What is a take foul? NBA coaching strategy explained

Matthew Legros
Jayso Tatum commits a take foul on Stephen Curry.

With the way in which NBA coaching strategies have evolved in league history, one handy stoppage of play, known as the take foul, is advantageous in the league today. But what exactly is it?

The take foul has saved many NBA teams’ bacon as a fast-break and run-stopping maneuver that illegally impedes a player’s progress toward the basket in transition.

Classified as a type of intentional foul, the take foul conveniently prevents opposing teams from turning on the jets in the open court and capitalizing on an increased pace of play. There are several nuances to the foul and how the league has responded to its regular usage in recent years.

When watching games, one may see a player grab an opponent’s arm, make contact with their midsection, or wrap their own arms around their man’s upper body to immediately draw a whistle from the referees.

A full look into the take foul

The NBA laid out an official definition of the take foul in a 2022 article on their official website:

“The take foul — in which the defender does not make a play on the ball — is what the league classifies as one that occurs either “during a transition scoring opportunity or immediately following a change of possession and before the offensive team had the opportunity to advance the ball.” The exception is in the final 2 minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.”

These clever tactics, sometimes motioned for by coaches or left up to players’ discretion, are done when the other team typically has a numbers advantage going the other way. This means that a change of possession results in the receiving team having more players running up the court than the team that lost the ball.

Such a dynamic enables the team on offense to run hard, smartly pass the ball and disorient defenders dealing with multiple moving parts at once. The rule drew massive debates in the world of sports talk, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe called for it to be taken out of the game altogether.

Players can’t get crafty with the foul though. Stars such as James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are popular for seeing contact coming and heaving shots at the basket or rising up for acrobatic finishes at the rim so they can be called as shooting fouls. Unfortunately for them, the take foul does not apply to players in the act of shooting.

Curry hilariously analyzed the call while a guest commentator during a Warriors regular season game against the Detroit Pistons last year, as SM highlights shared on YouTube:

The take foul recently got an amendment to its officiating. As of the 2022-23 season, the league now gifts the offensive team one free throw, shot by any player of their choice, along with continued possession. The take foul comes with its positives and negatives, but can be a great help when one team is losing control of the score and a costly mistake late in games if a defender is unaware of their team foul situation.

About The Author

Matthew graduated from Brooklyn College in 2022 with a Bachelor's degree in Communications. In the past, he's written for Heavy Sports, Sports Illustrated, and SB Nation. On top of penning scripts for Empire Sports Media, Matthew covers the latest NBA, NFL and Boxing news for Dexerto. His expertise lies in basketball, with a personal passion for track-and-field. You can contact him at matthew.legros@dexerto.com.