QUESTION - Could you please explain “palming?” I’ve seen it called so many ways in high school, college and pro games that it’s a mystery to me. Thank you.
ANSWER - Let’s take away some of the mystery. Palming is one violation which, curiously, is not specifically listed in the “violations” section of the NFHS (High School) Rule Book. It does NOT appear under Rule 9 (Violations). That rule states that “a player may not dribble a second time after his first dribble has ended.” (Rule 9.5) But this is a clue to solving the mystery.
Another clue is to determine “when does a dribble end?” There are five ways in which the dribble can end, but for the purpose of our mystery, we will focus on these two ways. Under Definitions, Rule 4.15.4 states that the DRIBBLE ENDS when:
the dribbler catches or CAUSES THE BALL TO COME TO REST (my emphasis) in one or both hands
the dribbler “palms” or “carries” the ball by allowing it to COME TO REST in one or both hands.
So, by extension, when one dribble ends and a new one begins, we have a “double dribble” violation which is the Rule Book terminology for what everyone refers to as “palming.”
But it’s not cut and dried. The problem is that the officials need to make a judgement as to whether or not the dribbler actually causes the ball to come to rest as he is dribbling. An experienced official will understand that a “crossover dribble” by a skilled player is legal up to the point where he sees the dribbler actually seem to carry the ball from one direction to another. The official will likely notice that the ball seems to remain in a longer-than-usual contact with the hand, an observation that becomes somewhat easier with experience. This movement is slightly different from skillfully batting the ball from one direction to another. We can all agree that there are many times with a good dribbler where there’s a fine line between skillfully batting and actually carrying the ball.
So, in fairness to the officials, what may seem okay to one official may seem a little worse to another official. That explains why some make the call more quickly than others. Some officials use a little guide to help make their decision. If the hand in contact with the ball is in no worse than a “thumbs up” position, there’s a good chance that it will be legal. But if the palm opens up with the ball in contact (that is, the thumb is beyond the “up” position) a strong case can be made that it’s a violation. In contrast, it’s pretty safe to dribble with the hand along the upper side of the ball.
In summary, don’t be too anxious to expect a violation during the dribble unless you clearly see the ball actually being carried or actually coming to rest. Mystery solved? I hope this helped.