Who Initiated the Contact?

One of the worst calls I ever made involved a point guard who penetrated the lane, then literally jumped into the vertical post defender, created contact and separation, then threw the ball into the air and it went in the basket.  I had a good look at the play, but called the foul on the defender and counted the basket.  To make matters worse the foul was the defensive post players fifth foul. Needless to say the coach wasn’t too thrilled with my performance.  That play happened in 1967 and I have thought about it nearly every day since then.

The concept of “who initiated the contact?” is one of the most important in basketball officiating.  There probably isn’t a more egregious error we can make than calling a foul on a defender who has legal guarding position and  it was actually the offensive player who was not vertical and created the illegal contact.  More often than not this play may be best ruled as incidental contact unless the defender is dislodged.  Rule it a no call!  Coaches will often feign amazement that no call was made on the defender but they know it was the right call.  We often see an offensive player who is behind the backboard try to score or draw a foul by jumping into a legally positioned defender to get to the front of the backboard for a shot.  How often on this play do officials call a foul on the defender?

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