Can the Basketball Go Over the Backboard?

Basketball is an exciting fast tempo game that has rules to ensure the game is played fairly. It is easy to miss a shot, but what if you are playing a basketball game and the ball goes over the backboard? If you shoot high and the basketball goes over the backboard from either direction, you may wonder if the shots would be considered legal.

According to rule 8 of the NBA, a basketball is out of bounds when it passes behind the backboard in any direction, while the NCAA does not allow the ball to go over the backboard at all. The FIBA says that the ball cannot make contact with the back of the backboard or its supporting structures. 

The professionals at the NBA have to play by slightly different rules than the collegiate players in the NCAA, and the FIBA has even more variation in its rules. Still, practically in any league, a basketball that goes over the backboard will usually be considered out of bounds. Read on to learn exactly when and why this is the case! 

Over the Backboard in the NBA

To ensure fans always have fun watching games, the NBA wants to ensure that the games are always moving at a fast pace. That is why it has 14 official rules in its rulebook. The eighth rule strictly covers out-of-bounds balls and throw-ins. Below is a list of what exactly makes a ball out of bounds, according to the NBA’s rulebook.

A ball is out of bounds if:

  • It either touches a player or any object that is not within the bounds of the court
  • It hits the back of the backboard or any of the supporting structures
  • It goes above and over the backboard
  • It comes above and over from directly behind the backboard

While some of these shots would be pretty exciting to see during a basketball game, they are not allowed per the rules. However exciting, the shooting team would be given violations for attempting any of the above shots. Essentially, if the ball goes over the backboard from either direction, it is considered out of bounds.

If the ball hits the side, the top, or the bottom of the backboard, the ball is still considered a fair ball, and players could take the rebound and make another shot. However, if the ball sails all the way over the backboard, it will be considered out of bounds, and the opposing team will gain possession over the ball.

When you are playing a pick-up game at the gym, this rule may be one that players are confused about. As long as the ball does not go over the backboard or hit the supporting structure, such as the pole, the ball is still in play, and it is not a violation. That is if you want to follow official rules. In pick-up games, you do not have to.

What About Famous NBA Backboard Shots?

NBA fans might be confused by these rules because some of the greatest shots in the history of the game were made from what many would consider to be behind the backboard. So, what makes these shots legal compared to over-the-backboard shots? 

The rule says the ball may not pass directly behind the backboard. If a shot is considered to come from the side and goes over the backboard it would still be legal. These situations may be tough for officials to call, but they are even harder for players to successfully make, which is why we do not see a lot of controversy on this rule. 

Famous NBA shots from behind the backboard include the following from Lebron James and Kobe Bryant:

LeBron James (Cavaliers): 2010
Kobe Bryant (Lakers): 2009

Some of the best players in the history of basketball have taken shots from behind the backboard. Well, these shots were actually considered to be beside the backboard. Since they were not directly behind the backboard, their shots were not considered violations.

If the games’ officials were different from the ones who refereed the all-stars above, it is possible that they would have called those shots as being out of bounds. Looking strictly at the rules the official probably could have decided to call these shots out of bounds. Much like in any other sport, the referee can dictate the outcome of a game.

Over the Backboard in The NCAA

NCAA basketball prides itself on providing exciting basketball games for students and fans alike. The NCAA wants to ensure that its players follow the rules and regulations of the game. So, what does the NCAA say about shots taken over the backboard? They are still considered out of bounds.

Unlike the risky shots above that paid off and became famous, the NCAA does not allow its player to shoot behind the backboard at all, even at a diagonal. That is because of rule seven in the NCAA men’s basketball rulebook.

To simply put it, the ball is out of bounds if it passes over the backboard from any of the following directions:

  • Over the front
  • Over the back
  • Diagonally over either side

In most cases, the rules are the same for both the NBA and NCAA. However, looking through the rulebook of Men’s NCAA basketball, the rules are stricter than in the NBA when it comes to out-of-bounds shooting. The rulebook states that if the ball passes over the backboard from any angle, it would be considered out of bounds.

If a player were to shoot a basketball over the backboard from any direction, even from beside the backboard, they would forfeit the ball and transfer possession to the other team. The out-of-bounds rules in college basketball are in place to ensure that players stay on the court and keep the game engaging and moving forward.

What About the Rules of the FIBA? 

The FIBA (International Basketball Federation) has a different approach to shots from over the backboard. In fact, the most recent 2020 FIBA rules say nothing at all about a ball going over the backboard. The way that the FIBA defines an out-of-bound ball depends specifically on what the ball touches. 

According to the FIBA rules, the basketball may not touch the back of the backboard, the supporting structures for the backboard, or any object above the court. Since shooting over the backboard most commonly results in hitting the supporting structure of the backboard, these shots are usually out-of-bounds. 

In theory, however, playing under the FIBA rules would allow you to legally shoot over the backboard as long as the ball did not touch anything. The extreme difficulty of such shots perhaps does more to discourage players from trying it than any formal rules and restrictions. 


If a basketball goes over a backboard in either the NBA or in the NCAA, that ball will be considered out of bounds and out of play. The shooting team will have to forfeit possession of the ball to the opposing team. In both college basketball and the NBA, their rulebooks have strict rules regarding what is considered an out-of-bounds ball.

In the NBA rulebook, rule eight states that if the ball touches any portion of the supporting structure of the backboard or goes over the backboard in any direction, it is out of bounds. However, these rules are more flexible than the NCAA rules because if the ball goes over the backboard from the side, the shot may be considered legal.

If you liked this post, be sure to check “Can You Jump During a Basketball Free Throw?” & “Can You Catch Your Own Air Ball in Basketball?“.


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