What is a Charge in Basketball? (Definition and Examples)


Without a doubt, the most controversial call in basketball is the block/charge.

Nothing else is really even close.

Even though a charge circle might be painted on the court...

And the official may be in perfect position...

At the end of the day, it will still be a judgment call by the guy with the whistle whether you as a coach like it or not.

In this article, I’ll give a breakdown of what exactly a charge is in basketball and how you can help your players draw them on defense and stay away from getting called for them on offense.

What Is a Charge in Basketball?

A charge is an offensive foul that occurs when an offensive player charges into a defender.

For the call to be a charge and not a block, 3 criteria must be met:

1. The defender must be in legal guarding position when the contact occurs.

2. The defender is not standing in the restricted area (does not apply to high school).

3. The defender is not the one who initiates the contact.

If all 3 of these standards are met, the referee should call a charging foul.

What Is Legal Guarding Position?

A defender must meet several guidelines in order to meet and maintain legal guarding position: 

  • Both feet on the ground and facing their opponent
  • Must beat the offensive player to the spot before contact is made
  • May move back, left, or right to maintain legal guarding position on the offensive player

If the offensive player initiates contact with a defender meeting this criteria, the referee should call a charge.

Why Is a Charge Illegal?

The charge is illegal to try to give the defensive player a chance to guard the offense without having to give up too much ground on drives.

Without the charge call, any contact, whether initiated by the offense or the defense, would be considered a defensive foul.

The charge foul is also there as a safety precaution for players.

Because the offensive player has the possibility of drawing a foul by driving in recklessly to the basket, they're less likely to put their head down and just plow through defenders trying to score.

What’s the Penalty for a Charge?

The penalty for a charge is like a double whammy for the offense. 

Not only will the play result in a turnover, but it is also a personal foul on whichever player commits the charge.

One important note is that even if the defense is in the bonus and draws a charging foul, they will only gain possession of the basketball and not shoot any free throws.

There are no free throws shot on player control fouls.

player tries to draw a charge during a basketball game

Teaching Players to Avoid Charges

If your player gets called for a charge, chances are it’s going to wipe out a basket for your team, or at least a really good shot attempt.

So work with your players to avoid the call by focusing on these tips:

1. Jump Stop

The best way to avoid a charge is by not running into anyone.

And a definite way to do that is by jump stopping as your players near the basket.

Not only will it keep your offensive players under control as they get close to finishing, but it will keep them from making contact with any defensive players waiting for them.

There are still numerous finishes that can be done after the jump stop, so it will not really negatively affect their ability to score some points in the paint off a drive.

2. Euro Step

If you have a player who doesn’t want to jump stop in the paint, then make sure the Euro Step is part of their arsenal.

The Euro lets a player step in one direction and then quickly step in the other direction before finishing.

If they are able to master this move, they sould be able to glide right by a waiting defender as they put the ball through the hoop.

3. Have a Variety of Finishes

If your players can only go one direction and finish on one side of the rim, it will be pretty easy for the defense to set up and draw charges.

So make sure your players are proficient at going either way and can score at the rim in a variety of ways.

This diversification will hopefully keep the defense guessing and allow your players to get around them on their way to some sort of lay-in.

Teaching Players to Draw Charges

Now on the defensive side of the ball, being able to draw charges is a fantastic weapon to keep your opponent from getting close shots near the basket.

So help your players be more effective at getting that call with these suggestions:

1. Beat the Offense to the Spot

The only way your players can draw a charge is by being in front of and facing the basketball.

So they must be able to get to where the ball is headed before it actually gets there. That means anticipating where the offense is trying to drive and getting there first.

This requires a degree of anticipation and also some skill at getting squared to the ball in the process, both of which can be practiced.

2. Don’t Use Your Hands

This is more of a safety tip more than anything else.

When your player attempts to draw a charge, whether they get the call or not, make sure they practice falling backwards by going butt to back on the floor and not using their hands to brace their fall.

If they happen to reach back after the contact, it is possible they can hurt their wrists in the process and force them to miss some time.

3. Sell It

Lastly, getting the call on a charge is just as much an acting job as it is actually being in legal guarding position.

On the contact by the offense, the defender needs to fall backwards and even make a loud grunt to convince the referee that there was substantial contact.

Without actually falling back and hitting the ground, it is very unlikely the defense is going to get the call.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is the Restricted Area?

The restricted area is a 4’ diameter semicircle under the basket that is painted on the floor in an effort to protect offensive players driving to the basket and also help referees with the block/charge call.

It does not matter if a defender is planted or standing still when the offensive player makes contact on the drive.

If any of the defender’s feet are on or inside the arc, it is an automatic blocking foul.

Can a Charge Happen Without the Ball?

Surprisingly, the answer to this question is yes.

If an offensive player is driving to the basket and passes to a teammate but continues to run into a defensive player without the basketball, that can still be called a charge if the defender has met all the necessary requirements.

This type of charge typically happens in a fastbreak situation when the offensive player makes a late pass near the basket and the defender has been set.

Girls playing basketball in a gym


The charge is a great weapon that can help or hurt your team.

If your offense drives to the basket out of control on a regular basis, it’s probably going to cost your team some baskets and some fouls.

But if your defense is good at staying in legal guarding position and beating the offense to the top, you can force a lot of turnovers with it.

Either way, it’s still going to be a judgment call by the men in stripes.

So make sure your players understand all the aspects of the charge so they can use it to benefit your team on both sides of the ball.



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