VIDEO: Was LeBron James' barrel roll rebound actually a travel?
Taking a look at the barrel-roll rebound LeBron James gathered in the Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers game Thursday night and whether or not it was a travel.
After a missed Kobe Bryant jumper, LeBron James goes diving to the floor to secure a loose-ball rebound. In the process of attempting to gain control, he rolls on the floor as he secures the ball and stands up. People on Twitter seemed to lose it when this happened, and from the looks of the video above, it appeared in real time to be traveling.
However, there are specific rules here that have to be adhered to in order to determine whether it was actually a travel or not. Here is the NBA's traveling rule, which can be found under Rule 10-Section XIV:
a. A player who receives the ball while standing still may pivot, using either foot as the pivot foot.
b. A player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may use a two-count rhythm in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.
The first count occurs:
(1) As he receives the ball, if either foot is touching the floor at the time he receives it.
(2) As the foot touches the floor, or as both feet touch the floor simultane- ously after he receives the ball, if both feet are off the floor when he receives it.
The second occurs:
(1) After the count of one when either foot touches the floor, or both feet touch the floor simultaneously.
c. A player who comes to a stop on the count of one may pivot, using either foot as the pivot foot.
d. A player who comes to a stop on the count of two, with one foot in advance of the other, may pivot using only the rear foot as the pivot foot.
e. A player who comes to a stop on the count of two, with neither foot in advance of the other, may use either foot as the pivot foot.
f. In starting a dribble after (1) receiving the ball while standing still, or (2) coming to a legal stop, the ball must be out of the player's hand before the pivot foot is raised off the floor.
g. If a player, with the ball in his possession, raises his pivot foot off the floor, he must pass or shoot before his pivot foot returns to the floor. If he drops the ball while in the air, he may not be the first to touch the ball.
h. A player who falls to the floor while holding the ball, or while coming to a stop, may not gain an advantage by sliding.
i. A player who attempts a field goal may not be the first to touch the ball if it fails to touch the backboard, basket ring or another player.
PENALTY: Loss of ball. The ball is awarded to the opposing team at the sideline, nearest spot of the violation but no nearer the baseline than the foul line extended.
The section of this rule that would seem to apply here is section h in which it states, "A player who falls to the floor while holding the ball, or while coming to a stop, may not gain an advantage by sliding."
The NBA also has a page on NBA.com that goes over misunderstood rules. Here is the section on traveling, and I've bolded out the sentence from the paragraph that involves what we're dealing with on this play:
To start a dribble after establishing a pivot foot, the ball must be released from the player’s hand before his pivot foot leaves the floor or he has committed a traveling violation. A player who receives the ball while moving is allowed a two count rhythm but must release the ball prior to the third step touching the floor. When ending his dribble a player may use a two count rhythm in coming to a stop, passing or shooting. A player who falls to the floor while holding the ball or while coming to a stop may not gain an advantage by rolling on the floor. A player who attempts a shot may not be the first to touch the ball if it fails to touch the backboard, rim or another player. If a player comes to a stop on the count of one when both feet are on the floor or touch the floor simultaneously, he may pivot using either foot as his pivot. If he alights with both feet he must release the ball before either foot touches the floor. If a player has one foot on the floor or lands with one foot first to the floor, he may only pivot with that foot. Once that foot is lifted from the floor to shoot or pass it may not return until the ball is released. If a player jumps off one foot on the count of one he may land with both feet simultaneously for count two. In this situation, the player may not pivot with either foot and if one or both feet leave the floor the ball must be released before either return to the floor. When a player gathers the ball he may not step consecutively with the same foot, as in a hopping motion.
Let's look at the video again, this time with a replay in which I've added some still frames to the play.
As you can see in the video, LeBron is not holding the ball when he dives to the floor to secure the rebound. He has not established possession when he's rolling on the ground, and you can see his arms around the ball but not actually holding it as he rolls. Because he doesn't have possession while he's rolling, that point of the play is not a travel.
The next part many people considered to be a travel was James standing up as he grabs the basketball. As LeBron establishes his right foot as the pivot foot, he grabs the ball and stands up. This is not a travel.
Where basketball fans end up getting confused by this play is it is a travel in every other league of basketball you watch. In FIBA, NCAA and high school there are specific rules that state you may not stand up from the ground while in possession of the basketball. If you scroll back up to the full travel rule from the NBA rulebook, there is not a rule that states this anywhere in this section.
So on this play, LeBron did not have possession of the ball before rolling with the ball, and he established and kept his pivot foot while getting up from the floor with the ball. Because of this, it's not a travel. This leads to the obvious joke or snarky comment that "the NBA doesn't call traveling," but that's not actually true. The NBA referees call it in probably every game, at least once.
Are there times in which it is missed? Absolutely. And there was even one missed in this game.
Now, LeBron didn't actually take five steps with the ball as the guy who recorded this video states. LeBron has two gather steps essentially before securing the ball from the dribble. However, he does seem to take three steps after securing the ball, so it would absolutely be a travel that should be called by the refs.
On the barrel roll to the floor, though, I fail to see a travel because LeBron never has possession of the ball on the roll, establishes a pivot foot as he secures possession and doesn't lose his pivot foot as he stands up. If he had shuffled his feet while standing up with the ball, it would have been a travel.
Another thing to note throughout that highlight is that not at any time does anybody on the court from the Lakers or on the sideline with the coaching staff seem animated that the refs blew a call. I would imagine there was no reaction because they know what the rule is. NBA players aren't apt to go without complaining about a perceived rule violation, so if nobody is complaining from their side during the play or once the play is over, it's probably a legal move.
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