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BBNBA: Understanding the “Gather” Rule and Travel Calls

(Ned Dishman | Getty Images)

(Ned Dishman | Getty Images)

Good afternoon, folks. It’s about time we break down what is and isn’t a travel. Let’s talk NBA.


Breaking down the “gather” rule

Before we get into another impressive outing from Mychal Mulder, it has come to my attention – and the attention of half of Twitter – that there are a considerable amount of NBA fans that don’t understand what a truly travel is and what the “gather” rule actually means. I’m going to try and break it down as simply as possible starting with the NBA’s definitions (pay attention to the bolded words).

The gather rule in the NBA rulebook is defined as follows:

  1. For a player who receives a pass or gains possession of a loose ball, the gather is defined as the point where the player gains enough control of the ball to hold it, change hands, pass, shoot, or cradle it against his body.

  2. For a player who is in control of the ball while dribbling, the gather is defined as the point where a player does any one of the following:

    1. Puts two hands on the ball, or otherwise permits the ball to come to rest, while he is in control of it;

    2. Puts a hand under the ball and brings it to a pause; or

    3. Otherwise gains enough control of the ball to hold it, change hands, pass, shoot, or cradle it against his body.

When the gather is incorporated into the traveling call, here is how the NBA defines that:

  • A player who gathers the ball while progressing may (a) take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball or (b) if he has not yet dribbled, one step prior to releasing the ball to start his dribble.
  • A player who gathers the ball while dribbling may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.
  • The first step occurs when a foot, or both feet, touch the floor after the player gathers the ball.

Most of that information is common knowledge, but the way some of it is phrased is what appears to be confusing. The very last line is the one we need to examine closely: “The first step occurs when a foot, or both feet, touch the floor AFTER the player gathers the ball.”

AFTER is the keyword; a player’s first step does not officially count until AFTER he gathers the ball – not right before he gathers the ball, or while he’s gathering the ball, but AFTER he makes the gather. So for example, this play from Sunday night’s Lakers-Pelicans game shows exactly what a true gather is. Watch where LeBron James initially picks up his dribble.

This play by LeBron is not a travel and it’s perfectly explainable as to why.

Especially when ESPN slows down the clip, you can see that LeBron clearly begins his gather on what looks to be his “first step” then takes two more steps after the gather is completed. He completes his gather once he puts two hands on the ball; the steps he takes before he officially finishes his gather do not count toward a potential travel call. LeBron completes his gather, then takes two more steps. Bucket. Perfectly legal.

Now I’m going to show you another clip, this one from Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, doing the same thing.

Once again, Giannis completes his gather, then takes two steps.

Here’s an entirely different scenario where many fans have claimed that Giannis traveled.

This is one is just simply not even close to a travel. You are 100 percent allowed to jump off of your pivot foot as long as you release the ball before it comes back down. This is straight from the NBA’s official rulebook.

“If the player wishes to dribble after a pivot, the ball must be out of his hand before the pivot foot is raised off the floor. If the player raises his pivot off the floor, he must pass or attempt a field goal before the foot is returned to the floor.”

And if you’re one of those (very few) people that are upset Giannis’ pivot foot slid two inches while he turned Bismack Biyombo into a pogo stick, then you need to find another sport to entertain yourself (or at least find something better to complain about).

Also, and I just feel like this needs to be said, players are allowed to accidentally fumble the ball and not be called for a travel. So whenever you see a player take maybe 3-4 shuffle steps but they don’t have full possession of the ball, they are allowed to reclaim possession without being called for a travel. These are all rules that are explicitly stated in the NBA rulebook.

Are we all caught up to date? Good, because these aren’t new rules or anything. The gather step has been around for AGES.

Go and spread the word of the good (rule)book.

Mulder has another big night

Now that we’ve beaten that horse to death, it’s time to talk about Mychal Mulder because holy shit is this guy playing well in his first few games with the Golden State Warriors.

In just his third NBA game, the former Wildcat poured in 17 points in the Warriors 124-110 loss to the Washington Wizards. Mulder shot 6-10 from the floor and 3-7 from distance to go along with two rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one blocks in 31 minutes.

Through three games now, Mulder has steadily increased his production. His debut saw him score just two points in 20 minutes, however, he busted out 14 points on Saturday night then followed it up with his impressive performance on Sunday night – the second night of a back-to-back. Sitting on a 10-day contract, he’s forcing the Warriors hand into offering him a deal that runs through the end of the season.

What’s amazing is how much different Mulder looks compared to his time at Kentucky. Roughly two-and-a-half seasons in the G League have done wonders for his game. He’s an entirely different player compared to his one season at Kentucky in 2017.

Mulder’s shot release is much smoother, he’s clearly gotten stronger, he doesn’t shy away from contact, and his defense is dependable. He is physically built like a slightly undersized NBA wing and plays to those strengths. While his minutes with the Warriors are out of necessity and due to various team injuries, he’s making the most of his opportunity.

“He’s [Mulder] a really good player,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after Sunday’s game, according to the Warriors SoundCloud. “I’m impressed by not only his shooting but his defense. Last night he took on a really good challenge with Devin Booker. Tonight we out him on Beal at times. He accepts the challenge. Plays bigger than he is. When you’re on a 10-day, it feels like every play is important, every shot is important — it’s not easy to relax and just go play. I thought last night was a really good indication of what kind of competitor he is. He was 0-fo-4, 0-for-5 in the third day of his contract and the clock is ticking and he just kept shooting, kept firing, kept defending and helped us win the game. Came back and had a great game again today. He’s a competitor and a really good player.”

