OT: The Charge Call needs to go

Submitted by The Shredder on February 11th, 2013 at 9:28 AM

As a Varsity Basketball official for the past 5 year and a coach and player most my life I have to say the charge is killing basketball right now. Its the worst at the NCAA level but its getting worse at the high school level. IMO it needs to go and just be an automatic defensive foul.

The purpose of the rule was to keep out of control players from driving to the lane  and smashing into defenseless players which when that was the case it worked very well. Now? Well now its a tool defensive players use to get turnovers and fouls on the opponent. Great offensive plays are made going to the hoop to only have a defender slide over last second to take a charge because he was standing there a quarter of a second sooner then the offensive player who is taking the ball to the hoop and the play is wiped out in a car crash of players falling into the lane. My favorite is when the offensive player takes off and comes down with no place to land and they count the basket but call a charge. That is ridicules(I refuse to call charges in that case).

Instead of playing defense at the hoop in college basketball we have players just standing there taking hits or flopping trying to get calls. Not to mention these are fast and tricky calls to make for officials. Our PG and maybe the best player in the nation tried to get this call vs Wisconsin and he ended up getting dunked on and could have been hurt. Oh and it costed us a point.

What if we take it out? Players will just try to play defense on the ball. Help defenses will help by getting over and making a play on the ball instead of sliding underneath a player in flight and causing a pile up of bodies on the floor. I think it could make the game so much better. Its just gotten out of hand. Duke is one of the worst offenders of just abusing the charge call and now a lot of teams do(or all). I love Novak to death but he was a pro at this. I have see a ton of high school kids get hurt taking charges and one kid even taken out on a stretcher. Buzz at our officials meeting have started on this topic. It will be interesting to see where it goes.



February 11th, 2013 at 9:40 AM ^

If players slide underneath after the offensive player has left the floor, then it is not a charge.

What your saying defeats the entire ideology behind defending anywhere on the floor. As a defender your goal is to get and stay infront of the offensive player. Are you saying the only way you should be allowed to defend the basket is to try to block a shot from the side?

Players will just try to play defense on the ball. Help defenses will help by getting over and making a play on the ball instead of sliding underneath a player in flight and causing a pile up of bodies on the floor.

That's a block. I really hope you've never called it a charge.

Full disclosure: I reffed HS, college club, and juco for years. I now coach.

The Shredder

February 11th, 2013 at 9:40 AM ^

Good defense can be made without trying to block shots. Players less and less are really playing defense. They rather just slide over the last second and stand there and get ran over hoping to get the call. When it was used right I had no problem with it. The rule is abused beyond belief now.

10-15 years ago this wasn't issue. Its getting worse you have to admit.


February 11th, 2013 at 9:47 AM ^

I disagree. I struggle getting my players to actually move their feet to attempt to take a charge. They like to just reach across the lane and hope they grab the ball instead of moving their feet and getting in front of the defender.

As a high school ref, if they are literally standing below the basket and they try to take a charge - call it a block. No coach will argue with you.

However, if people are playing proper help defense and are getting in front of the offensive player before he leaves his feet for the basket, then it's a charge. I don't know what else you want the guy to do? If a defender beats an offensive player to a spot on the floor, it is good defense. Is it any different if they extend their arms up instead of protect themselves?

Also, if you want to get poor ratings from coaches, the quickest way to do it is 1) call travels that are not travels 2) refuse to call charges.  Coaches teach their players to take charges and get in front of people instead of reaching and hacking.

The Shredder

February 11th, 2013 at 9:54 AM ^

I can accept your view on it. I don't think there is a right or wrong stance on this. I just think players taking charges aren't playing defense. Just trying to get in the way since their teammate got beat. Its just getting dangerous. Also the abuse of the call has gotten out of control imo and its just killing the game but I do think you make valid points on why it isn't an issue.


February 11th, 2013 at 10:00 AM ^

I guess I have two thoughts that are born both of my offiiciating and coaching experience.

