How Many Steps Is A Travel In Basketball?

Travel violation in basketball is a touchy topic among fans. Some say that referees are lenient with rules, while others argue that James Harden doesn’t get away with it too easily. You might have tried reading the rulebook or replayed the match in slow-motion, but the travel rule remains pretty complicated. With fans still debating regarding how many steps a travel in basketball, we’ve decided to simplify the term for you.

In all basketball rulebooks, taking three steps or more without dribbling is considered a travel. With the ball in hand, a player can only take two steps, after which they need to dribble, shoot or pass the ball. If they take an extra step, the referee will blow the whistle and call out a travel. The penalty for this is that the ball is handed over to the opponent team.

How Many Steps Can You Take in Basketball?

The rules are pretty straightforward regarding traveling. There is no defined limit to the number of steps a player can take while dribbling. Simply put, you can take as many steps forward or backward unless you don’t have possession of the ball in your hand. However, once you’re surrounded by the opposing players or stop dribbling, it’s time to decide. 

You can take only two steps without dribbling the ball because any more steps will be considered a travel. The steps are only counted after a player has gathered the ball. With control of the ball, a player is only allowed to take two steps; taking another step after that is considered traveling. Hence, most players play it safe by shooting or passing the ball to a teammate to maintain the game’s flow. 

Is 3 Steps In Basketball A Travel?

Yes. Travel violations are called when a player takes three consecutive steps while holding the ball. However, certain legalities might seem like a three-step but are not counted as traveling. The most common one is the pivot foot. Establishing a pivot foot allows basketball players to control their movement and find an opening for shooting or passing the ball.

As a player stops dribbling, they can set up a pivot foot that remains planted on the ground, giving leverage to the other foot. This foot prevents one from committing a travel violation. The other foot can move freely any number of steps, as long as the player does not lift or switch the pivot foot. The ball must only be released or dribbled when the player moves their pivot foot, or it will become a travel violation. 

What Counts As A Travel in Basketball?

Taking three steps without dribbling or shooting the ball is traveling. So, when a player has taken two steps while holding the ball in hand, they must dribble to avoid an illegal foot movement. Most players maintain a pivot foot while keeping one foot constantly on the ground, which is not a violation. 

However, a travel will be called if the player switches or lifts the pivot foot without releasing the ball. Jumping up and down with the ball in hand throughout the jump is also considered traveling. Moreover, throwing the ball in the air and then catching it without the ball touching another player, the rim, or the backboard, also qualifies as a travel violation. 

Some players take advantage of the zero steps or the gather step, which permit two steps only with possession of the ball. In this case, it is only called a travel if a player takes three steps or more due to their forward momentum, while having the ball in hand during all three steps. 

Is Taking 2 Steps Before Dribbling a Travel?

Basketball is a game of deceptive foot movements. Players often move with such agility that viewers cannot keep track of their foot movements. But NBA referees aren’t that easy to fool. Players receive a travel call if they take three steps with complete control of the ball. 

A player who receives the ball can take two steps without dribbling, after which the player may come to a stop, dribble, pass or shoot. Any more steps than that will count as a travel. In short, you can safely take two steps before you need to dribble. If you fail to dribble, pass, or shoot the ball after taking two steps,, the ball will be handed to the opponents. .

How Many Steps For A Travel In NBA?

At all levels, including the NBA, three steps qualify as a travel violation in basketball. A player is only allowed two steps with the ball in hand. However, most players like Harden have perfected the ‘gather step’ and ‘euro step,’ which looks like a travel, but perfectly permissible according to the rules.

The gathering step is not counted until the player grabs the ball and brings it to rest or gains enough control to hold it. So technically, you can take an extra step while you’re still gathering the ball, which will be the zero step. 

After that, two more steps are permissible. On the other hand, the euro step is an offensive move. It involves jumping off one foot, hopping in the air, and landing in a jump-stop position. The player then takes a second step in the opposite direction to create space. Both these tricks are a good workaround to the travel rule in the NBA. 

Examples Of Traveling In Basketball

Traveling is a penalty in basketball, which occurs when a player takes an illegal step(s) while having the basketball in hand. This rule ensures a constant movement of the ball to keep the game going. Many instances would constitute a traveling violation. 

The first and foremost is throwing the ball in the air or trying to shoot without the ball touching the backboard, rim, or a different player. Second, if a player moves, drags, or switches their pivot foot, it will be called a travel. Third, jumping without releasing the ball is an ‘up-and-down travel.’ In general, three steps or more without dribbling will warrant a referee’s whistle. It will also be called a travel if a player slides, rolls, or falls with the ball clutched in hand. 


  • 3 steps or more without dribbling the ball constitutes traveling in basketball.
  • Pivot foot, gather step and euro step are legal by the rulebook.
  • Referees do not start counting the number of steps until the player fully gathers the ball.
  • Moving the pivot foot or jumping up with the ball are also counted as traveling.
  • On traveling violations, the opponents will gain control of the ball.

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