What Is Kickball in Basketball?

The NBA considers kickball a violation. In the past, players have been fined heavily for it. Tracy McGrady (Magic), Paul George (Pacers), Kelly Oubre (Washington Wizards), Buddy Hield, and Dejounte Murray (Spurs) are some of the names on this list.

In Murray's case, he got a whopping $25,000 fine for kicking the ball into the stands. Hield also got the same fine in November 2019. From the instances above, one thing is clear: kickball is a severe offense that has substantial consequences.

Kickball for Basketball Newbies

Kickball is to basketball what handball is to soccer. That is a simple way to explain the offense to a basketball newbie. Maybe you don't watch soccer either, so to explain it further, when a player strikes the ball with their leg or foot, that is kickball. 

You should know that kickball violations are scarce and often unintentional. That is why you may see the game continuing with no call by the referee when a player kicks the ball.

However, there were cases where the kickball violations were deliberate, and the offender got penalized, as seen in the intro.

The Controversy: Is Kickball a Violation or a Foul?

It may interest you to know that kickball is not a foul but a violation in basketball. What is the difference, you may ask?

Kickball as a violation means a player cannot be ejected from a game due to the act, even if it is intentional. Also, kickballs are not included in a player's or team's foul count as it is not a foul.

In February of 2004, Orlando Magic’s Tracy McGrady kicked the ball during a game against the Denver Nuggets. He got a $10,000 fine and an ejection from the match.

After stripping Anthony of the ball, McGrady had driven the court length for a layup. However, Chris Anderson batted the shot away and bowled him over. The referee made no call for the tackle.

So, in frustration, McGrady kicked the ball into the lower bowel of the arena. He did it again after a fan tossed the ball, and it bounced back to him. Not even Howard could stop him from punting the ball the second time.

So, if the kickball rule is applicable as written in the rule book, then McGrady shouldn't have been ejected. Is it safe to say he got an ejection because he kicked the ball twice?

Aside from the above, fans consider judging whether a kick is accidental or intentional based on the referee’s discretion as controversial.

Is 'Kickball' an Official Rule in Basketball?

Technically, kickball is not a rule on its own in the NBA rule book, but this doesn't mean it's redundant or not severe. In fact, it falls under the 'Strike the Ball' rule.

The rule states that no player should kick or strike the ball with a fist or any part of the leg intentionally. Also, a player can't deliberately move or secure the ball with any part of their leg. However, if the ball accidentally touches any part of their leg, it is not a foul.

It is at a referee's discretion to say whether the kickball is intentional or accidental. In some cases, the ball may unintentionally touch a player's leg, but if the referee believes it puts them at an advantage, he can call it a kickball.

Surprisingly, some players use the rule to their advantage. Although it is rare, defense players prefer to block a pass with their leg, especially if it is highly likely to make the basket.

The repercussion is giving the ball back to the opponent as an inbounds play, which isn't as bad as giving up points.


Changes to the Kickball Rule

The kickball rule has changed over the years. Between 1980 and 1981, the rule stated that if a player intentionally kicked or punched the ball, the 24-second clock resets to 24 seconds.

In 1999, the rule's penalty changed again. Instead of 24 seconds, the clock set itself to 14 seconds anytime a player kicked or touched the ball with any part of their leg or fist intentionally. The clock would stay the same if more than 14 seconds were left on it before the violation.

In 2000, there was a slight alteration to the rule. If someone kicked or punched the ball deliberately, the clock would reset itself to 14 seconds even if there are less than 14 seconds left on the clock.

Kickball Penalty

Like any other rule, kickball has a penalty, and it varies across different leagues. Different rules govern basketball leagues, and the level of play also determines the kind of rules applied to a game. 

For instance, the famous International Basketball Federation institutes the rules for international games during the Olympics and the FIBA world cup. These rules may not be the same as those in the NBA.

If you haven't caught on with the game's regulations, check out the new edition of Basketball for Dummies by Richard Phelps. It offers exceptional coverage on the rules and regulations of the most popular basketball leagues like NBA, NCAA, and WNBA.

Here are some of the famous leagues and how they handle the kickball violation:

NBA (National Basketball Association)

As mentioned before, the NBA forbids using legs or feet in basketball. If any player in the offense team uses their leg to kick the ball, re-possess, or maintain its possession, they get a kickball call. The opposing team gets the ball; the act is known as turnover.

Also, the opposing team gets the ball if a defender uses any part of his leg to disrupt an inbound attempt. The player on the opposing team gets the same privileges to re-do an inbound play.

Lastly, if the violation occurs during a throw-in, the opposing team gets the ball at the throw-in spot. The same applies to when the opposing team commits the offense. 


The Women National Basketball Association rules are similar to that of the NBA. If a player intentionally hits the ball with any part of their leg, the ball goes to the opposing team.

The opposing team gets the ball at the sidelines anywhere near the violation spot as long as it is not below the free-throw line extended as per the general rule.

Should a player on the defensive team commit the violation, the team on the offense gets the ball on the sidelines with the same free-throw line extended rule.


Like other basketball leagues, the International Basketball Federation considers kicking a ball or controlling it with any part of the legs a violation, not a foul. The official kickball rule by FIBA states that no player should kick the ball with any part of the legs intentionally.

Still, if it happens accidentally, it is not a violation. Also, players can't run away with the ball or strike it with their fists deliberately.

In FIBA competitions, when a referee notices a kickball violation, they will blow the whistle then stick out their foot, pointing at it to explain the call to the table officials.

After the call, he hands the ball to the opposing team if a player on the offensive committed the violation. On the other hand, if a defender commits the offense,  the first team retains the ball.


The National Collegiate Athletic Association has the same rules as other renowned leagues regarding kickball penalties. Kicking the ball or deliberately using any part of the legs to control the ball is a violation. If the player is from the offensive team,  the defensive team gets the ball.

The player who commits the violation gets a turnover. Similarly, if a player on the defensive team kicks the ball, the referee will call it out and hand the ball to the opposing team, who will inbound it at the sidelines near the violation spot.

3X3 Basketball

Although it is a variation of basketball, 3X3 basketball also has kickball rules. Touching or kicking the ball with any part of the leg intentionally is punishable. The penalty is similar to that of other basketball leagues; the other team gets the ball.


As with any sport, to be a green fan or ill-formed about basketball can be frustrating. It is hard to enjoy the game if you haven't mastered its techniques, strategies, and rules.

The Basketball for Dummies book by Richard Phelps is a handy guide for both the beginner basketball player and a courtside spectator. The book discusses kickball in basketball and other rules.

Kickball violation occurs when a player kicks or controls the ball with any part of their leg. If the ball touches their leg accidentally, it is not a violation.

The kickball rule is somewhat controversial because, in most cases, the referee considers it accidental, and the game continues. On other occasions, the referee rules that it favors the opposing team and calls it a violation.

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