What Does Basketball Travel Mean? Definition and Meaning

What does basketball travel mean? When an offensive participant with the ball takes a further stride or engages in some other unlawful motion with their hooked-up pivot foot. It’s far referred to as traveling and consists of a penalty in basketball. The opponent’s basketball crew profits ownership of the ball with the aid of using passing it in from the sideline after the penalty reasons a turnover.

To put it in another way, a player is commonly solely allowed to advance 2 steps while not dribbling; 3 or additional steps represent “a travel”. However, in practice, this rule is much more nuanced. Every time a player takes several steps while not dribbling the ball, travel is declared. Once a player starts dribbling or receiving the ball in a moving or motionless state, this could happen. A player should assemble a pivot foot once they stop dribbling. As long as the chosen pivot foot isn’t raised till the ball is released from the player’s hands, turning a pivot foot facet to side to maneuver or discover higher angles doesn’t count as travel.

What Does Basketball Travel Mean

Pivot Foot is a relative term whenever we talk about travel in basketball but what exactly the pivot foot is? One foot—the pivot foot—must stay in contact with the ground at all times. It can be either the left or right foot. When a player has the ball and is still (not dribbling), a pivot foot is established. As long as the player possesses the ball and is not dribbling or jumping into the air to shoot or pass the ball, the pivot foot must remain in contact with the ground. The pivot foot can be spun on as long as it stays in place and doesn’t move about the floor.

The second foot becomes the pivot foot once one foot has been moved. The pivot foot is typically the first foot to make contact with the ground if a player falls on one foot first. Establishing a pivot foot is frequently crucial in figuring out a traveling call.

In comprehension,  a player who has possession of the ball but is not dribbling commits a foul when they travel or move with their feet in an unauthorized manner. As a result of a traveling infraction, a turnover occurs, and the opposing team receives the ball. Henceforth, in order to continue playing basketball efficiently, the travel penalty promotes dribbling and ball control at all times.

Basketball Traveling Regulations

From the NCAA, NBA, and FIBA to the NFHS (the organization that oversees high school basketball), virtually every basketball league has traveling policies. A lot of these rules are comparable and create guidelines for a pivot foot. Allowing players to adjust their position by shifting one foot while keeping the other immobile. According to regulations, moving the pivot foot erratically could result in a travel infraction. However, the other considerable variations are there as well which concludes the commit of the “travel”,  which are mentioned below:

Unlawful Pivot Foot Movement:

The most common and executed variation of travel is considered the “illegal movement of pivot foot”. A pivot foot is one that should keep within the same location on the ground. As long as the pivot foot stays static, the opposite foot might move as persistently and in any direction. If the pivot foot rises off the ground or slides toward any horizontal direction, travel can occur. However, the pivot foot can be switched from one to another, on an already-established pivot. i.e. lifting up the current pivot foot and now keeping the other static making it pivot.

Without Shooting or Passing, Descending to the Ground:

When passing or shooting, the pivot foot could move, however, the ball should be unhanded before the pivot foot returns to the ground. According to the NCCA rulebook, the player with possession of the ball must free his hands by passing/shooting the ball before returning to the ground after a jump to prevent the penalty of “up and down traveling violation”. Whereas in dribbling, a player can move their pivot foot, but so as to avoid a move penalty, the ball must be released first.

Airball Situations:

Though in NBA, airball scenarios seem infrequent to occur, still, they can be encountered at times. When a player receives the ball while standing on 2 feet, they can move on any foot. Whichever foot contacts the floor 1st once a player receives the ball within the air is considered the pivot foot. Either foot could be regarded as a pivot in the scenario when the player receives the screw-up in the air and each foot at the same time bit the ground. There is no formal policy about air balls in the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which oversees high school basketball competitions. Instead, the officials make the final determination. An associate degree example of this is often a jump stop.

Sprinting While Catching the Ball:

A player can leap halt after receiving the ball if they are running and get it in the middle of their stride. They must either rotate with one foot after stopping or begin to dribble. One step is equal to a leap halt. Unless a step was taken to grab the ball before the jump stop, a player is not permitted to pivot after a jump stop. Another, when player sprints and dives to gain a “live ball” (i.e a ball with possession by none), he must first pass the ball to any of the teammates before raising up from the floor else wise a travel penalty may be issued.

Revised NBA Travel Policy

The NBA made various rule modifications to increase how frequently it’s called after receiving harsh criticism for the poorly defined restrictions involving traveling at the time. These adjustments are made in an effort to clarify the rules and increase call accuracy. Before the 2019–2020 season, the league updated the rule. Recent revisions to the NBA rulebook state that travel infractions and rules should take into consideration any steps taken by the player while he or she is gathering the ball.

This inferred that prior to the step count for a traveling violation could start, players were leveraged to execute a “collect step” to manage the ball. A player is alleged to own and “gather” the ball once they have 2 hands on it, stop it from moving or resting, or get enough control of it to grab it, throw it, shoot it, or cradle it against their body. The primary step without actuation that counts towards possible travel is the one taken simply when the ball has been collected. Traveling is outlined as taking over 2 steps after the ball has been gathered.

