Understanding Legal Guarding Position

In many ways calling the block-charge play defines us as an official. It is arguably the most difficult play we have to call. The very first lesson we were taught when we began officiating is critical in getting the block-charge play correct. That lesson of course was “officiate the defense!”

In an American court of law the defendant is presumed innocent until being proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. On the basketball court, however, the defender must prove his/her innocence and if he/she doesn’t provide this proof he/she is found guilty and charged with a blocking foul. What proof does the defender need? The defender needs to demonstrate that he/she has establish a legal guarding position.

[highlight]RULE 4-Section 23[/highlight]

Legal guarding position is found in Rule 4 Section 23. Guarding is defined as legally placing the body in the path of an offensive opponent. Usually the defender is between the offensive player and the basket. Note the word “legally.” To initially be legal when guarding an opponent the defender must have two feet touching the court in bounds and the defenders torso must be facing the opponent. There you have it, two feet touching the court and facing the offensive player. Simple enough.

After obtaining that initial advantage by being in the path of the dribble driver the defender may legally move to maintain the LGP. In doing so the defender no longer has to have both feet touching the court and can legally be airborne. The guard is also no longer required to face the offensive opponent. The defender may move straight backward, laterally or even obliquely backward. The defender may not ever move forward and initiate contact.

The defender may jump and raise hands within his/her vertical plane or he/she may duck to absorb the ensuing contact.

Here is the most difficult part of the defender proving his/her innocence. If the offensive opponent is airborne the defender must have obtained LGP before the opponent left the floor. This play is more complicated when a secondary defender is involved. More on this issue later.

So, it is pretty clear why officials must locate and referee the defense. In order to adjudicate a block- charge play correctly they must know whether the defender obtained and maintained legal guarding position and they must know if the contact was initiated by the defense or by the offense. If the offense initiated the contact and the defender was legal and not going forward the call must go against the offense.

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