What is a Carry in Basketball? (Explained In Detail)

Basketball has tons of rules and regulations to follow. It is just like other games. So, there is nothing to worry about. However, it is important to know the basics so that you are not expelled or drawn out from the game.

To know the basics, we have to start by understanding that professionals don’t need to get reminded of the principles. They are pretty practiced and familiar with the dos and don’ts. On the other hand, newbies or let’s say school students are not really aware of the rules. For them, it is a must to be reminded by the referees.

Coming to the main point, will it suffice the need to learn the definition of “carry” in basketball. Or do you need to practice and know what actually carry means? Well, in this article, we have helped you get familiar with everything – the definition and its explanation, dos and don’ts, and tips to make the best carry as a beginner.

Let’s start…

Also Read: BIG3 Explained In Detail 

What is a Carry in a Basketball? 

What is a Carry in Basketball

Leagues, referees, and professionals define “carry” differently. However, many of professionals agree that carry in a basketball means taking a pause from dribbling and then continuing to dribble. The question which is often asked regarding carrying is, “how does the entire action take place?” Well, it happens all of a sudden when the players place his hand under the ball and keeps on dribbling. This act is against the rules of the game.

Generally, “carry” is a term that is explained and understood differently by basketball leagues. According to many, carry is a technique that resembles crossover. Reason being, it allows the player to invest more time in controlling and managing the basketball.

But again, the question arises…

How can we determine if an action is “carrying” or not?

Referees in the National Basketball Association (NBA) refer carry in a peculiar way. They mostly check the placement of the palm on balls. If it is below the ball in such a way that it faces the sky directly, it will be a carry.

However, it is considered fine and there is no violation if the ball dribbles on the sides. The reason given for this situation is that the placement actually helps in controlling the ball. Also, it is easy to change the direction of the ball. Nevertheless, if the palm slides right in the center of the ball (beneath), it will be a carry.

Another way to determine if it is a carry or not – the hand in 180 degrees of a plane (of basketball). There is one more point when you can be summoned for violating rules – the point in time when you don’t move at all and there isn’t any basketball movement.

Will it be considered as “carry” if the player dribbles the basketball high?

When the player holds the basketball high right above the shoulders, it doesn’t come in the carry category. It is a carry when you hold it below and that too either for too long or in a way that it can face the sky.


To avoid carry, players are advised to take a precaution. Referees are of the opinion that one can avoid carrying by not holding the ball higher (right above the shoulders). It is rightly said because the player tends to lose control over the ball when it is not in reach – the higher the ball, the more probability of losing grip and control. As soon as one stops the control, he tries to hold it with the palm and that leads to carrying. In cases where players want to control the ball and target the hoop, they bent a bit. Then, they stay low so that the ball dribbles from above the head. 

Rules of Carrying in Basketball

Unfortunately, many referees and professionals follow rules which are quite vague. In the book where all the rules are written, there is one that tells a lot about carrying.

It is said that (it is a gist and not exact words) while dribbling players are not allowed to place a hand under the ball at any time. Players are also not allowed to carry a basketball (holding it from underneath) from one point to another. Neither they are permitted to bring a pause and restart dribbling.

Reference: Violations and Penalties (Sec 2 – Dribble)

There is a lot of confusion regarding the terms “pause”. It is vague because there the definition isn’t a complete one. There is no trace of finding the right duration of pause which could cause a violation. Therefore, the carrying rule is always used according to the will and wishes of the referee. Again, something not so good from NBA. So much so that players who like the NBA or are fans of the association find it hard to determine if carrying is a travel or not.

Frequently Asked Questions – Carrying with Other Actions 

Now that we know about the definition and unjustified explanation, it is time to know about certain answers. These answers are addressed mainly because of two reasons. First of all, they are mostly asked. And secondly, because they are important to be addressed so that players are sure about their actions and movements in a basketball game.

What are the ways to differentiate between carrying and double dribble?

Traveling violation. Double carry is considered a travel violation. And so is carry. The main reason as to why they both are considered as a violation is the same – the ball doesn’t move and it stays there for some time in the palm. The only difference between double dribbing and carrying is the use of one and two hands. In carrying, the ball stays in one palm. Whereas, in double dribbling, basketball stays in both the hands or palms. When the ball stays motionless in the hand or palm works as a signal that dribbling has stopped. After the pause, making dribbling is not allowed. Therefore, referees call for violation.

For how long it is allowed to hold a ball without dribbling?

The answer to this question is based on the understanding of a referee. Some professionals and referees think it is okay to take a pause of one and a half steps. It means taking a pause for more than 1.5 steps is not allowed in any situation. That is when you are called for traveling.

However, at times it is okay for the referee to take a full 2 to 3 steps without making the ball move. It is because referees can’t count the steps as the player runs really fast and all this while they make sure to dribble.

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