However, some supporters who believe the foul was under-called may find it frustrating that the explanation stated that the decision about a travel call is still at the referee’s discretion.

What Determines a Travel in the NBA? How Do NBA Referees Decide?

Basketball has many circumstances that are regarded as traveling violations. Here are several instances that necessitate travel.

  • Without dribbling, a player holding the ball begins to stroll.
  •  Upon receiving a pass while running, a player dribbles after taking three or more steps.
  • Without initially passing, shooting, or dribbling, a player raises or drags their pivot foot on the ground.
  • The ball-carrying player is knocked to the ground.
  • The act of a player receiving possession of the ball in front of the 3-point line and stepping back behind the line to shoot without dribbling.
  • Without dribbling, a downed player(i.e lying on the ground) with the ball rises up.
  • When a player gains a rebound and stumbles or shuffles.
  • When attempting a layup, a player stops dribbling but unintentionally takes three steps before releasing the ball.
  • A player steps and executes a jump stop improperly, causing their feet to land on the ground at different times, which results in two additional steps and a “travel”.

Basketball Hand Signal for Traveling Violation

A turnover to the opposing team is the consequence of a traveling violation. At the out-of-bounds area closest to where the trip took place, the opposing team will receive the ball. Two fists are rotated around one another in front of the referee’s body to indicate a traveling violation.

Basketball Hand Signal for Traveling Violation

The Gathering Step: What Is It in Basketball?

The phrase describes a scenario in which a player receives a pass while moving; in this case, they may take one gather step before taking the two steps required to assess a travel call. The term “gather” refers to any time a player obtains possession of a loose ball (which could be during a pass, bounce, or rebound, for example), or moves further in order to advance toward an active shoot, dribble, or pass. The player may touch the ball with both hands while gathering it.

What Is a Euro Step in Basketball?

The NBA and basketball in general are very fond of the offensive motion known as the “Euro step,” which frequently resembles and is mistaken for traveling. The “Euro-Step” is a move in which a player picks up their dribble, and rapidly takes the second step in the opposite way after taking a quick step in the first direction (essentially toward the basket while picking up their dribble or landing in a “jump stop” position). This evasive maneuver aims to divert the defender’s attention and free up space around the defender.

It is not a violation since the second step is seen as a continuation of the initial move made off the dribble. It does, however, depend on carrying out a solid “gather step” in advance. Because doing it incorrectly could result in the referee issuing a penalty.

What Is a Traveling Infraction Penalty?

Unlike the NBA, the NFHS and NCAA have different travel restrictions.

The NBA classifies a traveling foul as a “turnover” when it is committed by an offensive player. There are restrictions on where the team can receive the ball, though. A team cannot receive the ball closer to the baseline than the free throw line, per NBA rules.

Traveling results in a dead-ball foul in amateur leagues. The closest “out of bounds” location to the site of the traveling foul is where the ball gets inbounded as a result.

The Governing Law for Traveling as Described by the NBA

  • A player who receives the ball while standing still may pivot, using either foot as the pivot foot.
  • A player who gathers the ball while progressing may take (1) two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball, or (2) if he has not yet dribbled, one step prior to releasing the ball. A player who gathers the ball while dribbling may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing, or shooting the ball.
  1. The first step occurs when a foot, or both feet, touch the floor after gaining control of the ball.
  2. The second step occurs after the first step when the other foot touches the floor, or both feet touch the floor simultaneously.
  3. A player who comes to a stop on step one when both feet are on the floor or touch the floor simultaneously may pivot using either foot as his pivot. If he jumps with both feet he must release the ball before either foot touches the floor.
  4. A player who lands with one foot first may only pivot using that foot.
  • A progressing player who jumps off one foot on the first step may land with both feet simultaneously for the second step. In this situation, the player may not pivot with either foot, and if one or both feet leave the floor the ball must be released before either returns to the floor.
  • In starting a dribble after (1) receiving the ball while standing still, or (2) coming to a legal stop, the ball must be out of the player’s hand before the pivot foot is raised off the floor.
  • If a player, with the ball in his possession, raises his pivot foot off the floor, he must pass or shoot before his pivot foot returns to the floor. If he drops the ball while in the air, he may not be the first to touch the ball.
  • A player who falls to the floor while holding the ball, or while coming to a stop, may not gain an advantage by sliding.
  • A player who attempts a field goal may not be the first to touch the ball if it fails to touch the backboard, basket ring, or another player.
  • A player may not be the first to touch his own pass unless the ball touches his backboard, basket ring, or another player.

Upon ending his dribble or gaining control of the ball, a player may not touch the floor consecutively with the same foot (hop).

PENALTY: Loss of ball. The ball is awarded to the opposing team on the sideline, the nearest spot of the violation but no nearer the baseline than the foul line extended.


Illegal foot movement while holding the ball results in an away call in basketball. Many supporters and detractors might believe that professional leagues like the NBA are usually permitted to get away with traveling, which is why it is rarely called. There is frequent discussion over how frequently this call is made “properly” during an NBA game.

In spite of this, spectators and athletes alike need to comprehend the idea of a travel call in order to know when it happens and, more importantly, when it is and is not issued against a player.

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