Are Technical Fouls Ruining The NBA?

Technical Fouls In The NBA

Put your thinking caps on, because it’s time for a quiz. Which one of these situations can result in a technical foul during an NBA game:

A. Kobe Bryant, in frustration, bounces the ball with extra force after being called for a blocking foul, resulting in the ball accidentally bouncing into the second row of seats

B. Dwight Howard gets tangled up with a defender and throws an elbow into his opponent’s chin to “create separation”

C. Lebron James gets called for a questionable charge, and deals with his disappointment by grimacing and jogging away from the referee

Dwight Howard Elbow

That’s a trick question folks, because in the 2010-2011 NBA season, any of those situations can get a player T-ed up. That’s right, causing the ball to bounce off the court, hitting someone in the chin, and making a displeased face can all cause you to receive a technical foul. (How do you actually write out that expression? Teed up? T’ed up?)

In an effort to make basketball the most boring sport on the planet, NBA commissioner David Stern has expanded the definition of a technical foul and, by extension, taken away every emotional aspect of the game. Proponents of the league’s move call it enforcing respect for the game. Players and fans call it overkill.

David Stern Picture

“The emotion of the game can never be taken out of the game of basketball,” two-time reigning MVP LeBron James said before the regular season started. “And that’s when the fans, that’s when the real guys, and the people who are watching and who know the game of basketball will know there’s a problem with the game.”

In fact, it does seem like a problem has arisen. In previous seasons, technical fouls were handed out for infractions occurring after play had ceased, such as fighting, yelling and gesticulating at refs, repeatedly arguing calls, or being visibly disrespectful to the refs. Players could also get called for technical fouls for leaving their benches unnecessarily (read: when players on the court start fighting).

This season, however, refs are much more technical happy, T-ing players up for offenses that, in previous seasons, wouldn’t have even registered.

Take, for example, Lamar Odom getting called for a technical foul during a Lakers-Suns game for punching the air after getting fouled. He wasn’t arguing the call. If anything, he was agreeing with it! Did he punch the defender? No. Did he punch the ref? No. He punched the AIR.

Kyle Korver got the short end of the technical foul stick when the Bulls faced off against the Toronto Raptors early in the season. After experiencing contact with a defender, Korver looked at a ref and pointed to his elbow, indicating that believed a foul should have been called. Little did Korver know that pointing your elbow is apparently incredibly offensive, and he received a T.

And just the other day, Richard Hamilton was ejected from the Lakers-Pistons game in the first five minutes of the first quarter. After picking up his second foul at 7:01, Rip looked towards referee Mark Stafford and talked about the call. Stafford issued Rip his first technical, and when Rip continued to talk, Stafford sent him to the locker room. For talking.

Rip Hamilton Gets Ejected

It seems that players can hardly breathe without receiving a technical foul. In addition to previously known offenses, players can no long talk to the refs about any call, regardless of their tone, attitude, or level of aggression. And in addition to expanding the definition of a technical foul-worthy offense, David Stern has also raised the fine associated with these fouls. In 2010, players are now fined $2,000 for each of their first five technical fouls, $3,000 for each of the next five, and $4,000 for technical fouls 11-15. Starting at their 16th, players are suspended one game for every two technicals, along with $5,000 for each.

Technical fouls, when issued correctly, have their place in the NBA. We’re not talking about a gang of kids playing pick up ball at the park here. This is a multi-billion dollar industry and regulations are needed. Technicals for fighting, running off the bench into the game, and blatant disrespect towards the refs are understandable. They keep the game from getting out of control and prevent players from exacting revenge on each other.

Kobe Bryant Arguing and Technical


Well, in most cases. While the threat of a technical foul has always been present in the NBA, that little T hand formation wasn’t enough to stop the disaster affectionately known as “Malace at the Palace” which occurred when the Detroit Pistons took on the Indiana Pacers on November 19, 2004. After fouling Ben Wallace from behind, Ron Artest escaped the resulting on-court fight and laid out on the scorers’ table. When a fan threw a cup of Diet Coke at his chest, Artest took to the stands, punched an innocent bystander in the face (believing that person to be Coke-hurler) and incited a fight involving 9 NBA players and countless spectators.

Could the refs have blown their whistles and started throwing techs? Sure. Would it have made a difference? Of course not. Instead, they (correctly) ended the game early.

Now, this of course is an extreme example. But it only serves to highlight the fact that technicals aren’t the be all end all of game management, and the refs need to realize this before they get all get carpal tunnel syndrome from all the Ts they’re forming.

NBA Technical Fouls

In an average NBA game , denying players and coaches the ability to even question a call is taking it too far. Not allowing calls to be questioned implies that the referees never make an incorrect call, which we all know isn’t true. If it were, technicals wouldn’t need to be reviewed and, as is often the case, repealled. When a foul is overturned by the league (read: David Stern), it only serves to undermine the refs’ judgement and makes players and coaches want to question calls even more.

David Stern, and his crew of Fun Police…. ahem, refs…. need to calm down. Sure, officiate the game, keep things moving, and ensure sportsman-like behavior. But let the players play, the whiners whine (a bit), and let everyone just enjoy watching the game. Even if they don’t agree with a call.



Ashley Walker is a writer and editor living in Las Vegas. An avid sports fan, Ashley expresses her interest through her contributions to Prose Before Hos and on her personal sports blog, Skirt on the Sideline. Ashley is also a natural beauty writer for the Las Vegas Examiner. Links to Ashley’s work can be found on her website


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