the ball rest on his hand for too long. Otherwise, he would be called out for a carrying violation.

Allen Iverson, James Harden, Trae Young, and Isaiah Thomas are some of the NBA players that spectators and co-players alike point out to be carrying the ball a lot when driving the ball.

4 Best Tips to Avoid Carrying in Basketball

Now that you’ve learned what is a carry in basketball, what are some handy tips to avoid being called out for it? We’ve compiled some below.

1. Set Your Mind on Dribble Rules

There is only a simple rule to keep in mind to avoid the carrying violation. Keep dribbling the ball with your palms always facing the ground. If you remember this not just in every game but in every practice, proper dribbling will come second nature to you.

2. Keep Practicing Your Dribbling Skills

Dribbling is easy when you’re alone and not heavily guarded. But once you’re in the game, the pressure is intense. Add to it the fact that everything is so fast in basketball.

If you can’t keep up with the pace of the game and the pressure, it’s easy to lose control of the ball. And so, you must keep practicing your dribbling skills in situations favorable to you and when you come across strong, seasoned defenders.

This way, you’ll avoid being too intimidated, and you’ll be able to focus on your game plan.

3. Do Exercises that Develop Hand-Eye Coordination and Agility

Basketball is a sport that requires you to be constantly fast and agile while keeping your focus on the ball at the same time. This requires a tremendous amount of skill and superb hand-eye coordination. So exercises that help strengthen these physical skills will be truly beneficial.

4. Don’t Try Hesitation or Crossover Moves Right Away in a Game

You can try any of these during team practice. But don’t resort to these techniques if you’re still trying to learn the ropes. Note that you can easily commit a carrying violation if these moves aren’t executed correctly and efficiently.

So, stick to your usual moves and techniques that are legally accepted. Also, keep in mind your team’s current game plan in every game, too.


Dribbling is a crucial skill in basketball. Every player should master it to avoid committing violations such as carrying and the penalties that come with it.

By sticking to the proper dribbling rules, teams will be able to keep the game as fair, challenging, and rewarding as possible.

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