Clear-path foul

A clear-path foul is a foul in basketball that is committed when a player fouls an opposing player who already has a clear path to scoring. It is one of the newer official rules of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Many consider it unnecessary, some even going so far as calling it a “dumb” rule.

Both FIBA and the NBA implement the clear-path foul rule.


Essentially, a clear-path foul is a personal foul committed by one player against a player of the opposing team who already has a “clear-path” to scoring.

To further define it and to make it easier for referees to determine the foul, the NBA has listed additional specifications:

  • The ball must be ahead of the top ofthe circle in the backcourt.
  • There must defender ahead of theoffensive player.
  • The offensive player being fouledmust be in control of the ball. Thisalso applies if the offensive playerhas been thrown a pass.
  • The foul prevent the opposing playerfrom scoring when there was anear-certain chance at doing so.

The modern definitions of the clear-path foul rules were implemented during the 2018-2019 NBA season.


When a clear-path foul is called, possession of the ball will be given to the opposing team. In addition, the opposing team will be given two free shots or two free throws.

This penalty is the same that is given to offensive fouls. It is done to keep players from attempting plays at stopping clear-path scores as it is often dangerous and can lead to injuries on the court.


At the 2010 NBA Playoffs, in a game between the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs, Richard Jefferson committed a clear-path foul against Jason Kidd.

As per the rule, no defender was in between Kidd and the basket. This gave him a clear path to scoring.

You can find the video here:

Another example is in a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Kendal Marshall commits a clear path foul against Suns player Gerald Green.

In this foul, the ball was ahead of the top of the circle. There was also no defender in front of Green. Green ended scoring and a foul was called.

Video here:


The foul is considered controversial because the penalty for it is equivalent to that of a technical foul and not just a personal foul.

Also, since it often requires referees to check replays of the game to determine if a clear-path foul was indeed committed, many fans say that a clear-path foul only disrupts the flow of the game.

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