It's October and, sports fans, basketball is back. The NBA tips off this month, and college ball is just a few weeks away. To celebrate the return of America's greatest invention (even if Dr. James Naismith, who dreamed up the game in 1891, was Canadian-born) we’ve invited Jeopardy! all-star Ken Jennings to join our team. He'll be on the court here all month blowing the whistle on a lot of hoops hoodoo that may fool a lot of fans. Is your basketball knowledge a slam-dunk or an alley-oops?
The Debunker: Can a Basketball Player Draw a Charge While Moving?
Personal contact in real life is a beautiful thing, but personal contact in basketball, if sufficiently significant, will be whistled by the referees as a personal foul. But when contact occurs, a judgment call must be made. Who committed the foul—the ball-carrier or the defender? That's the difference between charging (called on the ball-carrier) and blocking (called on the defender). The usual layman's explanation is that a defender hoping to draw a charge needs to be "set"—that is, not moving his or her feet—when contact is made. And that's not actually how the rules work.
In both the NBA and college ball, a player on defense does need to establish "legal guarding position" on the person they're defending if they want to draw a charge. They do this by facing their torso toward the opponent and, yes, planting both feet. But, once that position is established, the defender is free to move. If they get bumped to the torso while moving forward toward the opponent, that's a defensive foul on them. But, if they're moving laterally or backward, and contact is made while their feet aren't set, that's still charging, baby. As Dick Vitale might say.
In the NBA, if the contact comes as the ball-carrier is making a move toward the basket, the feet don't matter. Officials will decide whether or not the defender's torso was squared up to the ball-carrier, and their feet never need to be set at all. Of course, that incentivizes defenses to hang out under the hoop and draw charges all day, so there's also a "restricted area" four feet wide under the basket where you can't draw a charge. Down there, a ball-carrier can run right over you no matter how wildly you "flop" down onto the hardwood. I'm looking at you, Chris Paul.
Quick Quiz: Speaking of charging: companies like ChargePoint, Blink, Webasto, and SemaConnect operate networks of stations for charging what?
Ken Jennings is the author of twelve books, most recently Planet Funny and co-hosts the most important podcast in human history, Omnibus. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.