The 5-Second Rule in Basketball: The 4 Types Explained

The NBA rulebook and NCAA basketball rules and interpretations are both lengthy books, and there are many rules with sections, subsections, and articles. 

They contain everything you need to know about how the game of basketball is officiated. Let us take a look at one of the most important rules in the game: the 5-second rule.

5 second rule in basketball

What is The 5-Second Rule in Basketball?

When most people think of the 5-second rule in basketball, their mind immediately jumps to the out-of-bounds/throw-in violation in which the inbounder has just five seconds to pass the ball to a teammate that is in bounds. If the inbounder is unable to do so, the offensive possession results in a turnover. 

This rule originated with Dr. James Naismith’s basketball format and has remained as an opportunity for the defense to play strong defense and get the basketball back without any time coming off the game clock.

The 5-second rule in basketball, which helps the flow of the game, is called by the referee after gesturing for the 5-second count. The referee extends and retracts his or her arm for each second. A restarted count begins with the other arm. If the violation is called, the official will hold up their hand showing all five fingers and point to the other side of the court to signify the turnover.

In addition to the most commonly known “5-second rule” in basketball, there are three other 5-second violations. Here are all the 5-second rules in basketball:

The Four Types of 5-Second Rules

1. The Five-Second Out-of-Bounds/Throw-In Violation

What is it? 

When in-bounding the basketball, the player throwing it in must release the ball prior to a five-second count, or there will be a violation.

When was it created? 

This rule was a part of the original 13 rules of basketball in 1891.

What is the penalty for this violation? 

Loss of ball turnover / change of possession of the ball. The opposing team receives the ball out of bounds at the free throw line extended.

Which leagues is it in? 

This five-second throw-in violation rule applies to both the NBA and NCAA as well as all basketball formats.

2. The Five-Second Back-to-The-Basket Violation

What is it? 

When dribbling the basketball below the free throw line extended in the front court, the NBA player cannot have his back or side to the hoop for more than five seconds, or there will be a violation. The five-second count ends when the player stops dribbling, moves above the free throw line extended, or the ball is deflected by a defender.

When was it created? 

1999 near the end of the careers of Charles Barkley and Mark Jackson. Barkley of the Houston Rockets and Jackson of the Indiana Pacers were known for dribbling with their backs to the basket.

What is the penalty for this violation? 

Turnover / change of possession. The opposing team receives the ball out of bounds at the free throw line extended.

Which leagues is it in? 

This five-second violation rule applies to the NBA, but not to the NCAA.

3. The Five-Second Closely Guarded Violation

What is it? 

With regard to NCAA men’s rules, a five-second violation is called if an opponent is guarding closely within six feet of the player for five seconds without the offensive player passing, shooting, or dribbling in the front court.

If defensive teammates switch, the five-second count is restarted. The count is also restarted if the player is further than the six-foot required distance from the player with the ball.

When was it created? 

Originally, when the rule was created in 1930, a jump ball would be the result of a closely guarded violation. Then, in 1982, the penalty changed to a turnover. The closely guarded rule was eliminated in 1993, but it was reinstated in 1997.

What is the penalty for this violation? 

Turnover / change of possession. The opposing team receives the ball at the out of bounds spot nearest to the violation.

Which leagues is it in? 

This five-second rule applies to the NCAA, but not to the NBA. High school’s closely guarded violation rules are the same as those in men’s college basketball with the violation occurring only in the front court and when the offensive player is holding the ball.

For NCAA women’s rules, the violation can occur anywhere on the playing court, and it can occur while the offensive player is holding the ball and when the player is dribbling. 

In terms of FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball; International Basketball Federation in English), the required distance for a defender in the active guarding position is one meter (3.28 feet) and it can occur anywhere on the court as well.

4. The Five-Second Free Throw Violation (FIBA rule)

What is it? 

Although this five-second rule only pertains to FIBA, it is very interesting to see a rule in which a player must release a free throw very quickly. After the FIBA official places the ball at the player’s disposal, the FIBA player has five seconds to shoot the free throw. 

NBA and NCAA basketball fans are used to the rarely-called 10-second rule for free throws, but FIBA requires the free throw shooter to release the free throw within half that time, or there is a violation.

When was it created? 

There is no official creation date on record for this rule, but it has been a well-recognized rule for decades.

What is the penalty for this violation? 

If the free throw is successful, the point is not counted. The opposing team receives the ball out of bounds on either sideline at the free throw extended.

Which leagues is it in? 

In terms of North American rule sets, this rule is a 10-second free throw violation in the NBA and NCAA. Dwight Howard and his lengthy free throw routine got him into hot water at the line briefly in 2011, as he was called for the violation a few times. However, the violation is seldom called in NBA games.