I have seen this play several times this season in one form or another and it happened again last Saturday evening. The play involves action near the sideline and often results in the offensive player being ruled out of bounds or called for traveling. The play Saturday night had the contested ball coming up the court in transition near the sideline on the Center Official’s side of the court. The contested dribbler was so close to the sideline that the center official had all his focus on the floor watching the sideline to see if the dribbler stepped out of bounds. What transpired next was that the defender “belly bumped” the dribbler who then stepped on the sideline and the covering official ruled him out of bounds and awarded the ball to the defensive team. Since the play happened pretty close to the offensive team’s coach the ruling caused some consternation on his part and from the stands.
This type of play is quite difficult for the covering official. He/she needs to cover the out of bounds but also must be able to see any illegal contact. In the case of Saturday’s play the Center official was probably too close to the play and was unable to see all of the player’s body and the floor at the same time. Cushion is important in these types of plays; officials must be able to see the bump as well as the floor. Also, if there is room out of bounds, utilize it to get the best look possible. If you need to miss something on this type of play you are probably better off missing the out-of-bounds rather than a foul. Get cushion and keep your head up!