What is a Basketball Illegal Screen?

It’s a recurring offensive foul that many of us don’t understand the reasoning behind it. There are many reasons behind an illegal screen others don’t realize.

An “illegal screen” is a screen that prevents the defender from avoiding contact which happens when the screener is unable to move to either side of or towards the defender he/she is initiating the screen on.

There are many types of screens that the referees look for, so one, in particular, that stands out is the illegal screen. I have prepared a handy guide that explains these violations and has also included the rule book at the end of this article.

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 Types Of Illegal Screens

Following are some situations easily understood that might result in a whistle blown during a basketball game due to a screen considered illegal.

Using one’s hands while screening could result in forceful contact with the defender.

Setting the screen by leaning inward with one’s shoulders and bumping the defender.

The ball handler becomes impatient and runs the defender right into the screen that is set prematurely. The result is a bad technique.

Screen – What Is It?

The screen is a way to hinder the opponent from passing, shooting, or going to the basket by deflecting the ball handler from his or her path.

Why Set a Screen?

Having a different defensive scheme opens up the defense and makes it more difficult for the opposition to defend, increasing the chances of scoring.

Due to the defense assisting the ball handler to recover, the ballhandler has more space to move than the player setting the screen yet also has more time to pass.

How do you Screen?

In setting a screen, it is crucial to anticipate your opponent’s position, so that your feet are planted and not moving wider than shoulder-width apart so that when your opponent bumps into you, you do not fall over.

After setting the screen, you need to rub shoulders with the ballhandler making it very hard for the big man to get around you. When using your arms, protect your midsection or your groin. Your body is vulnerable to flying limbs, so treat them with care.

In addition, screeners are now allowed to roll to the basket, shoot open or follow penetration into the paint for rebounds.

There are rules governing the use of illegal screens in the NBA.

Here are the NBA rules as displayed on screens, they are universal for all leagues, and referees are trained to look for the same rules and calls across the board. The NBA Website has all the NBA rules in addition to many others.

Section III—By Screening

An opponent who is not aware of the screener’s position shall not (1) assume a position closer than a normal step to the screener, nor make illegal contact with him when he takes up a position next to or in front of him. A position with such close proximity to a moving opponent that the opponent was given no chance to avoid contact before being made illegally, a position that allowed the screener to moving laterally to an opponent being screened after taking a legal position.

In order to screen an opponent, the screener has to maintain a stationary position which may range from a few feet to several strides away from his opponent, depending on the opponent’s speed.

  1. The screener needs to give the defender a chance to get out of the screener’s path.
  2. Or are in a position that risks making unlawful contact with the defender.
  3. The screener cannot move hand in hand with a defender and attempt to set a screen.
Maria Benson

Maria is an American professional basketball player for the Chicago Sky of the Women’s National Basketball Association. A versatile player, Maria mainly plays the forward and center positions. She is considered in the list of women best basketball players.


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