As a coach, I would argue that taking a charge is playing good team/help defense. It is better than letting the offensive player score (NBA style). It is better than reaching across and trying to strip the ball - almost always will foul the guy instead.  As an official, it just makes it a difficult call to be sure that if the player is ever late, you call the block and make them pay for being late - not make them pay for attempting to draw a charge.

Also from a coaching perspective, if a team does a decent job at help defense, then your offensive players need to gain control. Pull up for a 8-footer. Hit a ball reversal for an open three.  Drop it off to the help-defender's guy. If a player is going full out "I'm drawign a charge on every possession," then he should be a predictable player and an easy one to beat.


February 11th, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

Then eliminating the charge will only lead to more abuses of those then current set of rules.  You'll have offensive players taking straight off to the basket, even through players...because if there is any contact then a foul will automatically go on the defense.  If I were a coach or even a player under those rules I'd go right after their best player and run right into him/her over and over until he fouls out.  That's not basketball.

What happens when a defensive player actually moves his feet and has priority to a given spot on the floor before the offensive player gets there and the offense just bowls him over?  The offense wouldn't give it a second thought...they'd plow right into the player and draw the foul.  The offense currently has to adhere to good defense.  In the no-charge league, to the offensive player, this stationary defensive player makes a good target to plow into and draw a foul.

Eliminating the charge would be a free for all for the offense.  Yes, it would make the lives of every official easier not having to think about any charges and coaches wouldn't have to complain about the gray area between the two calls but taking it out of the game would bring more headache to the game than most probably realize.  Guys like Aaron Craft would foul out in minutes with his quick feet and ability to beat a guy to the spot on defense before the contact comes.

You may be annoyed with the game with charges.  It would be much much much more annoying without charges.

Inertia Policeman

February 11th, 2013 at 9:48 AM ^

I agree that the rule is abused, but your proposed solution to eliminate the call all together would make things worse. The way you stated it, if you were a defender, and an offensive player comes straight at you, you would have to move out of the way to avoid a foul. I don't see how this would work  . . . perhaps you can elaborate?

The Shredder

February 11th, 2013 at 9:57 AM ^

It can be a little hard with out you and I on a court with a ball..lol.. but... I have players come at me all the time in open gym and we find a way to play defense or we foul them trying to defend. How many charges are taken in open gyms? None..lol It can be done and basketball can be played with out the charge call. 

Inertia Policeman

February 11th, 2013 at 10:06 AM ^

I know you can play defense without taking a charge, and the thought of someone trying to take a charge in a pick up game is comical. However, I would argue that in general pick up games are garbage basketball, and good defensive rotation is fun to watch if executed properly. I just think if you take the call out, offensive players will take advantage, and they already get all the advantages anyway. I think (B1G road games aside) that officials do get it right more than wrong, and I guess I don't see it as a huge problem.


February 11th, 2013 at 2:11 PM ^

When the example was brought up that included 'open gym' the post lost even more credibility.

There are typically no charges in pick-up ball because you can foul limitless times, so instead of drawing a charge you just hack the guy and they get the ball back up top.  In no way does this simulate an actual game, not even close.

The best way a pick-up game could even simulate how successful this idea could be was if you two played...when you have the ball you play by his rules, no offensive charges and when he has the ball you play by normal rules where there are offensive charges.  Give each player 6 fouls for the game and play up to 21 by 1s and 2s.  If he wins he has a valid point...heck even if he doesn't foul out in that time he may have a valid point.

Good luck, Shredder!


February 11th, 2013 at 2:26 PM ^

Is because if the guy tries plowing through a defender to make a shot they won't call a charge, but they're not going to call a foul either. Unles you are "that guy" who is actually calling fouls all the time in a pick up game, and then you get a reputation fast.  If anything, on the streets, you have to make the shot; and if you don't calling a foul is just whining.

Aaron Craft's …

February 11th, 2013 at 5:16 PM ^

But having officiated and watched lots of basketball I can tell you that the spirit of the OP is correct even if his delivery was not extremely concise. "Charging" used to be simply one of the many violations which fell under the greater "player control" foul. If the call was still simply called as "player control" I think you would see less "charges." Is that enough "quotes?" We can probably all agree that there is something extremely un-basketball and un-athletic about identifying an athletic move to the hoop and then sprinting to a location to hope for a 50/50 call to go your way. I would also argue that officials have exacerbated this particular call by acting like the center of attention when making it. The NBA official's fist punch is especially offensive to my viewing eyes.


