Basketball Hand Signals (2024)

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Last updated: Feb 09, 2024


Basketball Hand Signals (1)

Hand signals in basketball are used by referees, players, and coaches to communicate non-verbally.Basketball games can become loud environments, with fans cheering, music playing, and announcers calling the game, which makes verbal communication from a distance challenging at times. Hand signals have been used for years in basketball to help make communication easier. They are used by referees to communicate a foul or violation call, by a player to instruct their teammates on the court, or by coaches to signal what play to run on offense or defense.

Table of Contents

  • Referee Hand Signals
  • Time Out Signal
  • Play Calling Signals
  • Call for a Pick Signal
  • Isolation Play Signal
  • Celebration Signals
  • FAQ

Referee Hand Signals

Basketball Hand Signals (2)

Referees are constantly using hand signals on the court. Each signal represents a foul call or an action that needs to be communicated.These hand signals allow players, coaches, and statisticians to understand the call that was just made, in spite of spectator noise in loud environments.

Below is a list of the most common referee signals in basketball:

  • Blocking: Referee placesboth hands on their hips.
  • Carrying: Refereewill repeatedly turn their palm over, alternating facing upwards then downwards.
  • Charging: Referee places one hand behind their head to form a triangle with their arm. They will then point the opposite direction of the team that committed the foul.
  • Double Dribble: Referee extends both hands outwards with palms facing down, and alternates moving them up and down as if to dribble a basketball.
  • Holding: Referee forms a fist pointing upwards with one hand and grabs their forearm with the other, out in front of their body.
  • Jump Ball: Referee lifts both arms up in front of their body with their thumbs up.
  • Personal Foul: Referee raises one arm in a closed fist.
  • Points Scored: Referee lifts one arm with the number of fingers held up denoting the number of points scored (two or three fingers).
  • Technical Foul: Referee puts both hands together perpendicularly to form a “T” shape.
  • Three-Point Attempt: Referee extends one hand outward with three fingers raised.
  • Three-Point Score: Referee lifts both arms straight in the air.
  • Three-Second Violation: Referee will lift three fingers on a single hand and swing their arm forward and back by the hip, pointing at the lane.
  • Traveling: Referee rotatesclenched fists in front of their body in a circular motion.

Time Out Signal

Basketball Hand Signals (3)

In order to call a timeout, either a player or coach must signal it to the referee.This can be done with a hand gesture. The coach or player will make this indication to the referee by placing both arms outward laterally to form a “T” with the body.

The referee also uses specific hand signals to communicate whether a team wants a 30-second or 60-second timeout.For 30-second timeouts, a referee will tap both shoulders with their fingertips without crossing arms. This will create a similar appearance to flexing both arms. For 60-second timeouts, referees bring both arms in, then extend them outward to full wingspan, with palms facing forwards. Referees typically use these gestures to coordinate with the scorekeepers.

Play Calling Signals

Basketball Hand Signals (4)

Hand gestures are an excellent way to simplify calling plays and establish a method for communicating them.Play calling, or communicating a play called by the coaching staff, is the responsibility of the point guard; point guards are the players who most frequently use hand signals. A lot of teams assign plays to certain numbers.That way, when a point guard wants to run a specific play, it is easy for them to communicate what it is to the rest of the team. They just need to hold up the number on their fingers that is assigned to the play.

Some teams call plays with complex hand gestures to give more options than just five fingers worth of plays.It also makes it harder for the defense to pick up on signals and anticipate what is coming before they see it in real-time.

Call for a Pick Signal

Basketball Hand Signals (5)

A common hand gesture used in basketball is when a player calls for a screen or pick to be set by a teammate. To call for a pick in basketball, the ball handler will raise a fist in the air, signaling for a teammate to set a screen near them.While this motion is almost universal in the sport, some teams will have unique signals for pick and rolls, which are predetermined before the game. Pick and rolls are an integral part of offensive strategy in basketball, so this is a hand signal with major significance throughout the game.

Isolation Play Signal

Basketball Hand Signals (6)

Isolation is a term used to describe when an offensive player wants to go one-on-one against the defense. When a player wants to call for an isolation play, they will wave their hand as if shooing away their teammates, signaling for teammates to clear the area.This motion is also done when a ball handler does not want a pick set by their teammate.

Celebration Signals

Basketball Hand Signals (7)

A lot of players also use hand signals while celebrating during the game. A common celebration is extending the pinky finger, ring finger, and middle finger while connecting the index finger and thumb to celebrate a three-pointer.There are also a good deal of personalized celebrations devised by players. Some of the most noteworthy personalized celebrations belong to Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and LeBron James.

Custom handshakes are also popular. Players like to have unique handshakes with each teammate and often break them out during pregame introductions.


What does it mean when a basketball referee holds up their fist?

When a basketball referee blows the whistle and holds their fist up in the air, they are signalinga foul and stoppage in play.The referee will typically point at the player who committed the foul with their other hand. They will then signal to the scorers’ table the specific foul call and the number of the player who it was called on.

