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Basketball Referee Signals

Refereeing is not an easy job. There are a huge number of basketball referee signals that take care of various situations. Everyone should learn the basics of officiating basketball as that would lead to greater interest in the game. Some major referee signals are given below.

Whenever an official blows the whistle, his or her right hand needs to go straight in the air. A closed fist at the top of hand indicates a foul while an open hand indicates a violation. Fouls are related to personal physical contact. Violations are more related to the ball or court.


A foul is when a player is involved in illegal contact with an opponent, which hinders an opponent from performing normal defensive and offensive movements. When reporting a foul to the scorer’s table, the official has to be vocal and also use the correct hand signals.

Some of the fouls include Blocking, holding, charging, intentional, illegal use of the hands and technical. The referee signals include specific signals for each of the above.


A violation is called immediately with a whistle and an open hand straight up into the air. In basketball referee signals, violations also have specific hand signals. However, the official doesn’t have to say anything while reporting a violation. Violations include dribbling, double dribble, jump ball, and over and back.

Hand signals

The following are 26 basketball referee signals that will improve your knowledge of the game.

Basket Interference: When you touch the basketball when it is on the rim or in the imaginary cylinder above the rim.Blocking: When there is an illegal contact that affects the progress of an opponent.

Cancel score/Cancel play: This is one of those basketball referee signals to disallow the preceding basket or play.Charging: This is an offensive foul that occurs when a player runs into a stationary defender who has position.

To designate offender: This indicates the number of the player called for foul or violation to the official scorer.Direction of play: The direction of the basket of the team awarded possession.

Double foul: When two opposing players commit personal or technical fouls against each other at almost the same time.

Goaltending: An offensive or defensive violation in which a player interferes with a shot ball while it is on a downward arc to the basket. If a defender goaltends, the offensive team is credited with the made goal; if an offensive player goaltends, any goal is void and the defensive team receives possession.Holding: This indicates illegal physical contact that impedes the progress of an opponent.

Illegal dribble: When a player runs with the ball without dribbling, or dribbles a second time after he has voluntarily ended his first dribble.

Illegal screen out of bounds: A player illegally leaving the playing floor on the endline in the frontcourt for the purpose of setting a screen.

Illegal use of hands: This is for llegal hand contact or “hand-checking” of an opponent.


Jump ball: To put the ball in play with a jump ball between two opposing players after such occurrences as a held ball.

Loose ball foul: This indicates illegal contact after the ball is live when team possession does not exist.

Personal foul: This is for illegal physical contact with an opponent when the ball is live.

Pushing: This signal is for such personal contact as bumping or moving an opponent.

Technical foul: A penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct or violations by team members on the floor or seated on the bench. It may also be assessed for illegal contact that occurs with an opponent before the ball becomes live.

Three-second-violation: A violation in which the offensive player stands in the free-throw lane for three seconds or more without commencing a shot.

Traveling: This is an illegal movement in which a player in possession of the ball pivots, jumps, or shuffles the feet improperly.

24-second-violation: A violation in which the offensive team fails to attempt a field goal within 24 seconds after gaining possession.

Time-in and time-out: These are signals to the timer when to start and stop, respectively, the official game clock.

20-second-timeout: This signals the granting of a team’s request for a 20-second time.



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