Referee Hand Signals in Basketball with Pictures

Every game has some set of rules that must be abided by to ha mannered gameplay. Basketball is no exception when it comes to abiding by e rules and regulations of the game. To evaluate that all the players and game players are fair and according to the guidelines of the sport, Referees or umpires are appointed that keep a keen check on the gameplay and call out different fouls, scores, and other aspects.

Hand Signals with Meaning

In Basketball we have a referee that makes hand signals for calls out different callouts and fouls. If you are new to the game this can be confusing, thus we have listed all the different hand signals that a basketball referee makes with their meaning so that the next time you watch a referee call out a foul you know what he/she is pointing out.

Violation Signals Travelling or Walking


The referee will blow the whistle and call a traveling violation if the ball handler takes too many steps without dribbling the basketball. The offensive team will lose possession of the ball as a result of this (turnover). The referee makes a rolling/spinning motion with both arms to indicate the traveling signal.

5-second Violation

5 second violation

When a team tries to inbound the basketball, they only have five seconds. The referee will blow the whistle if the inbounder takes longer than five seconds. He’ll then hold up five fingers to indicate a five-second infraction.

Illegal or Double Dribble

illegal or Double dribble voilation

A double dribble occurs when the ball handler dribbles with both hands at the same time, resulting in a turnover for the offense. When the ball handler takes up his dribble and then tries to dribble again, this is known as a double dribble. A dribbling gesture with both hands is the referee’s indication of an unlawful dribble.

A team has ten seconds after inbounding the ball to get the ball past half-court. If they take more than ten seconds, the referee will call a ten-second penalty and end the play. The ten-second violation is signaled by simply raising ten fingers.

Palming or Carrying

 Officials in college basketball and the NBA don’t call this very often, although it is called frequently during small children’s games. Carrying occurs when the ball handler instead of dribbling appropriately palms the ball or tries to scoop underneath it. The offense is penalized for carrying, which results in a turnover.



The play is blown dead when an offensive player intentionally kicks the ball out of bounds, and the referee awards control to the defense by permitting an out-of-bounds throw-in. The official merely makes a kicking motion with one of his feet to signal a kicking infringement.

Over and Back

Over and back

The offensive team is not allowed to return across the midcourt line after they have crossed it. The referee will blow the whistle and call an over and back infraction if they do so. The offensive team will lose possession as a result of this.

3 Second Violation

3 second violation in basketball

A player on offense can only stay in the paint for three seconds. The play is blown dead if he stays in the paint for the whole three seconds, and the offense must surrender possession of the ball. The referee will raise three fingers on both hands and keep one arm high and one arm low to mark a three-second violation.

Foul Signals

Hand Check

hand check signal in basketball

The official calls a hand check when a defender uses his hand to limit an offensive player. An open hand in the air with the other hand grabbing the wrist is the signal.


charging foul

The referee will call a charging foul if the ball handler rushes over a defender who has placed his feet and established position. This will result in a turnover for the attacking player, as well as a personal foul. It will also count towards the team’s total number of fouls, and if the team exceeds the limit, it may result in free throws. The official merely lays his hand on his hand and extends his elbow to make the charge call.

Holding Foul

 An offensive player cannot be held by a defense. A holding call will be placed if he does. The referee grips his wrist to indicate holding. As a result, the defender is called for a personal foul.

Intentional Foul

 An intentional foul is called when a defensive player fouls an offensive player on purpose, according to the official. This is frequently done near the end of a game in the hopes of prolonging it by stopping the clock. The ref extends both arms above his head and touches his wrists together to create the deliberate foul gesture.



A blocking foul is called when a defensive player stands in the line of the ball handler’s path to the basket without placing his feet. If his team is in the bonus, the ball handler will receive free throws if a blocking foul is called. The ball will be pulled out of bounds from the sideline if the team is not in the bonus. The official will place both hands on his hips to make the blocking call.

Technical Foul

Technical foul

Unsportsmanlike conduct usually results in a technical foul. You may have seen a referee “Tee” up a coach for yelling too many foul words at him after a bad call. Players that fight on the court are also called for technical fouls. A technical foul is signaled by the ref making a T with his hands, similar to a timeout gesture. The opposing side is given one free throw attempt and possession of the ball when a technical foul is called.



When a loose ball foul occurs, pushing is commonly called. One player may push another player out of the way to take possession. This is a personal foul, as well as a loss of possession. To signal a pushing foul, the referee makes a shoving motion with his arms.

Other Signals

Jump Ball

Jump ball

A jump ball occurs when two opposing players have their hands on the ball at the same time. When a jump ball is called, the two players must do the jump ball to determine possession, or referees will utilize the possession arrow. It all depends on the league you’re following. A jump ball is signaled by the referee giving two thumbs up.

No Score

No score

When a shooter makes a basket but is fouled, the referee must assess whether the foul happened while the shooter was in the process of making the basket. The basket does not count if the shooter was not in the act of shooting. The official similarly swings his arms to the “field goal is no good” gesture in football to indicate that the shot does not count.

Thirty Seconds Timeout

30 seconds timeout in basketball

When a team takes a thirty-second referee signals the scorer’s table by placing both hands on his shoulders.

Start Clock

start clock

When the official is ready to start the clock, he raises one hand and rapidly lowers it.

Stop Clock

Stop clock

The referee lifts one hand and keeps it there when he wishes to halt the time.

3 Point Attempt

3 point attempt

The official will raise three fingers to signal to the scorer’s table that a player has tried a three-point shot.

Three point score

3 point score

When a player makes a three-point shot, the ref will raise both hands to indicate that the shot was successful.

Why referee signals are important?

The referee signals are important as they help in educating the players and officials regarding what signals to use and when. All the good or bad signals help the officials learn faster and retain information better.

Signals and mechanics is a point of emphasis for the 2021-2022 basketball season. All too often officials use unapproved signals to convey information about what happens in the court which seems like a good idea, but many times those signals have unintended meanings.

Therefore, it is highly important to have proper know-how about the referee signals as they are of great help during the game. Also, the player would know what signal is the referee giving during the game.


And that’s it these were some of the major hand signals that basketball referee makes. We hope that this was helpful and now you can easily identify and understand the different hand signals that are made by the basketball referee.