A clear-path foul is one of the rarest fouls that may occur in the NBA. When a defender fouls an offensive player who has the ball, there is no one between that player and the basket.
What is a clear path foul in basketball?
A clear path foul is a special foul call in the NBA rulebooks. When a defender fouls an offensive player who has a “clear path” to the basket, that’s going to be called a clear path foul. “Clear path” means there is no one between the offensive player and the basket.
- Clear-path fouls often occur during fastbreaks or secondary breaks.
- This is a type of personal foul with the implications of a technical foul. The offensive player gets two free throws, plus his team gets the ball possession.
- More often than not, the referees need multiple replays to determine that the infraction has been committed decisively.
- A clear path foul may only be called if the offensive player is in the front tip of the circle in the backcourt.
- It is irrelevant that the defender beats the offensive player into the frontcourt. He will be called a clear path foul if there is no defender ahead of the offensive player when the foul occurred.
- This foul was introduced in the 2006-07 season. It was the only reviewable foul call before the 2014-15 season.
Breakdown of the Clear Path Foul Video
Here is one play that shows the infraction in a game between the Lakers and the Suns. Gerald Green forces a turnover on Pau Gasol and sprinted up on their end of the floor with the ball. Kendall Marshall was way behind and caught up at the three-point line where the foul occurred. There were no other defenders between Green and the basket, and so the foul was called.
Pros and Cons of the Clear Path Foul
NBA fans called the clear path foul a dumb rule, but it is enforced with good intentions. One big reason for its enforcement is injury prevention. A player coming from behind, as Marshall did in the video example, is very risky. A slight push against a player in the air can put him in a dangerous, injury-prone position.
On the other end of the spectrum, it also has its certain disadvantages. Reviews for clear-path fouls can take forever, and it stops the momentum of the game. What’s more, the penalty for a clear path foul is too severe. Most of these fouls are touch fouls, and generally, players understand the injury risks and mean no harm.
The NBA is a billion-dollar business, and understandably, the league wants to protect its assets– the players. Aside from injury prevention, we all want to see breakaway dunks and highlight-reel plays on a fastbreak. However, as previously noted, most fouls are touch fouls that players do to prevent fastbreaks. After all, in basketball, you also have to prevent the other team from scoring.
Here is a five-minute compilation of clear path fouls in the NBA.
If you ask the most ardent NBA fans, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who favors the stringent clear path rules. Unless the call is in favor of your favorite team, there really isn’t much to like. Bringing the game to a halt because of a touch foul at half-court is not the best way to promote excitement. Besides, the league already has a rule in place for flagrant fouls. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the game of basketball is too beautiful to be stained by any rule.
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