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NBA Traveling: A Rule That's Unclear to Players

The question is basic: If you're dribbling the ball in the NBA, and you pick up your dribble ... how many steps can you take before you have broken the traveling rules?

It's a fundamental part of the game. But I asked several NBA players, and the answers were far from simple.

Step One: Ask Players


"From what I understand," says the Sixers' Louis Williams, "it's two steps, after you pick the ball up."

"Three," says Blazer Rudy Fernandez. "Or two."

"Two steps ... that's what I'm assuming," says his teammate Jerryd Bayless. "That's how I always played."

Another teammate, Channing Frye, says it's two-and-a-half steps.

Blazer Greg Oden says he thinks it's two steps, "but I've seen a couple of three-steps not being called."

Three steps? Could that be so? Should it be called a travel if you take three steps?

Sixer Reggie Evans has some clarity. "Three steps," he says. "That's a travel, all day ... Elementary."

Step Two: Ask the Rulebook
I ask several players if they have ever seen the NBA's actual written rule on traveling at the end of a dribble.

Nobody has. Would they like to see it? Yes, they would.

This rule occupies 58 lines of the NBA's official printed rulebook. It is full of talk of "count one" and "count two."

It was clearly written some intention other than being easy to understand.

They have some reading to do.

And as you'll see, everyone finds the rule too confusing to embrace -- at least in the short time I gave them while the camera was rolling.

And Jerryd Bayless quickly strikes to the heart of the matter: "This is the rule," he says, "but what are the refs going to call?"

Smart question. It gets us away from all that legalese, and gets the conversation back to an area where we all have at least a little expertise: The things we have seen happen in basketball games all our lives.

That question also exposes another key issue: The referees don't call it the way it is written anyway.