What Is An Over The Back Foul In Basketball?

There are a lot of fouls and violations called by game officials during a basketball game. Some are straightforward, but some can be confusing for many fans. One of the confusing calls is the over-the-back foul.

So, what is an over-the-back foul, and when do officials call them?

An over-the-back foul is a personal foul that commonly happens during rebounds. Regardless of whether a player is on the offense or defense, a player can’t jump over another player’s back to gain an advantage to rebound the ball, especially when the other player is boxing out.

But there are a lot of technicalities regarding basketball violations, including an over-the-back foul, so let’s learn more about it.

What is an over-the-back foul in basketball?

An over-the-back foul is a personal foul that happens if a rebounding player jumps over another player’s back or uses illegal contact, like pushing off, to gain an advantage to rebound the ball. Commonly, offensive players are often called for this violation since defensive players are already boxing out for better rebounding positions.

However, it can still be called against defensive players if they are not careful.

An over-the-back foul does not have its signal or gesture by the game official, so it is often misunderstood. If we look at the technicalities, we will not find the term “over-the-back” foul in the NBA, FIBA, or NCAA official rulebooks.

Over-the-back fouls can be called offensive or defensive, depending on who caused the illegal action. The penalties will also depend on whether the player is on the offensive or defensive end of the floor.

To get a deeper understanding of what an over-the-back foul is, we can look at the FIBA Rulebook. In Rule SIX – Fouls, Art. 33.2, which talks about the principle of verticality. It states that each player has the right to occupy their own space – think of it as an imaginary cylinder in shape, including the space above them.

So, if there is a contact, the player who leaves their respective cylinder will be responsible and be called for the foul. This is one of the contexts of an over-the-back foul.

What is not an over-the-back foul?

Over-the-back fouls are also more often called when a taller player jumps from the back of a shorter player. However, the size of the rebounders does not affect the foul call.

Relating to the verticality rule in basketball, a taller player can rebound the ball as long as he jumps within his own space (cylinder). It is also good if he has not made any illegal movements of his arms to gain an advantage over the other rebounding player.

Why is it called an over-the-back foul?

This specific foul is called an over-the-back foul because of the action resulting in the violation. A player who jumps ‘over the back’ of another player or pushes off another player, usually during an attempt to rebound the ball, will be called for a foul.

However, as mentioned previously, an over-the-back foul is not an official foul call in the NBA, FIBA, and NCAA. Depending on who made contact, it will still be either an offensive or defensive foul.

What is the penalty for an over-the-back foul?

Since this is a foul call, the penalty for the over-the-back foul will depend on who made the illegal contact. If a defensive player makes the illegal contact, he will receive a personal foul. His team will also add another team foul that may lead to a penalty if they reach the allowed number. The fouled player will receive bonus free throws if a team gets to the penalty (bonus).

On the other hand, if an offensive player performs the illegal contact, he will be called an offensive foul, which will add to his personal fouls. However, the team foul will depend on the league he plays. In the NBA, no team foul will be added to the offending player’s team, but in FIBA, offensive fouls will count as team fouls.

What is the actual call for an over-the-back foul in basketball?

Since there is technically no over-the-back foul call in the rulebooks of NBA, FIBA, and NCAA, the actual foul call will be either defensive or offensive foul. The hand signals will also depend on the actual action, commonly by pushing.

Top 3 tips to avoid over-the-back fouls

Since it is now clearer that over-the-back fouls are not the correct call and can often be a push. It is still essential to avoid doing the acts that will lead to the violation. Here are some.

1. Maintain verticality

The usual reason for over-the-back calls is when a player jumps outside his own space to grab a rebound, which often results in contact against another player. So, maintaining verticality is crucial to avoid getting called for personal fouls.

2. Avoid pushing or extending your arms forward

Aside from maintaining verticality, the usual cause of over-the-back calls is when a player pushes the other player or extends his arms outside his allowable area (cylinder). So, extending your arms upward, instead of forward, will be the better choice.

3. Don’t force illegally against box-outs

Boxing out is a way for players to get into better positions when rebounding for the ball. So, if you’re already boxed out and are not in the best position to rebound, don’t fight through it and gamble a foul.


To wrap it up, over-the-back fouls are illegal actions performed by a player who jumps over another, pushes, or extends his arms to get a positional advantage on rebounding the ball. Over-the-back’ fouls’ are also not technically fouls as stated in various basketball rulebooks.

The principle of verticality is also crucial to ensure that the rebounding action is legal, regardless if the player is on the offensive or defensive end. It is also important to remember that the player’s height does not constitute the foul call but on any illegal actions performed.

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