Which position uses hand signals the most?

Hand signals on the court are most often used by the point guard,as this is the position responsible for calling plays or communicating plays between the coaches and their teammates. Point guards may have a complex system of hand gestures to communicate on court, or they may use a simple numbered system to call plays. Other players on the court use hand signals, too, most commonly to indicate isolation or call for a pick.

What is Carmelo Anthony’s signature celebration?

Carmelo Anthony is known for being one of the most dangerous scorers in NBA history, with his own unique celebration. Whenever Anthony makes a three-pointer, he makes a hand motion with three fingers and taps on the side of his head repeatedly while running back on defense. This hand signal has become one of the most popular celebrations in the basketball world, with players of all ages and skill levels imitating some variation of Anthony’s famous gesture.

Why do referees use hand signals in basketball?

In basketball, referees mainly use hand signals to communicate foul calls with the scorer’s table, players, coaches, and even fans. At times, basketball gyms can get extremely energetic and loud, making it difficult to hear verbal communication on the court. To solve this problem, referees developed an extensive repertoire of hand signals to communicate calls for violations, fouls, timeouts, and more. These hand signals are largely universal across the sport and have been used by basketball referees for decades.


Pages Related to Basketball Hand Signals

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Basketball Hand Signals (2024)


What are the official hand signals in basketball? ›

Basketball Foul Signals

Blocking – If a defensive player commits a blocking foul the official will have both hands, in fists, touching his hips, and his elbows in tight against his body. Holding – The holding signal is made by having one arm extended upwards in front of the face, and the other hand grabbing the wrist.

What does 2 thumbs up mean in basketball? ›

In basketball, when a held ball occurs, an official will jerk both thumbs in the air, signalling that a jump ball is in order. In baseball, umpires will sometimes jerk a thumbs-up over their shoulder as an "out" signal.

How to signal a flagrant foul? ›

Note: At present time there is no specified signal for the Flagrant Foul. The ref uses the intentional foul call signal, then just verbally indicates that the foul was flagrant.

What does 3 3PM mean in NBA? ›

3PM - Three Pointers Made

3PA - Three Pointers Attempted.

How to do a 3 pointer in basketball? ›

Straighten your legs and push yourself off the ground to get the power needed to sink a 3-pointer. Extend your shooting arm out and forward as you lift off the ground. You don't have to jump extremely high to make a 3-pointer unless you're trying to shoot over another player.

What is the illegal use of hands in basketball? ›

Illegal Use of Hands Foul – This is a foul called when a defender slaps, hacks, or smacks an offensive player with the ball.

What is the new flop signal? ›

To call a flop, referees signal by touching their right hand to their right shoulder, before moving the arm down outwardly to a horizontal position — just like the arm is flopping to the ground. But the whistle won't be blown until there's a stoppage of play, or a neutral opportunity to stop play.

What is the illegal hand use hand signal in basketball? ›

For illegal use of hands calls, the referee will cross his/her arms in front of himself/herself with fists closed and touch the right fist to the top of the left wrist.

What does thumb flick mean in basketball? ›

The most common shooting flaw with young players is they move their guide hand. In particular, players often flick the ball with their thumb, as shown in the picture. This is also known as “thumbing the ball”. Moving your guide will affect the flight of the ball – causing you to miss left or right.

Can you push with your body in basketball? ›

B. Personal Foul. A player shall not hold, push, charge into, impede the progress of an opponent by extending a hand, arm, leg or knee or by bending the body into a position that is not normal.

What is the ejection hand signal? ›

(Ejection signal.) (Repeated action of right foot in back of left heel.) (Palm of right hand held parallel to ground above head and moved back and forth.)

What does a fist mean in basketball? ›

In basketball, you are not allowed to grab another player by the jersey or any of their body parts. If this happens, a holding foul is called. The ref's signal for a holding foul is making a fist point with one hand, holding that arm out, and then "grabbing" the wrist with their other hand.

What is the hand signal for a touchdown? ›

Touchdown. The referee extends his arms straight above his head to signify that a touchdown was scored. He also uses this signal to tell the offensive team that it successfully converted a field goal, extra point, or two-point conversion.

What is the NBA 3-point format? ›

Participants navigate five stations behind the 3-point line, unleashing their shooting prowess as they move from corner to corner. Each station features a rack of basketballs, with four standard shots worth one point and a coveted "Money Ball" worth two points.

What is a logo 3 in basketball meaning? ›

Discuss. In the NBA, the term 'Logo 3' is coined to a 3-point shot that's taken around the mid-court by the logo. For years, it has been deemed as a shot with a very low probability of success, so anybody who makes it gets a loud cheer from fans.

What does the no score hand signal mean in basketball? ›

No Score Signal

The referee will cross his/her arms at chest level to signal a no-score play.

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