February 11th, 2013 at 9:39 AM ^


Drawing a charge is not defense. It's not contesting the ball. It's simply an attempt to get in the way and fall over. It's dangerous because it causes players in the air to fall and the player taking the charge to fall at knee level. And it's gimic defense that's bad for the sport.

The rules should force players to contest the ball as a player goes up for a shot. If you want to preserve the charge as a call for players warding defenders off with their off arm while in the air or for lowering their shoulder on the way to the hoop, I have no problem with that, but these late slide overs are hurting offensive basketball.

snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 9:36 AM ^

I don't think you can put the genie back in the bottle here.  It's an accepted part of the game now.  I also don't have a big problem with it.  The defender has the right to his space.  The offensive guy can't just ram into him.  Offensive players should be more willing to pull up for a five-footer instead of trying to go all the way.  A five-foot bank shot is not much more difficult than a layup.




February 11th, 2013 at 9:59 AM ^

how inconsistent that the charge/block calls are that needs to be cleaned up.  They are called arbitrarily.  If the first call made on a player is for a block the next time it happens with the same player they will get the charge call.  Refs don't seem to know the difference so they just alternate the damn call.  They need to be called consistently or not called at all.

Inertia Policeman

February 11th, 2013 at 9:38 AM ^

If any current charge/block were to become an automatic block, all an offensive player would have to do is dribble straight into the nearest defender and throw the ball up at conact in a manner that mildy resembles a shot to draw free throws on every possession. Something tells me that would be quite a bit worse for the game than a charge call.

The Shredder

February 11th, 2013 at 9:48 AM ^

It isn't to hard as an official to tell when a offensive player is just trying to run into people. Not to mention when a player is that out of control players tend to just get out of the way and let him take some dumb shot which they end of missing and falls to the floor. 

I really had no problem with the call until this year. Its just gotten to a peak of constent car crashes in the lane. I mean is anyone really playing defense anymore or just trying to get a call?


February 11th, 2013 at 1:37 PM ^

I'll take it a step further.  Having a charge call already rewards good defense because if you are in position to defend the ball, the ballhandler can't just shove you out of the way.  Getting rid of the charge wouldn't have the minor effect of forcing defenders to help earlier and guard the rim better.  It would be a drastic, enormous sea change that makes putting enormous brutes at point guard the best strategy because they could just ram the ball down the defender's throat, shoving him out of the way to clear a path to the rim.


February 11th, 2013 at 9:40 AM ^


It doesn't get called much in the NBA, because players dont really do it.  Why? you can get hurt.  the NBA season is a long one... you start to see it a little more in the playoffs, but in all, you can get hurt doing it... which further evidences your point.  I think the charge has some value, but it needs to be reevaluated.  As noted above, you can't get a charge called for sliding under after a player has left his feet... that's ridiculous.

snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 10:04 AM ^

Where do people get this idea?  Someone posts this in every basketball thread, but it's not true.  The average points per possession in the NBA is virtually identical to that of college basketball, even though the players are more skilled offensively.



February 11th, 2013 at 10:17 AM ^

I'd be curious to look at the numbers, but atke D'antoni as an example... aren't his offenses known to shoot the basketball prettyearly on the shot clock?  So Points per possesion might be identical, but there are significantly more possessions.  Anecdotally, i felt like a standard score in the 80s/90s would be 88-82.  It seems much higher now.  Also, I think the rules in the league have allowed for things like excessive offensive handchecking.  I think the league favors scoring.

That said I'm not an expert, but I'd be curious if there was any literature out there that evidenced this assertion.

snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 10:32 AM ^

You've got it backwards. In the 1980s, almost every game in the NBA went into triple-digits for both teams. The Bad Boy Pistons were known for their D, but they surrendered over 100 points per game in 1988-89 (which was still considered outstanding, as most teams were giving up 110).

