Have Ball, Will Travel: Dwyane Wade (IV)

In this season premiere installment of Have Ball, Will Travel, we’ll take a closer look at Dwyane Wade’s game-winning bucket from Wednesday night’s contest between the Heat and Bobcats.

UPDATE: By way of a rule clarification from the league office and further review of the play, it’s been determined and illustrated that Wade’s move was — contrary to my first analysis — completely legal. Observe:


The crucial determinations here are that of the “gather” and the “first step.” Because Wade gathers the ball while his right foot is on the ground — his “gather” step — he hasn’t officially begun using the two steps he is allotted by NBA rules. Thus, the jump stop he uses to get to the left block is technically the first step of his sequence, allowing him to still utilize a pivot.

Here is the specific wording in the NBA Rulebook that allows for such a play:

A player who comes to a stop on step one when both feet are on the floor or touch the floor simultaneously may pivot using either foot as his pivot. If he jumps with both feet he must release the ball before either foot touches the floor.

If Wade’s right foot had been counted as his first step, the play would indeed have been illegal, and would have resulted in a traveling violation. That wasn’t the case here, though, and though my retraction alone doesn’t mean much, the officials deserve credit for making the right determination on Wade’s gather (which in this case isn’t much of a debatable issue; his foot is clearly planted when Wade collects his dribble) and rightfully allowing the bucket to stand.


You can see the original, erroneous video here.

Post-jump stop pivot moves are about as easy as travel calls get; while drives through traffic or quick spin moves often require slow motion to fully assess without a reasonable doubt, the jump stop is a clear and distinct action easily differentiated from any illegal steps that follow. Even at full speed, we’re able to see Wade execute a nice jump stop, but negate his move with what should have been a turnover.

It wasn’t. The officiating crew flat-out missed this game-changing call, which should come as little surprise to those who regularly eye the footwork of ball handlers in the waning moments of any close game. Most officials do their best to avoid interventionism at such a crucial juncture, and thus whistles of virtually any kind become a bit harder to come by. Such was the case here, and Wade capitalized by completing the possession with a bucket.

It happens. This isn’t the first time a call was missed, and it won’t be the last. But it’s worth pointing out the violation on Wade’s move toward the rim, if only to shine a spotlight on this commonly used bastardization of the jump stop.

For reference, here is the relevant section of the traveling rule, as described in the 2010-2011 Official NBA Rulebook*

A progressing player who jumps off one foot on the first step may land with both feet simultaneously for the second step. 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 returns to the floor.

*The 2011-2012 version is not publicly available, but modifications to the traveling rule were not included among the announced rule changes or even in the points of officiating emphasis.

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