Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Legalized: passing to yourself
By Henry Abbott
Watch this and tell me you don't wish you had a player on your team who was so inventive: There's Kobe Bryant, repeatedly using passes to himself off the backboard to befuddle the defense and get himself nice, easy looks.
It's just fun, and if you're smart (like Harrison Barnes) you'll add it to your arsenal.
But try it in your pickup game and they'll either call you for a travel or burn you for witchcraft.
At a moment like that, you really want to know your stuff. So: Is passing to yourself off the backboard actually legal, or is it one of those things that's hard to police so they just kind of let it go?
The answer is fascinating. Google up the NBA rulebook, and you'll find there's really just one rule that might apply:
A player who attempts a field goal may not be the first to touch the ball if it fails to touch the backboard, basket ring or another player.
Of course, that's no help, really, because those are not field goal attempts. Those are passes.
So I asked the NBA for clarification, and they pointed me to two rules -- the one above, and a new one:
A player may not be the first to touch his own pass unless the ball touches his backboard, basket ring or another player.
Why did I miss that rule when I checked? Because it wasn't there. Google had taken me to a version of the NBA rulebook (still on NBA.com) that was originally published in 2001. But you won't find this rule about passing there. Instead, you have to find the PDF of this season's rules as posted in NBA.com's officiating section.
The officiating page outlines recent rule changes, but doesn't mention the several recent changes to the traveling rules, including this one.
In any case, know for your pickup game, or for watching the professionals, that this is now undeniably entirely legal in the NBA.