Free throws are awarded to the opposing team when a team enters the penalty situation.
Free throws are awarded to the opposing team when a team enters the penalty situation.

In the sport of basketball, the bonus situation (also called the penalty situation) occurs when one team accumulates a requisite number of fouls, which number varies depending on the level of play. When one team has committed the requisite number of fouls, each subsequent foul results in the opposing team's taking free throws regardless of the type of foul committed (i.e., whether or not the foul was a shooting foul).[1] Teams under the limit are commonly referred to as having fouls to give, and thus they can try to disrupt their opponents without being penalized free throws. These fouls reset every quarter or half depending on the rules in use (i.e. FIBA, NBA, NCAA, etc.).


Under FIBA rules, used for all competitions involving international teams and most leagues outside the U.S., the penalty is triggered when a team commits more than four fouls in a quarter; the fifth and subsequent team fouls will incur penalty free throws. All subsequent non-shooting defensive fouls committed by that team in the same quarter concede two free throws. All fouls committed by players count towards the team foul count.

Only defensive fouls are awarded free throws.

Team fouls accrue from the fourth period on, as all overtimes are extensions of it for the purpose of team foul accumulation.

FIBA 3x3

The 3-man game, known as FIBA 3x3, has a slightly different penalty rule. The penalty is triggered when a team commits more than six fouls in a game. Each penalty situation involves two penalty free throws, and the tenth and subsequent fouls will also include possession of the ball.

The bonus rule specifically supersedes the normal rules for defensive fouls on shot attempts. Instead of the 1 shot awarded on a made basket or a missed 1-point shot attempt, or the 2 free throws awarded on a missed 2-point shot attempt, 2 free throws are always awarded regardless of the result of the shot attempt.

However, as in standard basketball rules, offensive fouls (if not technical or unsportsmanlike) never result in free throws, regardless of the number of team fouls.[2]


Team foul penalty

In the National Basketball Association and Women's National Basketball Association, bonus rules in a quarter apply starting with the fifth team foul, with a rule change preventing a team not in the penalty late in a period from committing multiple fouls without penalty. The rules on the team foul penalty are similar to the FIBA version, with three major differences:

Only defensive and loose-ball fouls count towards a team's limit for the team foul penalty. Offensive fouls do not count towards the team foul penalty unless a player is in the player foul penalty situation.[3]

The team foul penalty applies in a period after a team commits one foul in the final two minutes if the team had not reached the penalty phase in the first ten (NBA) or eight (WNBA) minutes of that period. In other words, within any period free throws are awarded starting from the fifth foul OR from the second foul in the last two minutes of the period, whichever comes earlier.[3]

If a game enters overtime, the foul counts are reset to 0, and are similarly reset before each subsequent overtime period. The penalty phase starts with the fourth foul in each overtime period rather than five for regulation periods, since overtime periods are much shorter than regular game periods (5 minutes vs. 10/12 in regulation play). As in regulation play, two free throws are awarded for non-shooting defensive fouls during the bonus period, and one foul in the final two minutes automatically puts the team in the team foul penalty.[3]

Player foul penalty

A player who commits his/her sixth (and subsequent) personal foul and must remain in the game because the team has no eligible players remaining, or a player who was the last player to commit six fouls, and with no eligible players following an injury or ejection, is called back to the game, is charged with a non-unsportsmanlike conduct technical foul, with the penalty of a single free throw, regardless of offensive or defensive foul. The player cannot be ejected for a technical foul for this situation.[4]

This type of technical foul serves in effect as a "player foul penalty" of a bonus free throw, similar to the team foul penalty. However, this bonus free throw is awarded regardless of the foul being an offensive or defensive foul, unlike a team foul penalty, where the two free throws only applies for defensive fouls. If an offensive player commits his/her sixth or subsequent foul, is an offensive foul, and there are no eligible players available, one free throw is still awarded, in addition to possession of the ball to the team shooting the free throw.


The bonus situation is also used in American men's college basketball, but the NCAA rules are very different from the bonus rules of the NBA. The basic bonus rules remain the same, but the limit for team fouls is six per half. Upon committing the seventh foul of the half, a team is penalized and the opposing team is awarded at least one free throw for any defensive or loose-ball foul, no matter if the foul was shooting or non-shooting (offensive fouls are never awarded free throws in the NCAA). In the case of a non-shooting foul, the opposing player must make the first free throw in order to be awarded a second free throw. This is commonly referred to as "one-and-one".[5] (A shooting foul is not subject to this requirement; the player will get all free throw attempts allowed by the rules regardless of the result of the preceding shot.) Beginning with the tenth foul of a half, the fouled team is awarded two free throws on non-shooting fouls regardless of whether or not the first shot is made (often referred to as the "double bonus"). For purposes of bonus, team fouls accrue from the second half on, as all overtimes are extensions of it.[6]

Women's college basketball followed men's bonus rules until the 2015–16 season, when it adopted FIBA bonus rules: four fouls per period; two free throws on every team foul over four; team fouls accrue from the fourth period on, as all overtimes are extensions of it.[7]

The NCAA regularly uses its second-tier tournament for Division I men's teams, the National Invitation Tournament, as a testing ground for experimental rules, and the bonus situation is no exception. The following bonus-related rules have been used in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 editions:[8][9][10]

The rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which govern high school basketball in the United States, follow NCAA men's rules on this point for both boys' and girls' play. Even though the NFHS rules divide the game into quarters, the team foul count resets only at halftime.


Authority Penalty FTs after Team fouls reset at Reset at overtime? Penalty free-throws at overtime after Free-throws attempted
FIBA (5-on-5), NCAA (women) 5th team foul Quarter No Two
FIBA (3x3) 6th team foul Game No Two; on 10th team foul, possession also awarded to non-fouling team
Team Only
5th team foul or 2nd team foul in the last two minutes of quarter if not yet in penalty by then Quarter Yes at every overtime period 4th team foul or 2nd team foul in the last two minutes of overtime if not yet in penalty by then Two
Players Only
6th player foul
If No eligible players remaining on bench OR
Player must reenter game after six fouls because last eligible player injured.
Game No One, includes offensive fouls
If defensive foul, team penalty also applies.
On offensive fouls or fouls without additional free throws (e.g. shooting or team penalty), the shooting team retains possession of the ball.
NCAA (men), NFHS 7th team foul Half No One (if first free-throw missed prior to tenth foul), or two (if first free-throw made prior to tenth foul, or after 10th foul)


  1. ^ "Basketball U: On The Penalty". National Basketball Association. September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  2. ^ "3x3 Rules of the Game" (PDF). FIBA. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  3. ^ a b c "Rule No. 12: Fouls and Penalties". National Basketball Association. January 31, 2001. Archived from the original on March 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  4. ^ "Rule No. 3: Players, Substitutes, and Coaches". NBA.COM. National Basketball Association. 15 October 2018. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  5. ^ "USA Basketball: Rules". Archived from the original on 2011-10-27. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
  6. ^ "2009 NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Rules" (PDF). NCAA. 2008. p. 124. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 6, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2009. Each common foul committed by the defensive team, beginning with a team's seventh foul during the half, provided that the first attempt is successful
  7. ^ "NCAA panel approves women's basketball rule changes". Associated Press. June 8, 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  8. ^ Brown, C.L. (February 13, 2017). "NIT to experiment with resetting fouls every 10 minutes". Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  9. ^ Bonagura, Kyle (February 27, 2018). "NIT to experiment with new rules this season". Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  10. ^ "Experimental rules to be used at 2019 NIT" (Press release). NCAA. February 22, 2019. Retrieved February 23, 2019.