Could The NBA Really Ban Charging? History Shows The Foul Has Become The Problem It Was Designed To Solve

Ja Morant taking a charge

Getty Image


The NBA Playoffs have historically featured the best guys in the league, which isn’t exactly a huge surprise when you consider having one (or more) of the most talented basketball players on the planet on your team tends to be conducive to punching your ticket to the postseason.

2023 was certainly no exception, as the vast majority of the players who earned a spot in the All-Star Game during the regular season ended up getting the chance to compete in the playoffs.

However, it didn’t take long for some of the game’s most notable names to make a premature exit for some unfortunate reasons.

Midway through the fourth quarter of the first game between the Lakers and the Grizzlies, Ja Morant was forced to exit a contest that had been a pretty close affair up until that point after he injured his hand on a lay-up attempt where Anthony Davis successfully drew a charge.

It didn’t take long for Giannis Antetokounmpo to befall a similar fate, as the big man was seen clutching his lower back after colliding with Kevin Love (who unsuccessfully attempted to take the charge) in Game One of the series between the Bucks and the Heat.

Giannis was thankfully able to avoid any serious injury, and X-rays determined Morant hadn’t suffered any detectable physical damage.

However, those two incidents brought some renewed attention to an issue that’s become increasingly hard to ignore as more and more NBA fans assert the charge should no longer be considered an offensive foul.

A number of respected basketball writers have come forward to make a case for that particular argument (one that’s been floated for years) and it’s very likely those calls will only grow louder if the league fails to address an issue that has routinely (and somewhat unnecessarily) put its players in harm’s way.

It may seem like a fairly bold take at first glance, but if you take a closer look, it’s actually pretty easy to see where the proponents of the proposed rule change coming from.

Why some basketball fans want the NBA to ban the charge

Embed from Getty Images

On January 15th, 1892, the student newspaper at Springfield College published a list of the 13 rules James Naismith dreamed up after introducing the world to the sport of basketball by nailing a peach basket 10 feet above the floor at a YMCA.

Those regulations barred players from “shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking” their opponents. However, it took close to 40 years for the charge to come into existence, as the NCAA officially added the violation to the rulebook ahead of the 1928-29 season.

The rationale was fairly straightforward: if defenders weren’t allowed to make illegal physical contact, then it made sense that ball-handlers should also be subjected to a penalty for initiating contact on a play where the defender has the upper hand (which, in turn, would theoretically cut down on injuries stemming from the actions of the person with the ball).

The basketball world’s approach to the charge has evolved over the past century or so (the biggest change is probably the introduction of the “restricted area” the NBA introduced in 1997, which nullified any potential offensive foul that occurred within four feet of the basket).

Part of the reason that zone was introduced was to cut down on the risk of injury that came with stepping into the path of a player charging down the paint with a full head of steam; defenders previously had some major incentive to do exactly that, but that was no longer the case when the action resulted in an automatic blocking foul.

However, the charge has still been a source of controversy (and injuries) thanks to the NBA’s underwhelming ability to consistently determine what constitutes the “legal guarding position” that’s supposed to differentiate it from a block.

There’s also another factor that’s impossible to overlook when it comes to this particular issue.

Taking a charge can be a smart basketball move that plenty of players are willing to capitalize on, but it’s also an incredibly boring one from a fan perspective.

You obviously can’t blame guys for taking advantage of the rulebook, but there have been countless occasions where some absolutely unreal dunks and other plays have been nullified because someone planted their feet, covered their family jewels, and calmly waited to get put on a poster while hoping that general lack of effort would be enough to negate the bucket.

As a result, it’s very easy to argue eliminating the charge would allow the NBA to give fans a more entertaining product in general—and the fact that it could also theoretically reduce the harm players are subjected to in the process is really just icing on the cake.