The 1990s were when scoring dropped sharply. I think it was partly due to expansion watering down the talent level (going from 23 teams to 29) , but defense and athleticism in general became much more valued than before. A lot of the superstars of the 1980s were one-dimensional, offensive specialists. That changed in the '90s. Scoring is up slightly compared to the '90s, as the talent pool has expanded to fill out 30 rosters (the U.S. population has grown, plus the game has spread more internationally). Still, games are much lower-scoring than they were in the '80s.

Here are offensive efficiency numbers. In both college and pro basketball, an average team scores about 1.00 points per possession.  Interestingly, every team in the NBA has a lower offensive efficiency rating (by a significant margin) than Michigan basketball does.  Now, I think we have a very good offensive team by NCAA standards, but we aren't NBA-good.  We're just facing much less-talented defenses. 



February 11th, 2013 at 10:27 AM ^

The NBA scores were much higher in the '80s. Check out the scores from the last Lakers-Celtics series in the '80s (1987).


Game Date Home Team Result Road Team
Game 1 Tuesday, June 2 Los Angeles Lakers 126-113 (1-0) Boston Celtics
Game 2 Thursday, June 4 Los Angeles Lakers 141-122 (2-0) Boston Celtics
Game 3 Sunday, June 7 Boston Celtics 109-103 (1-2) Los Angeles Lakers
Game 4 Tuesday, June 9 Boston Celtics 106-107 (1-3) Los Angeles Lakers
Game 5 Thursday, June 11 Boston Celtics 123-108 (2-3) Los Angeles Lakers
Game 6 Sunday, June 14 Los Angeles Lakers 106-93 (4-2) Boston Celtics
A lot of people blame the Bad Boys, but a look at their games in the 1990 finals shows every game save one getting into the 100s. I think it's really the Riley era Knicks that began a pattern where slow, physical, grabby defensive basketball became common. Here are the 1994 Finals:
Game Date Home Team Result Road Team TV Time
Game 1 Wednesday, June 8 Houston Rockets 85–78 (1–0) New York Knicks 9:00et
Game 2 Friday, June 10 Houston Rockets 83–91 (1–1) New York Knicks 9:00et
Game 3 Sunday, June 12 New York Knicks 89–93 (1–2) Houston Rockets 7:00et
Game 4 Wednesday, June 15 New York Knicks 91–82 (2–2) Houston Rockets 9:00et
Game 5 Friday, June 17 New York Knicks 91–84 (3–2) Houston Rockets 9:00et
Game 6 Sunday, June 19 Houston Rockets 86–84 (3–3) New York Knicks 7:00et
Game 7 Wednesday, June 22 Houston Rockets 90–84 (4–3) New York Knicks 9:00et



February 11th, 2013 at 10:40 AM ^

I think one of the big differences back then (and the diluted talent poolf to expansion probably has some merit) is teams had a lot more guys who were good shooters.  Bird, DJ, and Ainge could all shoot really well.  Parish and McHale were good in the low post but could also step out to 15-17 feet and drain a jumper.

On the Lakers Magic and Bryon Scott were both good shooters.  Early in his career Magic wasn't a good shooter but by '87 he was solid, not great.  They brought Michael Cooper and Jamaal Wilkes off the bench - both of who could shoot. 

Even the bad boys had a lot of good shooters - Isaiah, Dumars, Lambeer, the microwave. 

Now there's guys on the floor who couldn't hit the broadside of the barn.  They're role is to play defensive and/or rebound and that's it. 


February 11th, 2013 at 10:56 AM ^

I'm not sure if today's players are actually worse shooters.  I think the level of defense has dramatically increased, so that it's just a lot harder to get off an open shot now.  The increased emphasis on defense has a twofold effect: one, it means it's harder to get easy buckets but also, players expend more energy on defense than they used to, which means less available at the other end.  Coaches were a lot more forgiving of poor defenders back then, especially if they could fill it up.  No one cared if Chris Mullin or Kiki Vandeweghe didn't play any D.  They went through the motions on defense and stepped it up on offense.  That doesn't happen anymore.

