Pivotal Moments

Here’s a simple question.

Can a player (A-1) while holding the ball, lift their pivot foot in the air and stand on one foot while holding the ball without dribbling, passing or shooting?   Hmmm.  Think about that for a moment.

Before you scroll down and we break this play down, what do YOU think?


As strange as this might look — a person pivoting with the ball, then lifts that pivot foot in the air — while standing on the non-pivot foot is perfectly legal.

While this may “look” like a traveling violation let’s take a “60 Second” review of the limitations of the pivot foot.  Here are some key points to remember.

A pivot takes place when a player steps once (or more than once) in any direction with one foot, while the stationary foot (the pivot foot) is kept at it’s place in contact with the floor.

  • After ending a dribble or receiving the ball with both feet on the floor – a player can choose EITHER FOOT to be the pivot.  Once they lift a foot, the other becomes the pivot.
  • If an airborne player receives the ball and lands on both feet – EITHER FOOT can be the pivot.
  • If the airborne player receives the ball and one foot TOUCHES FIRST – that becomes the pivot foot.
  • If a player receives the ball on one foot — jumps off that foot – and lands on two feet, NEITHER FOOT can be a pivot.  This is the “jump stop” scenario.
  • When pivoting, the player is not permitted to SLIDE that foot.  Maintaining contact is not enough – it must be kept in it’s original place.
  • For a dribble to be legal, it MUST be started (leave the dribblers hand) BEFORE the pivot loses contact with the floor.
  • A pivot foot may be lifted (legally) PRIOR to the ball being released on a pass or try for goal.  But not a dribble!
  • If a player jumps in the air (lifting pivot and non-pivot foot) they must release the ball (try or pass) before coming to the floor.
  • A pivot foot can be lifted without penalty provided it’s not RETURNED to the floor while a player is still in control of the ball.   This is the strange one described in our scenario today.

While it’s perfectly legal to pivot using the foot, a player’s knee cannot touch the floor during this process; this would be ruled a traveling violation.  And a player that receives the ball while they are lying on the floor is not permitted to establish a pivot foot and stand up, unless they begin their dribble first.

Hopefully, you will be calm and confident in ruling on these pivotal moments in all future games..

Rule References
NFHS  4-33, 4-44


About Billy Martin

Co-creator of "60 Seconds on Officiating" and co-author of Beyond the Rules (book series) for Basketball Officials. Billy is a 35+ year basketball official with IAABO (Camden Board 34 and Cum-Cape 196, in Southern NJ). He also is a collegiate softball umpire with the Eastern Collegiate Softball Umpires (ECSU), and created the best selling "Bluebook 60" for fastpitch umpires, and coaches. He is considered one of the nations top authors and instructors on basketball officiating for over two decades. He lives in Wildwood, New Jersey - just a few steps away from the sand and surf. Contact: Website | Facebook | Twitter | More Posts

2 Comments on Pivotal Moments

  1. why is the two step spin move not called by many officials……coaches from hs to and above believe that this is legal…RUF REF of Maine

  2. Why is the “Euro step” legal? It’s a fancy name for traveling (except for the NBA).

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