Trying To Define NBA Flagrant Fouls

What Is A NBA Flagrant Foul?


The NBA does not have a flagrant foul problem. Anger, aggressiveness, and even fighting are a part of all pro sports. Competition at the highest level will occasionally spill over into ugliness and dirty play. None of it is good, but all of it is real. The problem is trying to define NBA flagrant fouls.

Here is a nice compilation of flagrant fouls through the years. Some are easy ejections. Should the one’s that aren’t obvious be considered flagrant 1’s?

I believe if it cannot be fully determined if a flagrant foul is dirty enough to be a flagrant 2 and result in an ejection, then it shouldn’t be called as such. If you aren’t sure, leave it as a flagrant 1. It should be obvious in regular speed, not slow motion. Let the NBA dole out punishment after the game if necessary if a flagrant 1 needs to be upgraded. That way a suspension can still be applied in the next game.

I believe in hard fouls, and not dirty fouls. The league has done a good job of cleaning stuff up over the years, both with flagrants and technicals. I believe in some respects they’ve even gone too far in disallowing physical play.

There isn’t a major problem, with nothing alarming about these flagrant/ejection stats.


There were 92 players who committed a flagrant foul this season.

4 players committed 3 each. Another 18 players committed 2 each.

Only 43 players were ejected over the course of the season (2460 games).

Like anything with officiating, consistency is the most important thing. The word “excessive” is what differentiates a flagrant 1 and 2. The rule-book then lists the following:

1. The severity of the contact;

2. Whether or not the player was making a legitimate basketball play (e.g., whether a player is making a legitimate effort to block a shot; note, however, that a foul committed during a block attempt can still be considered flagrant if other criteria are present such as recklessness and hard contact to the head);

3. Whether, on a foul committed with a player’s arm or hand, the fouling player wound up and/or followed through after making contact;

4. The potential for injury resulting from contact (e.g., a blow to the head and a foul committed while a player is in a vulnerable position);

5. The severity of any injury suffered by the offended player; and

6. The outcome of the contact (e.g., whether it led to an altercation)


Based on the rules, I’d believe the Al Horford foul was a flagrant 1 and the Dwight Howard foul was a flagrant 2. Problem is they were ruled the opposite. I don’t think rules are written in an unclear way. I just think people see things differently. The league may feel as though this isn’t confusing, but if players, fans, and media talk about it like it is, then it is, and it needs to be adjusted.