What Is An Intentional Foul In Basketball? (Rule Guide)

Why is it that players would foul when there’s little time left on the clock?

An intentional foul is when a player fouls another on purpose in an attempt to stop the time. This is a common tactic used in close games by the defending team to save time. The penalty for this is free throws or possession of the ball.

So, when is the best time to intentionally foul a player? We cover that and more in this rule guide.

What is an Intentional Foul in Basketball?

Anytime you foul someone in basketball, it can either be intentional or unintentional. All personal fouls in basketball can belong to either of the two.

Unintentional fouls are the most common because naturally, no one wants to foul in a game. That’s because the penalty can either be free throws or the loss of possession.

But intentional fouls on the other hand are the ones that players deliberately do to stop a player. This is a common strategy used in a closed game to stop the time.

What is the Penalty for Intentional Foul?

There are two types of penalties that can occur because of an intentional foul.

The first is that the team who intentionally fouled loses the possession of the ball. This is the penalty when they still have fouls to give.

But when a team has no fouls to give typically at the last quarter, then the penalty is for the opposing team to shoot two free throws.

Examples of When to Intentionally Foul

Unintentional fouls aren’t usually known by many such as beginners. So, to provide you with context, here are some instances when it should be used.

Example one:

Your team is down by three points and the other team has possession of the ball with seconds left in the clock. Naturally, the opposing team which has the lead will try to kill the clock by just dribbling or passing around.

So, to prevent them from using up all the time, you can intentionally foul. This allows the game to be stopped but the penalty can be free throws if there are no fouls to give.

It’s better for the opposing team to attempt free throws because they could miss. This opens up a lot of opportunities for your team since there’s still time.

Example two:

Another example is when a player is on a fastbreak in a close game. Instead of just letting the player get up for the easy layup, you intentionally foul him.

The penalty will be two free throws but there’s a chance that he can miss them or not. The point is you made it harder for the opponent to earn the two points which is a smart play.

How to Intentionally Foul in Basketball

Basketball is a sport that requires players to have diverse skills. But normally, you wouldn’t need any tips on how to foul since it occurs naturally anyway.

But intentional fouls are different in that they are purposeful in nature.

So, to avoid getting called for a flagrant foul or getting a turnover trying to intentionally foul, here are some tips:

  • Use the most common tactic – bear hug.
  • Don’t foul too hard
  • Signal or make it known to the referee that you’re intentionally fouling
  • Don’t foul when the opponent is trying to score, they can get the shot in and get the foul
  • Foul immediately after inbounding to save time

Final Thoughts

Intentional fouls are done by players during close games to stop the enemy from wasting time. It’s a great tactic to use provided you know the right technique.

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