What is a Charge in Basketball? A Comprehensive Guide

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In the fast-paced and physical sport of basketball, charges play a crucial role in defending against offensive players. Understanding what a charge is and how it is enforced is essential for both players and referees to ensure fair and safe gameplay. This article provides a comprehensive guide to charges in basketball, covering its definition, criteria, implications, and strategies.

Definition of a Charge

A charge is a defensive foul that occurs when an offensive player with the ball attempts to initiate contact with a stationary defender who has established a legal guarding position. The defender must be set and not moving laterally or backwards when the contact is made.

Criteria for a Charge

For a charge to be called, the following criteria must be met:

  • Stationary Defender: The defender must be stationary and not moving laterally or backwards when the contact occurs.
  • Legal Guarding Position: The defender must have established a legal guarding position in front of the offensive player with the ball.
  • Initiated Contact: The offensive player must be the one who initiates contact with the defender.
  • Clear Path: The defender must have a clear path to the basket before the contact is made.

Implications of a Charge

When a charge is called, the offensive player is assessed a foul and the ball is awarded to the defensive team. This can have significant implications for the game, as it can result in a turnover and give the defensive team a chance to gain possession of the ball.

Strategies for Defending and Avoiding Charges

For defenders, understanding when and how to draw a charge can be a valuable defensive strategy. Here are some tips:

  • Establish a Legal Guarding Position: Get in front of the offensive player and stay stationary.
  • Stay Vertical: Keep your feet planted and avoid lateral or backwards movement.
  • Be Assertive: Make it clear to the offensive player that you are there to defend.
  • Draw the Contact: If the offensive player is dribbling towards you, step slightly forward to initiate contact.

For offensive players, avoiding charges is crucial to maintaining possession of the ball. Here are some strategies:

  • Change Direction: As soon as you see a defender establishing a guarding position, change direction or stop your dribble.
  • Go Around the Defender: If you can’t go past the defender, try to go around them using a spin move or crossover.
  • Fake a Shot: Pump fake to draw the defender off their feet and then drive past them.
  • Pass the Ball: If you are unable to avoid the defender, pass the ball to a teammate who is in a better position to score.

Common Misconceptions about Charges

There are several common misconceptions about charges in basketball. Here are some clarifications:

  • Verticality: The defender does not have to be perfectly vertical to draw a charge. As long as they are not moving laterally or backwards, they can still draw a charge.
  • Clear Path: The defender does not have to have a completely clear path to the basket. They simply need to have established a legal guarding position in front of the offensive player.
  • Baiting: Defenders cannot intentionally bait offensive players into drawing charges. If a defender moves laterally or backwards to initiate contact, it is an illegal charge.


Charges are an important part of basketball defense, requiring both skill and judgment from players and referees. Understanding the definition, criteria, implications, and strategies surrounding charges is essential for fair and safe gameplay. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, players and referees can ensure that charges are called accurately and consistently, contributing to the enjoyment and integrity of the sport.

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