Personal fouls in basketball are one of the main four umbrella categories for fouls. They’re perhaps the most common type of foul for basketball players to commit, and are also the easiest to inflict.
Unlike technical fouls, personal fouls are based solely on the illegal contact that players make between each other, but they typically aren’t as serious as flagrant fouls. This could be because the intention is different in personal fouls, or due to instinct getting in the way.
What is Illegal Contact in Basketball?
To understand what can constitute a personal foul, one must understand what illegal contact is in basketball.
Illegal contact is the act of touching another player in a way which will affect their playing abilities, and includes grabbing a player, holding a player, pushing a player, charging into an opposing player or limiting their movement in any way which impedes their ability. Additionally, a personal foul can be called when an illegal screen is used by either the offense or defense.
What is the Punishment for a Personal Foul in Basketball?
As personal fouls are commonplace and usually aren’t severe, the penalties for them are varied. As with most minor fouls during a game of basketball, the punishment is usually quick and easily carried out. In the case of a personal foul, the opposition is usually given possession of the ball or are given the opportunity to make a free throw. If the fouling team is in a situation known as a penalty situation, the opposition may be given two free throws as opposed to a single one. This, however, depends on the foul count.
To be “fouled out”, or ejected from an NBA game, a player would have to commit six personal fouls. So whilst personal fouls are relatively common, it’s rare that a single player commits six of them in a single game.
If a defending player commits a personal foul, it can be called by the referee as a defensive foul.