Can the Basketball Hit the Top of the Backboard?

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. But while many are familiar with the basics of a basketball game, there are a few rules that are a bit more obscure. For instance, can the basketball hit the top of the backboard and still be in play?

If the basketball hits the top of the backboard, the ball is still in play. The same is true for the sides and bottom of the backboard as well as the front. However, just because the ball can hit the top does not mean that it can hit all parts of the backboard and its supporting features.  

Want to learn more about when a basketball is and is not in play after touching different parts of the hoop? Read on to know all the details of what parts of the backboard a basketball can touch. 

What Parts of the Hoop Can the Ball Touch?

To give you a full understanding of what parts of the hoop are in bounds and which are not, let’s first look at all the features of the hoop that are in play. The basketball can touch any of these parts of the hoop without causing a stop in gameplay:

  • Rim
  • Net
  • Front of the backboard
  • Sides of the backboard
  • Underside of the backboard
  • Top of the backboard

As that list implies, all of those surfaces, including the top of the backboard, are in play. It is very common for the ball to make contact with all those parts of a hoop in a typical game. With the in-bounds parts of the hoop out of the way, let’s proceed to covering the parts of the hoop that the ball cannot hit.

What Parts of the Hoop Can the Ball Not Touch?

While there are many parts of the hoop that the basketball can touch and remain in play, several elements are out of play. In the sections below, you’ll have a chance to understand all the parts of the hoop that are out of play in a typical basketball game. 

Hitting the Back of the Backboard

If the ball hits any part of the back of the backboard, it is out of bounds. Sometimes, players will bounce the ball off of the back of the backboard to perform trick moves. This is especially common in activities like dunking contests.

But hitting the back of the backboard during a standard game is not allowed. If a player hits the back of the backboard during a game, they usually do it by accident. That accident is most common when a player is inbounding the ball from the baseline.  

Going Over the Backboard

Here is a subtle distinction that you should know. The ball may bounce on the top of the backboard, but what happens next is also important. If the ball bounces so that it returns to the front side of the hoop, it is in play. 

However, if the ball bounces off the top of the backboard and travels behind the hoop, it is out of bounds. Any time that the ball travels over the backboard, whether it touches the top or not, it is out of bounds as well.

Touching the Supporting Structures of the Hoop

Hoops come in several different construction styles. That means of construction can have an impact on when the ball is and isn’t out of bounds. 

A professional basketball hoop attaches to a base that sits on the ground. But hoops that you find in a recreational gym often connect to the ceiling. That ceiling attachment means that there is often a set of structural supports above the backboard. 

If the ball touches any of the supporting structures of the hoop, it is out of bounds. Again, it does not matter if the ball bounces on the top of the backboard first. But bouncing off the top of the backboard is one of the most common ways that a ball might contact those structural supports.  

What Happens When the Ball Touches Those Parts?

Now that you know what parts of the hoop the ball cannot touch, you are likely wondering what happens when that infraction occurs. Well, the rules of the ball coming in contact with those parts of the hoop are simple. 

When the ball makes such contact, it is the same as any other time the ball goes out of bounds. The team that touches the ball last loses possession of the ball. The game will resume when the opposing team inbounds the ball.  

Can You Shoot Over the Backboard?

At this point, we have covered all of the ways that the ball can and cannot touch the hoop. We also know that the ball cannot pass over the backboard after bouncing on top. But what happens if a player shoots the ball over the backboard from behind?

While this may not be conventional, there are a few court areas from which a player could attempt such a shot. Whether or not such a shot is legal depends on which organization is overseeing the game. Here are some rules regarding this shot from a few of the most notable organizations.

  • National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): Any shot over the backboard is out of bounds.
  • National Basketball Association (NBA): Shots from behind the backboard are legal as long as the ball is never directly behind the backboard during its flight.
  • International Basketball Federation (FIBA): Any shot over the backboard is legal as long as it does not touch any structural basket supports.

The rules for the NCAA and FIBA are reasonably clear. But the NBA rules are somewhat confusing. Here is some clarity. Picture an imaginary tunnel that is the same shape as the backboard and extends straight out from behind the backboard. If the ball ever enters that imaginary tunnel, it is out of bounds. That means that any shot over the backboard must come from a side angle.

What is Basket Interference?

There are ways to make illegal contact with the hoop that doesn’t involve the ball going where it isn’t supposed to. One of the most common examples of such illegal contact is called basket interference. Basket interference occurs any time that a player:

  • Touches any part of the hoop when the ball is touching the rim
  • Touches the ball while the ball is within an imaginary cylinder, which projects upward through the rim
  • Reaches up through the rim and touches the ball
  • Pulls the rim so that it makes contact with the ball 

Basket interference comes with a significant penalty. Rather than awarding the opposing team possession of the ball or an opportunity to shoot free throws, the opposing team automatically gains points when baste interference occurs. The same penalty is valid for the related infraction, goaltending.

What is Goaltending?

Goaltending is very similar to basket interference. For example, the rules about touching the ball while in the rim’s imaginary cylinder are nearly identical. But there at least one other way that a player can commit the penalty of goaltending.

Goaltending typically occurs when a defensive player is attempting to block a shot. When the offensive player shoots the ball, the trajectory of the ball often forms an arc. If the ball is on its descent from that arc’s apex, the defender cannot make contact with the ball. Such contact is goaltending.


There are many rules related to how players and the ball can touch the hoop during a game of basketball. Those rules can vary depending on the organization conducting the contest. But as it relates to hitting the top of the backboard, there is typically a consensus. When the ball bounces off the top of the backboard, it is still in play.

If you liked this post, be sure to check “If a Basketball Bounces in Does It Count?” & “Are Basketball Hoops Allowed on Sidewalks?“.

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