What Does a Bonus Mean in the NBA?

In a basketball game, fouls can help give one team an unfair advantage over another.

As a result, for every foul committed against an opposing team, the rules stipulate the team receives a bonus. This regulation is in place to prevent players from unjustly influencing the game in their favor.

Since the rules for different leagues vary, a common question for basketball newbies is: What does a bonus mean in the NBA?

The referee initially only grants the bonus penalty on fouls committed against opponents when going for the hoop. However, this rule is obsolete once a team carries out a set number of fouls. 

Once a team has five fouls per quarter in the NBA, the opposing team will obtain a bonus for any further instance of misconduct against them.

Let's look at the various factors that qualify a team for a bonus.

Bonus Rules in the NBA

In the NBA, a team is only eligible for a bonus penalty situation when a foul is committed against them when they are going for a shot. However, if a team exceeds five fouls in a quarter, the rules change.

When a team carries out the fifth foul, the opponent becomes eligible for a bonus. A bonus situation allows a player to shoot two free throws from the free-throw line as compensation.

The bonus rule is slightly different when a player commits a foul during the game’s last two minutes or overtime.

Instead of five fouls, a team receives a bonus even if they have a single foul against them. However, the bonus itself is the same, and the team gets two free throws.

Rules of Receiving a Bonus in Other Leagues

While the general qualifications for a bonus remain the same in basketball, there are minor differences in various leagues.

  • FIBA’s Bonus Situation Rules 

The rules for receiving a bonus in the International Basketball Federation are similar to those of the NBA. Five fouls from a team make the opponent eligible for two free throws. However, a minor difference between the two leagues is that FIBA only awards bonuses when a defensive player fouls.

  • The NCAA’s Bonus Rules 

College basketball is significantly more distinct than NBA and FBA. Instead of quarters, the game has two halves. The rules permit two free throws to a team if they surpass seven fouls in one half.

The rules for the free throws also slightly differ. If the player making the free throw misses the first, he is not allowed to make the second.

However, if the player scores the throw, he has the chance to make the second as well. This rule is changed to allow two free throws if a team has ten or more fouls in one half. 

  • Bonus Rules of the NFHS

The National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) oversees high school sports. The rules for high school basketball are the same as NCAA. The school holds the game in two halves, and seven fouls in one half qualify a team for a bonus. The opponent team is allowed a double bonus if ten fouls occur in a single half.

Types of Fouls in the NBA

Since receiving the bonus situation depends on fouls, let’s look at what exactly qualifies as misconduct in a basketball game.

We can categorize all types of fouls in the NBA under three groups: personal fouls, flagrant fouls, and technical fouls.

  1. Personal Fouls

Personal fouls refer to any kind of physical wrongdoing during the game. Pushing, grabbing, or hitting another player falls under personal fouls. As a penalty, the opponent team gets a bonus of two free throws. Further, we can differentiate personal fouls as offensive or defensive.

bonus basketball

Defensive Fouls: These are fouls made by players on defense and usually are on offensive opponent players. These are meant to hinder the progression of the advancing player and are generally through holding or pushing the opponent.

Offensive Fouls: As the name suggests, offensive fouls are committed by players on offense. A common form of this is charging. Charging is when an offensive player moves into a defensive opponent in an attempt to move him from his position.

Related: What is a Loose Ball Foul?

  1. Flagrant Fouls

Any kind of violent contact with a player from the other team falls under flagrant fouls. This contact can result in injuries to the opposing player and may cause the game to come to a halt. While flagrant fouls can be intentional, they aren’t in most cases.

We further classify these into flagrant one and flagrant two fouls. Depending upon how severe the foul is, the referee classifies it under either one or two; flagrant one being less and two more severe. The immediate penalty is the bonus, but players may have to pay a monetary fine later.

  1. Technical Fouls

A technical foul is different from the other two types, and we can describe it as any kind of unsportsmanlike conduct. These are the only type of fouls that do not involve physical contact. The referee can decide if a particular action by a player on the court or sidelines qualifies as a foul.

A common instance of this is cursing or yelling at another player, referee, or coach during the game. The penalty for these is usually harsher than for other forms of fouls.

Why is the Bonus Situation Necessary?

Without the bonus, teams could commit foul after foul without immediate repercussions. This lack of honesty could affect how fair the game is and put into question the ethics of basketball. Fouls in the last two minutes or overtime could decide the winner of the game before it was even over.

The bonus penalty situation ensures teams that are wronged receive their rightful concessions. Players can use the free throw to make up for the lost score if a foul has been committed and a team’s progress halted.

Conclusion: Bonus in Basketball

The rules for a bonus situation may get confusing for people getting into basketball. Different leagues have different regulations which determine if a team is eligible for a free throw.

The NBA’s rules are straightforward and easy to understand. If a team has five fouls in a single quarter, the opponent receives a bonus. A single foul in the last two minutes of the game or overtime gives the opposing team a bonus.

These rules vary slightly for college and high school basketball, which have halves instead of quarters. If a team has seven fouls in one half, the opponent receives a bonus.

Related: What is And One in Basketball?

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast