What is Holding in Basketball? (Definitions & Examples)

Hardcore sports fans know all about the holding call in football, but did you know that there is holding in the game of basketball as well? 

Our goal with this article is to explain what holding is in basketball.

What is holding in basketball? We take a look at the definition, its examples, and how it’s usually called.

What is Holding in Basketball?

Whenever a basketball player uses his hands to limit an opposing player’s movement, the referee will blow the whistle and call holding. Holding is usually called on defenders but it can be called on offensive players on very rare occasions.

Whether a player is on offense or defense, he must allow his opponent the freedom to move at all times. For example, if an offensive player is going up for a layup, the defensive player cannot grab or hold his arm in any way. If that occurs, holding will be called on the defensive player and a personal foul will be assessed on him.

Another common holding foul occurs when an offensive player comes off a screen and is trying to spot up for an open jump shot. Lots of times the defensive player is late in getting into position, so he panics and grabs the arm of the offensive player to prevent an open look at the hoop.

Video Example of a Holding Foul: 

In this video, you can clearly see why the official called a holding foul on the rebounder in red. The player with the red jersey hooks his arm around his opponent in the white jersey while they are both going up for a rebound. This foul was so blatant that the ref ended up calling a technical foul instead of a regular personal foul.

What is the Penalty for Holding?

Since holding is a type of personal foul, there are various penalties assessed depending on the situation. Here are a few examples:

  • If a defender holds an offensive player while he is in the act of shooting, the holding foul is called and the offensive player is given two free throws
  • If a defender holds an offensive player that doesn’t have the basketball, a personal foul will be called but there won’t be any free throws awarded unless the offensive team is in the bonus
  • On the rare occasion that an offensive player is called for holding, his team loses possession of the ball. Free throws are only issued if it’s a bonus situation
  • As in the above video example, if an official deems the holding foul to be flagrant, two free throws are given plus possession of the ball (this is a rare occurrence)

What is the Referee Signal for Holding?

Interestingly enough, the referee signal for holding in basketball is similar to the football signal for holding. To call the holding foul, the ref blows the whistle, makes a fist with his right hand, then grabs his wrist with his left hand. The signal is done in the direction of the scorer’s table so that they know what type of foul has been called.

Other Personal Foul Types to Know

There are lots of other types of personal fouls in basketball. Here’s a quick list of some of them with a brief description.

1. Hand Check

A hand check is similar to holding but instead of grabbing the opposing player, the defending player sticks his hand out to impede the progress of the offensive player. This is a common personal foul.

2. Illegal Hand Use

This personal foul occurs when a defensive player smacks or slaps a player’s arm while he’s in the act of shooting. This type of foul can also be called when a defender goes for a steal but ends up hacking the offensive player unintentionally.

3. Blocking Foul

This happens when a defensive player inhibits the offensive player’s path to the basket. The defender may be trying to take a charge but doesn’t get his feet set.

4. Charging Foul

Charging is the opposite of blocking because the foul is called on the offensive player. This happens when the defender has already established position and the offensive player plows over him.

5. Illegal Screen

This foul happens when an offensive player is trying to set a screen but doesn’t remain still and maintain a constant position through the process. 

6. Over the Back

This is a foul that occurs during the rebounding process. Once a player has position, the other player cannot jump directly over his back to secure a rebound. This can be called on both offensive and defensive players.

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Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with basketball for over 30 years as a player, coach, and bettor. He has a degree in Sports Psychology and enjoys following both the NBA and College Basketball on a nightly basis.