What does bonus mean in basketball?
June 02 2023

What does bonus mean in basketball?

In the sport of basketball, the bonus situation occurs when one team accumulates a requisite number of fouls. The number varies depending on the level of play. When the requisite number of fouls is reached, each subsequent foul results in free throws. This happens regardless of the type of foul committed (i.e., whether the foul was a shooting foul). 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.).

How do you get a bonus in basketball?

As we mentioned above, triggering the bonus is different depending on the tournament. The NBA, FIBA, and NCAA tournaments all have a different way of handling the bonus.


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. This is because all overtimes are extensions of it for the purpose of team foul accumulation.


Team Foul Penalty

In the National Basketball Association bonus rules in a quarter apply starting with the fifth team foul. This is a rule change preventing a team not in the penalty late in a period from committing multiple fouls. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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.

This type of technical foul serves in effect as a “player foul penalty” of a bonus free throw. 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.What does bonus mean in basketball?What does bonus mean in basketball?Bonus in Basketball


The bonus situation is also used in American men’s college basketball. However, 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 their opponents are awarded free throws. They get free throws for any defensive or loose-ball foul. It doesn’t 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. He is awarded a 2nd throw only if he makes the first one.

This is commonly referred to as “one-and-one”. 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. This happens 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.

Rule Changes

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:

  • Back in 2017 and 2019, both team foul counts were reset to zero at the 10-minute mark of each half. In 2018, games were played in quarters, matching current practice in NCAA women’s basketball. Contrary to the halves used in the current NCAA men’s rules.
  • In all three tournaments, the team foul limit was four per 10-minute block. This was identical to the NCAA women’s limit for each quarter.
  • Also, in all three tournaments, two shots were awarded for all non-shooting defensive or loose-ball fouls upon the fifth team foul in a 10-minute block. This is also identical to the current NCAA women’s rule.
  • In 2017 and 2019, each overtime period was considered a separate period for accumulation of team fouls. The fourth team foul in an overtime period triggered the so-called “double bonus”.

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