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Principle of Verticality

By Clarence Woody, Clinician

The basic factors of the principle of verticality are

  1. Legal guarding position must be established and maintained. Movement thereafter must be legal.
  2. From this position, the defender may rise or jump vertically and occupy the space within his vertical plane.
  3. The hands and arms of the defender may be raised within his vertical plane while the defender is on the floor or in the air.
  4. The defender should not be penalized for leaving the floor vertically or having his hands and arms extended within the vertical plane.
  5. The offensive player, whether on the floor or airborne, may not "clear out" or cause contact which is a foul within the defender's vertical plane.
  6. The player with the ball is to be given no more protection or consideration than the defender in judging which player has violated the rules.

Guidelines to officials in making correct vertically calls are

  1. A defensive player's arms may not be placed above the offensive player in a normal standing position. If contact occurs at this point, the defensive player is responsible. The defense may not move into the offensive player's vertical space and cause contact.
  2. If the defender's arms are held vertically and are maintained in that position, no offensive player may cause contact even if the defensive player jumps vertically to a higher position.
  3. When the shooter drives into the lane and the defensive player has established a legal position before the shooter is airborne, the responsibility for contact is on the shooter when the defensive player rises vertically with arms extended upward to block the shot.
  4. The responsibility for contact is on the dribbler when the dribbler drives the baseline and jumps obliquely (towards the free-throw line) in order to get a position that allows a shot at the basket and makes contact with a defensive player who is maintaining a legal position with raised arms.
  5. When the shooter uses a forearm to ward off the defender, it is a foul on the shooter.

The defensive player has a right to any position legally established. The offense is given an unfair and unwarranted advantage when contact in the vertical plane above his legal position is charged to the defense when, by rule, it is the responsibility of the offense. At best, it is a "no call", but certainly not a call against the defense.