One other factor is that at every position other than center (interestingly), players seem to be taller and longer.  Mark Aguirre was a small forward at about 6'5" or so.  Michael Jordan, at 6'6", used to tower over opposing shooting guards, whereas today he'd just be average-sized.  Larger players in the same playing area means less open space to maneuver.  



snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 10:02 AM ^

That's not true.  Charges get called all the time in the NBA - it's where the charge circle originated.  A lot of players wear special compression shorts with padding over their tailbone to protect them from when they take charges.

NBA officials are just more consistent about actually enforcing the charge circle (except when it's a superstar driving the lane, natch).



February 11th, 2013 at 10:51 AM ^

You can play zone in the NBA now (forget when they changed the rule). There is, however, a defensive 3 seconds call, so players can't just hang out in the lane without guarding anyone. 

In any case, even when NBA defenders are playing man, they're playing it with an intricate series of help rules that determines who's going to sag in the lane to provide help on all the two-man games that NBA offenses revolve around.

Space Coyote

February 11th, 2013 at 10:05 AM ^

They do get called fairly regularly.

The charge circle is bigger making it harder to get in position to try to draw a charge (which probably leads to players realizing they can't get there on time to get a charge so they stay out of the way so they don't draw an easy blocking foul).

Players in the NBA are better athletes and shooters. Help defense can't be as quick because every guy pretty much can knock down open shots with regularity. Players with the ball are more explosive to the basket, making it harder to get there on time.

I can see justifying making the charge circle in the college game larger, but relating the college game to the NBA doesn't really equate to much in this case.

Sir Guy

February 11th, 2013 at 9:40 AM ^

Without the charge call, all an offensive player has to do is to run into the defense.  He'll get the call everytime.  The number of dangerous drives to the rim will increase because the offensive player will always be looking to get fouled.  It will remain a gimmick, but it'll switch to the offensive side.  There must be a call for when the defensive player is in position.


February 11th, 2013 at 9:45 AM ^

And yet this didnt' happen two decades ago when charging was called very differently.

The problem is charges "drawn" by the defender who moves with no intent other than to draw a charge. Those late slide overs are not about a player with established defensive position. They are intentional attempts to create a foul call, not to play defense. The charge drawer, almost always the help defender, has a lot of other defensive options. Go up and contest the shot. Try to strip the ball as the offensive player goes up. But just getting in the way without trying to contest the attempt to score should not be an acceptable defensive option.

snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 9:57 AM ^

Does it matter what the defender's intent is?  He has the right to stand his ground.  If the offensive player insists on running him over, that's his own fault.  There is nothing to stop the offensive player from pulling up and shooting a short J.  Or he can sidestep the defender or twist out of the way as he shoots (McGary did a really good job of this on one play against Ohio).  Offensive players are not required to put their heads down and bull their way to the rim.




February 11th, 2013 at 10:07 AM ^

I think it does matter what the intent is. Defensive basketball should be about preventing the opponent from scoring the ball. The charges we're talking about have little to do with that. Their intent is to draw a foul on an offensive player by sliding over late, when a player is already in his shooting or driving motion, and falling over. The OP is right that you rarely saw these "help charges" called a couple decades ago, and it's harmed offensive basketball and forces refs to make a series of almost impossible calls nearly every game.

I have no problem with charges called from lowering the shoulder, warding off defenders with the off arm, or even running over primary defenders who defensive position. The only ones I have problems with are the late slide overs where the help defender tries to establish position a microsecond before the offensive player. Those are not attempts to contest the ball and they're dangerous both because the offensive player is often undercut by the defender and because the defender often goes falling across the lane.

snarling wolverine

February 11th, 2013 at 10:17 AM ^

I disagree.  The defender has the right to that space.  It's not like the defenders are running into the offensive guys.  They are getting to that position to be in the way should the offensive player try to drive to the basket.  All the offensive player has to do is pull up a couple feet beforehand and shoot a short jumper if he wants to avoid contact.  The fact that many players are too undisciplined to do this is not the defender's fault.  The offensive player does not have the automatic right to go to the rim unimpeded.



