Breaking the Rule: The State of Traveling in the NBA

March, 4, 2009
3/04/09
11:36
AM ET

Traveling in the NBA
Traveling in the NBA:
A TrueHoop Investigation

Perhaps the most fundamental rule of basketball is under fire. TrueHoop digs in.
(Source image by Andrew D. Bernstein NBAE/Getty Images)

1: Introduction: A basic rule, yet a mystery.
2: NBA Executive: "We really don't reference the rulebook."
3: NBA players on video: What's the rule?
4: Why traveling is tough to call.
5: Rewrite the rule.

What is the most basic element of basketball?

I'll hear arguments for the ball, the court, or perhaps the hoop.

But around the world, perhaps the most essential and telling sign of the game is the act of bouncing the ball on the floor. To dribble. Pick up any ball, in any setting, and bounce it with one hand on the floor. From Cuba to Zimbabwe, they know which game you are playing.

That's the deal, right? That's the unique element of our game: If you want to run somewhere with the ball, you must dribble that ball on the floor. (In fact, originally you couldn't run with the ball at all. Bouncing the ball while running was the work of some innovative early rule-benders, and it has caught on.)

It's essential, and it's obvious. You're not bouncing the ball? Then don't take a step.

Except ... there are some exceptions. For instance, if you're running, and then you stop dribbling, well ... then you can take a step. Or two. That's cool. Most of the time.

And if you're jumping towards the hoop, then you can take a hop, or a step. Sometimes a hop and a step.

Also, if you're in the post, with tough defense draped all over you, you can take a little step or two, generally. And on the break, sometimes you can get in a third or fourth step on your way to an uncontested layup.

There may or may not be a special allowance for a"crab dribble."

Hold the phone. Stop. I mean, this is a lot of exceptions.

And ... what is the rule, anyway? If you're driving to the hole in the NBA, how many steps are you allowed to take between gathering the ball and getting rid of it?

As a fan, I'm confused. This most basic rule of basketball: What is it again?

That's the topic on TrueHoop today. And we're coming at it from all angles. 

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