What is a Carry in Basketball (Detailed Explanation)

Basketball being carried is exactly what it is, so there can sometimes be controversy about its source. It seems that the referees in today’s game are a little lax on this, but these rules were more strictly enforced in the past years. It doesn’t mean that they never take place, but violations of carrying are often not called very often, although it may be true.

My Experience

In my past experience coaching and playing, I have noticed that the majority of infractions in youth leagues come from players who are still learning the basic fundamentals and are often unsure of what they are going to do with the ball, causing them to hesitate and momentarily stop their dribble, resulting in a loss of momentum and a potential turnover.

Over time, young athletes can frequently address this issue by honing their ball control skills and experiencing natural growth. Despite their smaller statures, it is entertaining to observe them engage in play with a significantly larger ball, while also motivating to witness their burgeoning love for the game of basketball. Additionally, they have a tendency to struggle with maintaining control of their dribble, failing to keep their hand positioned correctly above the ball and causing the ball to bounce excessively high.

These players are also beginning to think about the winning strategy and the skills they can forget, which can cause them to be successful. While they start to experiment with different moves and develop their own playing style, they will still make mistakes. However, most high school and middle school players have learned the fundamentals fairly well.

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You rarely see a college game in which players make these types of blunders, as their memory muscle prevents them from making them. Many basketball players have logged many hours in order to fundamentally sound. The moves that players make, which should probably be considered violations, are often seen and the refereeing can also play a part in allowing players more leeway.

I cannot remember the last time I saw a carry being called in the NBA. The game is so skillful and players have very good control of the ball, so factors like being called for a violation again in the huge laps of the referees fall. Once again, no one watches the NBA to see refs making all the calls if the play is not a blatant violation, as the small infractions of the game add to the entertainment.


It can be challenging to make real-time calls and carry out spotting as a referee. The best players in the world are very skilled at masking, which makes it even more difficult for referees to spot.

Witnessing superstar moves in person, especially those in the new league, makes it nearly impossible for a referee to possess the modern skill. It could be ruled as carrying the ball if players hesitate for too long or if they hold the ball in their hand while the rest of their body moves correctly. However, it is perfectly legal if done correctly. Many players use a hesitation move that appears as if they are picking up their dribble, but they continue to drive to the basket and dribble.

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It may be a violation to carry or hover the ball in a player’s hand, but in another case, it can also be seen as a borderline illegal act. Additionally, crossovers are common moves that can often resemble an illegal action.

Iverson, who revolutionized the game more than any other player before him, was occasionally controversial, with opposing teams arguing that he carried the ball. He gained recognition for his exceptional crossover dribble, which ultimately led to his induction into the Hall of Fame. Many people consider it to be the best ever. “I brought my crossover all the way to the Hall of Fame,” Iverson himself once declared.

Quick Answer

If the ball handler moves their feet or continues to dribble, it is a violation. In basketball, carrying is a violation that occurs when the ball handler allows the ball to come to a momentary rest, dribbles while placing the ball underneath or scoops it with their hand, known as “turning over” the ball or “palming” the ball.

Example of carrying
Photo by Melissa Medina

If a player carries the ball, either by moving their feet or by dribbling, they are not allowed to continue in a downward direction. Similarly, if a player pushes the ball upwards with their hand, it is considered a violation.

Let’s briefly examine the two types. When you hold the ball while moving, it is technically considered a travel, as you are still moving your feet. Starting to hold the ball also means you stop dribbling, which is known as a double-dribble. The classification of the basketball violation depends on how the ball handler breaks the rule, adding a distinctive aspect to this call.

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This is probably the most common version of this violation. It occurs when the ball is in the lower half of the player’s hand and the player is dribbling. If the dribbling continues, then it is considered a carry. If the player stops dribbling after carrying the ball, the referee may call a double dribble. In this case, the other team is awarded the ball, resulting in a turnover and the same penalty.


If the ball briefly comes to a rest with the player’s hand on the lower portion while the player is in motion, it is deemed as traveling. Instead of dribbling, the player can opt to keep moving their feet. Typically, this action is referred to as traveling, although the referee has the option to label it as a carry. The penalty for this offense is that the opposing team gains possession of the ball and faces the same consequences.

Final Words

Having a strong foundation in ball-handling skills and learning the fundamentals of basketball playing can usually prevent the embarrassment of being called for a carry. However, there may still be instances when it can happen, especially when trying out new moves like hesitation or crossover dribbles. So, don’t be afraid to try out new moves and make sure you know the parameters and rules of the game. It’s important to note that calls for carrying can also be very subjective and based on the referee’s discretion.

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