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What Is A Carry In Basketball?

What Is A Carry In Basketball

A casual fan can often miss all the rules and regulations that go on in a single game of basketball. It can be quite daunting at the outset, with so many different technical words and phrases that hold a special meaning of their own, to actually get into it and learn what everything means. This article is about a violation that often happens in amateur and even professional basketball, carrying. You’re going to learn what a carrying violation is, what types of carrying violations exist, what the rules around it are and how to avoid making the mistake yourself. So, what is a carry in basketball?

A carry in basketball is when a ball handler pushes the ball upward or prevents it from going down in a constant dribbling motion before he begins dribbling regularly again.

What Is A Carry In Basketball

Pushing the ball up from underneath with the palms facing up or to the side is how carrying occurs most of the time, but there are other mistakes players make. These include the double dribble, stopping then starting the dribble, hesitation dribble or doing way too many steps before a pass or shot – which is actually a travel violation.

If you’re wondering what is a travel in basketball , you can learn about it on our site.

A carrying violation is rarely called despite its common occurrence in the NBA – more so than youth and college basketball where most players started playing. Ball handlers in today’s game have gotten better at concealing their carrying violations.

That being said, some ball handlers don’t get called out even on a flagrant double dribble or carrying violation during a game due to lax referees in the NBA.

If you’re the ball handler, the best way to avoid getting a carrying call is to avoid having either palm facing up as you’re dribbling down the court.

Carrying the ball is not only a violation, but an unfair advantage for an offensive player, making it hard for the defense – avoid doing it as much as possible.

Basketball Carrying Rules

In the NBA rule book, there are multiple passages concerning the carry violation:

  • A player cannot handle the ball from one point to another without dribbling it
  • A player cannot restart his dribble after voluntarily stopping it
  • A player cannot put any part of his hand below the ball and carry it – if a player places his hand below the ball during a dribble, it’s a violation

There are situations which are exempt from a carry, double dribble or any other violation:

  • If the dribbling player dribbled before and after a shot attempt, he can continue to dribble, but only if the basketball touched the rim or backboard
  • He can start dribbling again if the opponent touches the ball

The Penalty For A Carry

The Penalty For A Carry

The penalty for any sort of carry – fumble, double dribble, failed hesitation move, upward-palm high dribbles and so on – is the opposing team being awarded with a turnover starting at the sideline nearest to the place where the violation occurred.

When it comes to college and high school basketball, the penalty has the same consequences.

You can learn what a technical foul in basketball is  on our blog.

Examples Of Carrying

Here are two carry violation examples:

  • A player catches the ball and as he’s walking towards the opponent’s side of the field, he keeps directing his players, forgetting to dribble the ball as he does it, only for him to start dribbling after making four steps, resulting in a carry violation from the referee.
  • With only seven seconds left on the clock, the player dribbles the ball in a rush. Going around a player, he double dribbles by grabbing it with both hands after which the player continues to dribble.

Is A High Dribble A Carry?

A high dribble is not a carry when it comes to basketball. As long as you have your palm facing the ground, you can dribble as high as you want.

The common misconception occurs because a lot of players end up swinging their right or left hand under the basketball while dribbling, resulting in a carrying call, which a referee tends to pick up.

How Long Is A Carry In Basketball?

A carry in basketball is as long as a second, because you are not allowed to palm the ball in any way for any period of time. You can get a carry called if you carry it for even a second of play.

To avoid carrying the basketball, make sure to have your palms facing down.

Is Palming The Ball Legal?

Palming the ball is not legal in the NBA or any other basketball league. Doing multiple steps with one dribble or dribbling as high as you want are legal moves, as long as you don’t hold the ball from underneath, that’s how a carry occurs.

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Why Is Carrying Illegal In Basketball?

The reason why carrying is illegal in basketball is because it’s an incorrect way to dribble the ball. To dribble the ball, you actually have to dribble it, and carrying allows you to lessen the amount of dribbling, or not dribble at all in some cases. Not even youth basketball supports carrying in their basketball games.

Different Variations Of A Carry In Basketball

There are different kinds of carrying violations in basketball other than holding the bottom half of the ball’s plane.

Different Variations Of A Carry In Basketball

Carry Vs Double Dribble

A double dribble occurs when a player stops dribbling in between dribbles. If a player suddenly stops then restarts his dribbling, that’s a double dribble violation.

Carry Vs Traveling

A travel violation occurs when you make more than two steps after you stop dribbling, right before a pass or a shot attempt.

Carrying Or Palming Hand Signal In Basketball

There are multiple carrying and palming hand signals in basketball, depending on what the ball handler had done.

  • If the NBA player’s hand was palming the ball → a simple upward palm motion from a down-facing palm signals it.
  • Travel violations → signaled by having both hands in front spinning in circles.
  • For a double dribble → both hands motion up and down, simulating footsteps.

How Can You Dribble Without Carrying The Ball?

You can dribble without carrying the ball by keeping your palm facing down as much as possible.

Avoid grabbing or hugging the ball and then restarting the dribble. If you accidentally grab the ball or initiate a carrying violation, prevent it with a pass to a teammate.

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Special Moves That People May Mislead Into A Carry

Referees miss out on calling travels because there are nuanced moves a casual fan often misses.

The Hesi

The hesitation dribble or hesitation move is a fake out usually used at the three point line.


A crossover is a sudden stop and switch of direction while still dribbling the ball.

Stationary Dribble

Squeezing the ball to gain control against defense is a perfectly legal move.

Over Hand Crossover

Just like a regular crossover, if the ball isn’t being palmed it’s completely legal.

Shot Fakes

A shot fake is fine if the ball handler doesn’t start dribbling again.

NBA Players That Carry The Ball A Lot

As true basketball fans know, nearly every player in the NBA carried the ball at least once, from Michael Jordan to Allen Iverson, but there are NBA players that do it way too often.

The three most popular players that carry the ball a lot are:

  1. Kevin Durant
  2. Isaiah Thomas
  3. James Harden

Frequently Asked Questions

What counts as carrying in basketball are moves like palming the ball, the double dribble and travel. If the ball stops even for a brief moment as you’re palming it, it means that you’re carrying the ball which means a turnover for the opposing team. Every league practices these rules, even youth and college basketball.

A high dribble is not a carry as long as the player’s hand isn’t palming the basketball. A player can dribble as high as he wants and take as many steps as he wants if the player takes precaution not to palm the ball. Palming occurs when the ball is resting in your palms without the need to be dribbled. Carrying results in a turnover for the other team.

Double dribble is a carry because you take the control of the ball by holding it in-between dribbles. A double dribble can often fall under the radar if you’re carrying the basketball for a second or two, but if it’s flagrant as some double dribbles tend to be, the referee will most likely spot it.

How many seconds is a carry in basketball depends only on whether the referee notices it or not. Even if you carry the basketball for a second during a dribble, it is considered a carry. You cannot carry the ball at all for even a second, because the referees have all the right to call you out on it.


The question “What is a carry in basketball?” has multiple answers, which you should know by now if you read the article. As long as you avoid palming or holding the ball while dribbling, you should be perfectly fine. If you have any other questions pertaining to basketball or any other games or sports, we’ve got all the answers you need in our blog.

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