What Does Bonus Mean in Basketball

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You probably heard the word “bonus” by NBA commentators. Getting into the bonus in basketball can be an advantage. Other basketball teams also use this as a strategy to win a game. So what does bonus mean in basketball? This article will tell you what this term means and how it impacts the pace and scoring of the game. 

What is the Bonus Rule in Basketball?

The bonus rule in basketball is a rule about foul situations and free throws. It’s also called “penalty situation”. When a team goes over the foul limit, the next fouls committed by the team will grant the opposing team two bonus free throws. 

Regardless of what type of foul is committed, the opposing team will always get 2 bonus free throws. If a team isn’t over the foul limit, they are commonly referred to as having (number) fouls to give. This is commonly heard in both NBA and WNBA games. 

Basketball game between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Florida Gators

How Many Fouls does it take to get into the Bonus?

Depending on the organization for basketball, a basketball game can have a different foul limit in their bonus rule. There are three major organizations after which most basketball leagues pattern their rules. These are:

  • NBA (National Basketball Association)
  • FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball)
  • NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association)
NBACreate a healthy competition between people through basketball
FIBAOrganize, regulate, and define the rules of basketball
NCAAHelps regulate collegiate sports

How Do You Get into the Bonus in the NBA? 

NBA is a professional basketball association that governs the league in North America. It’s not exclusively an American league since there is a team in Canada (Toronto Raptors). 

In the NBA, the bonus rule is applied by quarter. Once a team commits their fifth team foul, the opposing team is awarded two bonus free throws. 

Unique Bonus Rules in the NBA 

  • Only defensive and loose-ball fouls are counted for the team foul penalty. Offensive fouls do not count, except when the team is on a foul penalty situation. 
  • In the last 2 minutes of any quarter, the second foul of a team will result in 2 bonus free throws. This is the rule, even if your team hasn’t reached the 5 foul bonus rule.  
  • In overtime, foul counts are reset to zero. The bonus rule is applied when the team reaches their fourth foul. 


Hack-a-Shaq is a popular basketball strategy popularized by Don Nelson. A team intentionally fouls a low percentage free throw shooter on the court and sends him to the free throw line. 

The NBA made changes to their rules to minimize the use of this strategy. A foul away from the ball in the last 2 minutes of any quarter or overtime will be awarded to the fouled team. They will receive one free throw and possession of the ball

A basketball referee commencing the game with a jump ball

Bonus Rule in FIBA

FIBA is the governing organization when it comes to international basketball competitions. Majority of basketball leagues outside of the U.S like Euroleague follow the FIBA rules.

In FIBA, a total of 4 fouls can be committed per quarter before the bonus rule is applied. Once a team commits the fifth foul, the opposing team will be awarded two penalty free throws. The next succeeding fouls will also award the opposing team with 2 penalty free throws.  

Unlike in the NBA, only defensive fouls count for the bonus rule. The team foul count is also carried over when the game goes to overtime. 

FIBA 3×3

A different variation of basketball is a game where you can only field 3 players. The bonus rule in a 3×3 game is different from regular basketball. 

  • A team can commit up to six fouls in the game. 
  • Fouls over the bonus rule will always award the team with 2 bonus free throws.
  • Tenth fouls and above will result in two bonus free throws and possession of the ball.
  • Offensive fouls do not count in the bonus rule.

Bonus Round for College Basketball

The NCAA, which is in charge of American college basketball, has different rules compared to the NBA and FIBA. NCAA games aren’t played by quarter but in halves. This means bonus rules are applied by half and not by quarter. This is unlike the NBA.

An NCAA college team has a 6 foul team limit per half. However, the penalty is not the same as the NBA, where they give 2 free throws. The penalty is also different when team foul reaches 10 fouls.

Your team fouls in the second half are carried over in overtime. In NCAA, overtime is considered an extension of a half. 

How Do Bonuses Work in College Basketball?

When a team commits its seventh team foul and it’s a non-shooting foul, the opposing team is awarded one free throw. The shooter has to make the first free throw in order to get a second free throw. This is referred to in college as a one and one. 

Shooting fouls aren’t subjected to the one and one rule. The number of free throws given is based on where the player attempted the shot. 

The tenth team foul of the half will give the opposing team 2 free throws, even if the first free throw wasn’t made. 

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about bonuses in basketball.

Do Fouls Reset at Halftime?

Yes, both teams’ faults reset after every quarter or after every half. Therefore, if one team had nine faults during one quarter, this will not count during the next one.

How Many Fouls Before 2 Free Throws?

If a team commits more than 10 fouls during one quarter, the opponent is awarded two free throws. From that point forward, every other foul committed by the same team will end up in a free throw.

Why Don’t Players Jump on Free Throws?

Players don’t usually jump on free throws because they might cross the free throw line. If they do this, it will be considered an illegal movement. Therefore, the shooter shoots the ball without jumping.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.

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