3 Second Rule Basketball Definition Essay

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You're watching your favorite NBA team play defense, when all of a sudden the referee blows the whistle and play stops. You lean in closer to the TV screen, dumbfounded. You saw no one get fouled, and the ref is now making a weird chopping motion three times with his arm. Next, one team's best free-throw shooter is standing on the foul line taking one shot—and his team gets the ball back. You are lost. Everything you know about the game of basketball has been shattered.

Take a deep breath. It's OK. The ref has called a three-second violation. What does that mean? It's actually pretty simple.

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3-Second Violation Against the Defense

The defensive 3-second rule is meant to keep big men from planting themselves under the hoop for the full duration of the shot clock (or in high school and under, the entire possession), ready to swat away shots by any opponent who dares drive to the hoop. According to the NBA rulebook (the rule is the same for college), once an offensive player brings the ball across half-court, any defensive player inside the 16-foot lane (from the baseline to the free-throw line, commonly referred to "painted area") must be "actively guarding an opponent within three seconds." "Actively guarding" means being positioned within arm's length of an offensive player and in a guarding position.

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In layman's terms, this means a defender can stray away from the man he's guarding for no more than three seconds before having to re-establish his position an arm's length away from his man. If he does not do this, the referee will call a 3-second violation, and the offensive team can select any player to shoot the penalty free throw. The offensive team then gets the ball back and is rewarded with another possession. Essentially, the rule can be summed up like this: inside the painted area, you must be defending a player, not the basket.

Check out the play above. Golden State Warriors forward David Lee (no. 10) is supposed to be defending no. 24 on the Utah Jazz, Marvin Williams. Instead, he sneaks into the paint when he thinks Jazz point guard Deron Williams is about to drive to the hole. As Williams begins to drift back out to the 3-point line, and Deron pulls his dribble back out because of a double-team, Lee elects to stay in the paint, out of arm's length of Williams. He remains there, somewhat lost, until the ref blows the whistle and calls him for the violation.

3-Second Violation Against the Offense

An offensive player who has one or both feet in the painted area for more than three seconds can be called for a technical foul. The player must have both feet outside the paint before he can re-enter, and the referee's three-second count begins again.

In the video above, watch former New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler. After setting a pick for Carmelo Anthony, he rolls to the hoop, ending up deep in the painted area. As Anthony drives to his right, pulls up and passes back out to J.R. Smith, Chandler remains in the paint without stepping out to restart the three-second count. The ref catches him, blows the whistle for the violation, and the the Knicks lose possession.

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The lesson here? Be alert when you enter the paint, on both sides of the ball. The refs are counting.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Mid-Cities Basketball Association

Junior League (3rd and 4th grades) Playing Rules - Summary

MCBBA uses the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Official Basketball Rules.

Following are the exceptions for Junior Leagues.

   Note: Teams are ONLY allowed to play a man-to-man defense.
             For the first violation, officials issue a warning to the offending team.
             For subsequent violations, award two (2) penalty shots AND possession of the ball to the offended team.

  • Defense in the backcourt is prohibited. This rule shall not be interpreted to allow a "free" outlet pass starting a fast break.
  • Zone defenses are NOT permitted at any time during the game. A zone defense violation will be called if a team has one or more players guarding an area (zone) of the court rather than an offensive player. A zoning violation will be a judgment call of the officials. For the first violation, officials issue a warning to the offending team. For subsequent violations, award two (2) penalty shots AND possession of the ball to the offended team.
  • A defensive player must be within 6 feet of the offensive player. Once the ball is back outside the 3-point line the defensive players must guard their opponents within 6 feet. Switching and helping defensive techniques will be allowed.
  • Defensive chasing the ball is NOT allowed. Chasing the ball is defined as a defender (including one or both defensive players participating in a double team) leaving the person being defended and following the ball to the offensive person receiving the pass. For the first violation, officials issue a warning to the offending team. For subsequent violations, award two (2) penalty shots AND possession of the ball to the offended team.
  • No rule shall be interpreted to prohibit a defensive team in thier opponent's frontcourt from double-teaming the ball, trapping the ball, switching or sagging.
  • The 3 Second Rule in Rule 9-7 [free throw lane violation] is changed to a 5 Second Rule.
  • In the final 2 minutes of a game AND following a timeout, any throw-in MUST be made into the frontcourt.
    If the timeout was called while ball is in the backcourt, the throw-in spot is out of bounds at the frontcourt time line.
    Penalty: Possession to the offended team.
  • If a team is ahead by more than 20 points at any time during a game, the TRAILING team coach may request either one or both (or none) of the following:
    1. A running clock to be used.
      If the trailing team elects this provision, the game clock is ONLY stopped for the following events:   1. time outs 2. player injury 3. penalty shots.
      However if the lead is reduced to less than 20 points, the clock automatically becomes regulation (stopped for all whistles).
      Note: Commissioner may elect this provision if a team is ahead by 30 or more points.
    2. The scoreboard score to show zero for both teams. The official score will continue to be recorded in the scorebook. However if the lead is reduced to less than 20 points, the scoreboard score will reflect the actual score.
  • Isolation offense only involving one or two players is NOT permitted. This rule includes but is not limited to the clearing of one side of the floor for 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 options and spreading the offensive players and driving to the basket until stopped. Another obvious isolation offense call that should be made is a team placing one or more players outside the perimeter of a normal offense (near half court or in the baseline corner opposite the ball, for example). This interpretation is needed to keep the balance with the "6 feet" call. The isolation offense call should not be called if the defensive man attacks (closely guards or attempts to steal the ball from) the dribbler prior to getting to the 3-point line. This is a judgment call of the officials.

In addition:

  • Every player must play 12 minutes per game.
  • Only players and approved coaches (maximum of two) may occupy the bench during the game.
  • One coach may leave the coaching box to direct his/her players.
  • Five (5) full time-outs, to be taken anytime during the game, will be allowed.
  • Quarters are six (6) minutes. Halftime intermission is five (5) minutes.
  • Overtime periods are two (2) minutes. One (1) additional time-out for each team for each overtime period is allowed. Time-outs remaining from regulation may also be taken.
  • During intermission following a quarter, a game is declared over when a team is ahead by 40 or more points. The current score is recorded as the final score.
  • Home team players ALWAYS wear white jersey. Visiting team players wears colored jersey.
  • Home team sits to the scorekeeper's left; visiting team sits to the scorekeeper's right.
  • For safety reasons, players will not be allowed to wear jewelry.
  • Only league issued jerseys for current season are allowed.
  • Uniform undergarments maybe of any color or length.
  • The basket shall be 8'-6" from the floor.
  • The free throw line shall be 13'-6" from the plane of the face of the backboard.

   Note: Our drop-down goals move the backboard 2'-6" toward the painted free throw line.
             Therefore, use a tape mark one foot farther from the goal for free throws.
             In elementary school gyms, mark the free throw line 1'-6" closer to the goal.

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