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Flagrant foul

In basketball, a flagrant foul is a serious personal foul. A foul is considered flagrant when it involves excessive or violent contact that could injure the fouled player. A flagrant foul may be unintentional or purposeful; the latter type is simultaneously known as an "intentional foul" in the NCAA. However, most intentional fouls are not considered "flagrant" and are performed safely as a necessity for time management.


The NBA flagrant foul rule was enacted in the 1990s as an attempt to deter contact which, in addition to being against the rules, puts an opponent's safety and health at risk. According to the NBA rulebook, it applies to contact that puts safety and health at risk.

The NBA defines two levels of flagrant fouls, typically referred to as "Flagrant 1" and "Flagrant 2". Referees have discretion in determining which level to call, but the primary distinction is that a Flagrant 2 results in the immediate ejection of the offender. A player who receives two Flagrant 1 fouls in a single game is also ejected upon the second foul.


Over the course of the season, flagrant fouls include increasingly steep monetary fines, and possible suspension, at the discretion of the Commissioner of the NBA.

Game tactics

Within a game, the presence of the flagrant foul rule helps to deter undesired play (usually as the game winds down) by awarding possession of the ball as an extra penalty. A simple personal foul or intentional foul will generally result in either free throws or possession of the ball depending on the number of accumulated team fouls at the end of the game. However, a flagrant foul will result in both the award of free throws and subsequent possession. Thus, when a trailing team is employing a tactic of slowing the game down by fouling, it must be careful not to use unnecessary or excessive contact, even though such fouls are intentional by definition, or it will give its opponent both free throws and the ball back and defeat its own tactic.


FIBA basketball rules have a similar foul called an unsportsmanlike foul, which is roughly equivalent to a flagrant type 1, with the addition that an unsportsmanlike foul can be called if a player fouls with no intention to play the ball(including excessive holding, shirt grabbing), as well as if a player fouls another player on a fast break from behind him. If a player commits a foul warranting immediate ejection from the game, the foul would be called as a disqualifying foul - similar to a flagrant 2. Two unsportsmanlike fouls lead to automatic ejection, similar to the NBA.

The penalty for an unsportsmanlike or disqualifying foul is two free throws and possession at midcourt for the opposing team.


NCAA (college) and NFHS (U.S. high school) rules define a flagrant foul as a personal or technical foul that is extreme or severe.

  • A flagrant personal foul involves excessive or severe contact during a live ball.
  • A flagrant technical foul involves unsportsmanlike conduct that is extreme in nature, or excessive or severe contact during a dead ball. Fighting is also considered a flagrant technical foul.

The penalty for a flagrant technical foul in NCAA and NFHS rules is immediate ejection of the offending player, plus two free throws and a throw-in for the opposing team. The ejected player is also suspended during the next game played by his or her team.

  • For a flagrant personal foul, the throw-in spot is at the out-of-bounds spot nearest the foul.
  • For a flagrant technical foul, the throw-in spot is at the division line opposite the scorer's table.

In May of 2011, the NCAA approved rule changes to the way that flagrant fouls were handled. They are now split into two types (like the NBA categories), and there is no longer a suspension given for the next game.

Equivalents in other sports

See also


  • NBA Rule Number 12: Fouls and Penalties
  • NCAA Rule 4: Definitions
  • NCAA Rule 10: Fouls and Penalties in 2008 NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Rules
  • NFHS Rule 2: Definitions 2-16c
    • c. Flagrant — a foul so severe or extreme that it places an opponent in danger of serious injury, and/or involves violations that are extremely or persistently vulgar or abusive conduct.
  • NFHS Rule 10: Fouls and Penalties