Basketball Rules: Double Dribble

In basketball, players cannot run with the ball without dribbling it. Players cannot begin and end an infinite number of dribbles, however. National Basketball Association rules prohibit players from beginning a second dribble after they have voluntarily ended the first. The phrase "double dribble" describes the violation of this rule.

A young basketball player is dribbling the ball. (Image: ampak/iStock/Getty Images)


Dr. James Naismith's original 13 rules of basketball did not allow dribbling. Players could not run with the ball at all. By 1910, basketball rules had changed to allow players to dribble the ball, but dribblers could not shoot the ball until 1916.

Double Dribble Definition

Once a player picks up his dribble by catching the ball with both hands, he must pass it or shoot it. The player cannot begin a second dribble after ending the first. If he begins a second dribble after voluntarily ending the first, he commits a double dribble violation.

Legal Second Dribble

A player may begin a second dribble if he ended his first dribble to make a shot that hit the backboard or basket ring. A player may also begin a second dribble if he lost control of the first dribble after an opponent touched the ball or after another player touched the ball as a result of his own pass or fumble.


If a player begins a second dribble illegally, the referee will call a dribbling violation and that player's team will lose possession of the ball. The opposing team will gain possession of the ball at the sideline nearest the violation but no closer to the baseline than the foul line extended.

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