What Is a Carry in Basketball?

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A carry in basketball is an illegal move that occurs when a player holding the ball illegally moves their hand(s) underneath the ball and continues to dribble or advance the ball. This motion is considered a violation of the rules and can result in a turnover.

Mechanics of a Carry

A carry is typically committed while a player is dribbling the ball. The following mechanics are essential in determining whether a carry has occurred:

  • Palm Remains Under the Ball: The player’s palm must remain on top of or slightly to the side of the ball. If the palm moves underneath the ball and lifts it, it is considered a carry.
  • Ball Movement: The ball must bounce off the floor and into the player’s hand. If the player catches the ball in the air and brings it to their palm, it is not a carry.
  • Continuity of Motion: The dribbling motion must be continuous. If the player pauses with the ball in their hand and then resumes dribbling, it is considered a carry.

Consequences of a Carry

When a carry is called, the following consequences occur:

  • Turnover: The team that committed the carry loses possession of the ball. The ball is awarded to the opposing team at the point of the violation.
  • Free Throws: In certain situations, a personal foul may also be called for a carry. If the carry occurs during a shooting attempt and the player is fouled, the player will be awarded free throws.

Common Examples

Some common examples of carries in basketball include:

  • Palming the Ball: The player’s palm slips underneath the ball during a dribble.
  • Scooping the Ball: The player’s hand scoops the ball from the floor into their palm.
  • Lifting the Ball: The player lifts the ball into their hand after the dribble has ended.
  • Carrying the Ball: The player pauses with the ball in their hand and then resumes dribbling.

Preventing Carries

To avoid committing carries, players should focus on the following techniques:

  • Keep Palm on Top: Maintain a firm grip on the ball with your palm facing down.
  • Bounce Off the Floor: Allow the ball to bounce off the floor before dribbling.
  • Smooth Motion: Dribbling should be fluid and continuous without any pauses.
  • Avoid Trick Moves: Do not attempt unnecessary tricks or fancy handle moves that could lead to a carry.

Importance of Officiating

Referees play a crucial role in determining whether a carry has occurred. They must be attentive to the mechanics of the play and make a judgment based on the rules. Proper officiating ensures fair play and prevents teams from gaining an unfair advantage through illegal ball handling techniques.


Understanding the definition and mechanics of a carry in basketball is essential for players, coaches, and referees alike. By adhering to the rules and avoiding illegal ball handling, players can ensure a fair and competitive game. Accurate officiating is vital in enforcing the rules and maintaining the integrity of the sport.

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