Fox and Murray guide their teams to wins

De’Aaron Fox (SAC) and Jamal Murray (DEN) both led their respective squads to victory on Sunday afternoon.

Fox and the Sacramento Kings eeked out a 106-100 win over Brandon Knight and the Detroit Pistons. Fox posted a BBNBA-high of 23 points in addition to three rebounds and seven assists while shooting 7-16 from the field. 11 of his 23 points came down the stretch in the fourth quarter despite the point guard still dealing with a minor abdominal injury.

The Pistons took a commanding lead early, busting out an 18-1 run to start the game before ballooning it to 27-6. Eventually, the Kings found their groove and held a 10-point lead in the third quarter before sealing their fourth win in their last five outings.

“As a team we came out slow but our bench picked it up and ultimately helped us,” Fox said after the game. “We knew when we came back in the game that we had to pick it up as well because they put us in a better spot than we put ourselves in.”

Knight finished the evening with 16 points, three rebounds, and seven assists while shooting 5-10 from distance. The former ‘Cat has now scored in double-figures in four consecutive games, averaging 16.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in that span.

As for Murray and his Denver Nuggets, they powered through a tough Toronto Raptors squad by a final score of 133-118. Murray ended his night with 22 points and five assists on a shooting clip of 8-15. He opened the game making all five of his first five attempts from beyond the arc and the Nuggets as a team shot 50 percent from deep (18-36).

The Raptors never led in this one while Nikola Jokic posted his 12th triple-double of the season for Denver.

Other notes

  • Eric Bledsoe and the Milwaukee Bucks snuck out of Charlotte with a 93-85 win over the surprisingly surging Hornets. The Bled Show added just four points and two assists on 2-8 shooting, playing only 22 minutes. P.J. Washington went for 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists for the Hornets, although he shot just 1-8 from three.
  • Anthony Davis sat out his second “return to New Orleans” game with what was tabbed as a sore right knee – or as I like to call it, the “no way in hell I’m going to get booed for 48 minutes again” injury. His Lakers squad still beat the Zions by a final score of 122-114 thanks to Lebron James’ 13th triple-double of the year. Rajon Rondo contributed four points and one assist in 16 minutes for Los Angeles.
  • After sitting out the last six games for the Dallas Mavericks due to personal reasons, Willie Cauley-Stein is expected to be back in the rotation for the Mavs game on Monday night against the Chicago Bulls.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist penned a letter to his first NBA home, Charlotte. [The Players’ Tribune]

Check out the full stat sheet below.


PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)106-100 W vs. DET237-16 (0-4)37012+732
Jamal Murray (DEN)133-118 W vs. TOR228-15 (6-10)15002+1536
Mychal Mulder (GSW)110-124 L vs. WAS176-10 (3-7)21110+531
Brandon Knight (DET)100-106 L @ SAC165-12 (5-10)37004-1225
P.J. Washington Jr. (CHA)85-93 L vs. MIL125-14 (1-8)63022-1331
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)93-85 W @ CHA42-8 (0-1)12103+622
Rajon Rondo (LAL)122-114 W @ NOP42-5 (0-1)11003-516
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (DAL)111-91 W @ MIN00-010001+12
Patrick Patterson (LAC)136-130 W vs. PHIDNP-CD----------------
Jarred Vanderbilt (MIN)91-111 L vs. DALDNP-Inactive----------------
Willie Cauley-Stein (DAL)111-91 W @ MINDNP-Personal----------------
Anthony Davis (LAL)122-114 W @ NOPDNP-Knee----------------
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)91-111 L vs. DALDNP-Wrist----------------
John Wall (WAS)124-110 W @ GSWDNP-Foot----------------
Darius Miller (NOP)114-122 L vs. LALDNP-Achilles----------------
Malik Monk (CHA)85-93 L vs. MILDNP-Suspended----------------


7:00: Jazz @ Cavaliers

7:00: Rockets @ Knicks (Knox, Randle) 

7:00: Trail Blazers (Gabriel) @ Magic

7:30: Grizzlies @ Hawks (Labissiere-out)

7:30 (NBATV): Bucks @ Heat (Adebayo, Herro-out)

8:00: Mavericks (Cauley-Stein, Kidd-Gilchrist) @ Bulls

8:30: Pacers @ Spurs (Johnson, Lyles) 

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Covering all things NBA and UK Hoops. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR

4 Comments for BBNBA: Understanding the “Gather” Rule and Travel Calls

  1. TonyMontana
    1:23 pm March 2, 2020 Permalink

    I understand the gather rule but what bothers me is when someone gets a pass, they’re standing there and pump fake like they are going left and then go right and start dribbling. They always call this a travel in the NCAA. It never used to be a travel, they didnt lift their pivot foot its not a travel!!!

  2. Grumpy Old Man
    2:19 pm March 2, 2020 Permalink

    The NBA wouldn’t know walking if it bit them in the ass.

  3. antiquefurnitureandmidgets
    2:51 pm March 2, 2020 Permalink

    I think one is much closer than you claim. I can’t believe anyone would even bring up number two. It isn’t within six counties of a travel. And three obviously is because of the moving pivot foot. Two inches is an extremely conservative estimate and I would think that’s the part most would complain about. If only a few do I’m surprised. If you ignore that, however, then it’s not even in the same ballpark as a walk.

  4. Jlone28
    4:11 pm March 2, 2020 Permalink

    Lebron walked. He has the ball in both hands before he puts his foot down for step 1. Then he takes two more steps for a total of 3. That is a travel.

    Giannis gets his foot down before the ball is gathered then takes two steps. That is not a travel.