The Jump Ball in Basketball

Basketball Player

The jump ball in basketball is used to begin the game and to begin an overtime period. Its primary purpose is to determine initial possession of the ball. To perform a jump ball (sometimes called "opening tip"), five players from each team are on the court. One person from each team is allowed inside the center circle. This is usually the tallest or highest jumping person. The other players may be positioned anywhere on the court as long as they do not stand directly between an opposing player and the jump ball circle, and they may not enter the jump ball circle. Nevertheless, strategy generally dictates that most players stand directly behind their team mate performing the jump ball. If an opposing player wishes to stand between two players of the same team he or she must be allowed to do so.

When the players are situated, with each jumper takes his position in the part of the circle away from his own basket, the referee lobs the ball into the air between the two players. They are not allowed to touch the ball until it reaches the top of its arc. If a player does touch the ball before it reaches maximum height then the ball is turned over to the other team on the side line. Each player is only allowed to touch the ball twice. Three touches also turns the ball over to the opposite team.

The time clock does not start until one or the other of the jumpers touches the ball.

When two players from opposing teams each get two hands on the ball and struggle for possession it is also declared a "jump ball". It is called a "jump ball" because at one time a jump was actually performed. However, the rules have since changed, possession of the ball is now traded back and forth between teams. The team losing the initial jump is the team to receive possession on the next declared "jump ball". The referee signals this by blowing his whistle and pointing two thumbs up.

There are techniques and strategies to gain possession on the initial jump. Of course, height and the ability to jump are important. Nevertheless, preparation and practice can significantly increase the odds of winning a jump. Here are a few tips:

  • Stretch before the game begins.
  • When the ref readies the ball, crouch to be ready to spring. (Practice jumping before hand to find the optimum crouch for the highest jump. Be sure not to crouch too far as this will cause the reaction time to be too long to be able to tip the ball at the top of its arc.)
  • Hold one arm in front of the body with hand reaching near the top of the head.
  • Generally, spring from crouch position when the referee begins to raise the ball.
  • Extend the full body, with one hand in the air, the other at the side, and fingers fully extended. Go up almost sideways with the reaching arm forward.
  • The jump should be straight up. However, some players will edge slightly forward to take up the space directly beneath the ball. Nevertheless, players are not supposed to incroach on the center line.
  • The object is to push the ball with the finger tips and flick it back over the head to team mates behind the jumper. Normally the point guard should be situated just outside the circle at this point. However, other schemes may be used. The ball can even be flicked forward. The key is to send it to a team mate. Practice with team mates to ensure accuracy. Know before the jump where the ball should go.

Initial possession of the ball especially in an overtime situation can make all the difference in a game. It can determine momentum and build confidence. The jump ball can be an extremely important aspect of the game of basketball. Practice and knowledge are the key to winning.

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