February 11th, 2013 at 5:35 PM ^

I'm with Needs.  It IS the offensive players right to the basket when there's no one there... except now-a-days we call a charge (50% of the time) for all of a sudden there is someone there a tenth of a second before the offensive player gets to his wanted destination (normally close to the hoop).  That's a B.S and cheap move. The opposite also holds true.  The defender has the RIGHT to the space in front of a ball-handler if he can move quick enough and the ball-handler cannot bulldoze his way through a defender to get to a space.  Those are different situations.  In the former situation, if a defender IS capable of getting over for help-defense, say, a full second before a ball-handler gets to his destination then a charge can be a good call.  But I think what's hurting basketball and the play we're all really arguing is the very-late step-in/slide-over where a defender really doesn't have, as you say, a right to be there because of his tardiness; in essence, he/they must cede the point as the offensive player made the move and took to the space that was available.


February 11th, 2013 at 10:14 AM ^

Drawing a charge isn't the only reason defensive players slide over on help defense, it is only one intended outcome.  If my teammate is beat and I slide into the lane to help, I'm hoping that (a) the driving player passes the ball, (b) he pulls up for a shot instead of a lay-up, or (c) I take a charge.  Most of the time when a player moves in to help, (a) or (b) happens and we have no charge, because those are the best options for the offense.  If the player with the ball makes a dumb decision to barrel into the helping defender. why should that be the defender's fault?

Offensive players need to play under control.  I agree with you that if a defender is late, it shouldn't be called a charge, but that's what the rule already says so it shouldn't even be a discussion.  But just like at any other spot on the floor, if a defender is set where you want to go, you can't run through him, plain and simple. 


February 11th, 2013 at 10:44 AM ^

I just think what constitutes "late" needs to be reconsidered. Right now, you have a certain subset of help defensive plays where players are not sliding with a) or b) in mind. They are purely sliding to take the charge. These are the plays where the defender essentially performs a jump stop with his feet an inch outside the circle. From that position (landing on two feet simultaneously) there's nothing the player can do other than take a charge. They can't go up and contest. They can't slide over. They're basically trying to set themselves in place an instant before the offensive player arrives. I think that should be considered late. (My least favorite charge is the one where the offensive player attempts the last second slide by, contacts the defender in the shoulder rather than the chest, and still gets called. That's a Duke PG special.)

If a player is there waiting in defensive position, then I have no problem with the charge call. If he's jumping over solely to get the charge, that should be considered late.


February 11th, 2013 at 12:11 PM ^

Then you're advocating something entirely different than the OP.  If you think the rule should be altered slightly, that's another story (though I still disagree). 

That said, you don't have any way of knowing what the defensive players' intentions are.  How can you tell whether he "wants" the ball handler to pass/shoot or run him over?  He's going where the player wants to go, forcing him to make a choice (which is an improvement over a lay up).  I'm sure the defender "wants" to take a charge, because that would result in a turnover, but that's not the only thing he trying to force.  That's just best case scenario. 


February 11th, 2013 at 12:41 PM ^

Two things.

1. I don't think I'm advocating something that different than the OP. I think he wisely chose a provocative thread title to spark discussion. Well done. If you read his post, almost everything he discusses is about the late sliding rotational charge. I won't speak for him, but I don't think he'd object to the lowered shoulder offensive foul on the primary defender remaining a charge. Those are relatively easy calls.

2. You *can* know the intent by observing whether rotating players are making a defensive play on the ball. If they're rotating with their hands up and are attempting to contest the ball, that's a basketball play. If they're jumping in front of an offensive player with their arms down, they're not. Too often these rotations don't allow offensive players to make a choice, because they've already committed. Furthermore, if they make a decision based on the belief that the defensive player is late on his rotation, it's far more of a  crap shoot as to whether the officials get this call right than any other call in the game*.


*I posted this below, but a study of the last NCAA tournament (by the NCAA supervisor of officials) found that officials only got 65% of all block-charge calls correct, as opposed to greater than 90% of all calls total, and that they were erring by calling too many charges.