Key (basketball)

Key (basketball)

The key, also referred to as the the shaded lane, the paint, the free throw lane and the restricted area, is an area in a basketball court underneath the basket bounded by the endlines, the foul lanes and the free throw line. Usually painted (some courts leave it blanked, with the adjoining area, "the perimeter," which is painted), it is a critical area on the court, where much of the action takes place in a game.


Each level of play has different specifications on the size and shape of the key; in United States leagues, the shape is rectangular, while on FIBA-sanctioned events, the shape is trapezoidal. In additional to the rectangle/trapezoid, the key also includes the free-throw circle, the "head" of the key.

In United States professional basketball, the size of the key is 16 feet (4.9 m), including the convert|2|ft|m wide foul lanes; in college and high school play, it is 12 feet (3.7 m). In NCAA basketball, the half of the free throw circle's marks nearest to the basket are omitted; on other levels, the half of the free-throw circle is traced by dotted lines. [cite web |url= |title=NBA Rule Book |author=NBA Rules committee |Publisher=the NBA |date=2006-08-17 |accessdate=2007-10-12]

In FIBA-sanctioned tournaments, where the key is trapezoidal, the narrowest side is on the free-throw line where it is 12 feet (3.7 m); at the end lines, it is at its widest, at convert|19|ft|m and 8 1/4 inches (6 m). [cite web |url= |title=FIBA/U.S. Rule Differences |author=Anthony Reimer |publisher=Anthony Reimer |date=2007-07-21 |accessdate=2007-10-12]

The free throw circle is with a universally-recognized 6 feet (1.8 m) radius from the free throw line, with the half of the free throw circle farthest from the backboard traced in solid lines. In the NBA, the half closer to the basket must also be traced in a broken line. The free-throw line is 15 feet (4.6 m) from the face of the backboard; the face of the backboard is 4 feet (1.2 m) away from the end-line for NBA and NCAA. The center of the basket is 1.575 m away from the end line in FIBA tournaments, [ [ FIBA 2006 rules] ] while convert|4|ft|m and 9 inches (1.45 m) in NBA and NCAA tournaments; [ [ NBA rules 2007-08] ] [ [ NCAA 2008 rules] ]


Originally, the key was narrower than it is today and had the shape of a skeleton key, measuring six feet (1.8 m) wide, hence "the key", with the free circle as the head, and the shaded lane as the body. Due to the narrowness of the key, imposing centers, such as George Mikan, dominated the paint, scoring at will. To counter this, the key was widened into 12 feet (3.7 m) from convert|6|ft|m at the onset of the 1951-52 NBA season. [cite web |url= |title=George Mikan vs. The Knicks |author=Jeramie McPeek |publisher=The NBA |date= |accessdate=2007-10-12]

Men's professional basketball in the United States (notably the National Basketball Association) widened it further to 16 feet (4.9 m) on the 1964-65 NBA season to lessen the effectiveness of centers, especially Wilt Chamberlain.

On April 25, 2008, the FIBA Central Board approved rule changes that included the changes in the shape of the key -- the key is now rectangular and has virtually the dimensions as the key used in the NBA. In addition, the no charge zone is also created. [ [ The FIBA Central Board approves historic rule changes] ,]


Three-second violation

The key is a restricted area in which players can stay for only a limited amount of time. On all levels, a team on the offensive (in possession of the ball) is prohibited to stay inside the key for more than three seconds; after three seconds the player will be called with a "three-second violation" which will result in a turnover.cite web |url= |title=NBA Rules History |author= |publisher=The NBA |date=2007-2008 season |accessdate=2007-10-12]

In American professional basketball, the defending team is also prohibited to stay in the key for three seconds. If a player surpasses that time, his team will be charged with a "defensive three-second violation", which will result in a technical foul where the team with the ball shoots one free throw plus ball possession and a reset of the shot clock. [cite web |url= |title=FIBA/U.S. Rule Differences |author=Anthony Reimer |publisher=Anthony Reimer |date=2007-07-21 |accessdate=2007-10-12]

Note than in FIBA-sanctioned tournaments, defending teams are allowed to stay on the key for an unlimited amount of time.

In all cases, the count resets if the shot hits the rim or if the player steps out of the lane. [cite web |url= |title=GLOBAL Basketball DIRECTORY (Tha-Tid) |author= | |date=2007-02-11 |accessdate=2007-10-12]

Lane violation

Also, when a player is shooting free throws, players on the foul lanes must not enter the key until the shot is released; the player shooting the free throw shouldn't cross the free throw line until the ball hits the rim. If any of the offensive players violate the rule, it will result in a turnover, for defending players, the free-throw will be retaken if the shot was missed. Note that in FIBA play, if the shooter commits the violation, it is an automatic turnover; if the shot is successful, does not commit a violation, but other players do commit a violation, all violations are discarded. If players from the opposing teams enter the key at the same time, a jump ball would be done to determine who gets the possession of the ball (NBA) or the possession arrow rule (for all other levels), and in FIBA play, that only applies if the shooter misses since a successful attempt negates all other penalties. In all situations, lane violation penalties cannot occur if there are further free throws to be awarded. [cite web |url= |title=GLOBAL Basketball DIRECTORY |author= | |date=2007-09-07 |accessdate=2007-10-12]

Restricted area arc

In the NBA, Euroleague, and starting in 2010, in FIBA play, the key has an additional area, the "restricted area arc", measured as an arc 1.25 m feet from the basket [cite web |url= |title=Rules Committees Adopt Changes |author= | |date=2004-05-04 |accessdate=2007-10-12] (originally two feet [cite web |url= |title=NCAA Adjusting to New Rules |author= | |date=2004-10-15 |accessdate=2007-10-12] ) (collegiate) or four feet from the basket (professional). The defending player in the restricted area arc can't force a charging foul on the opposing team's player, even if the defending player has established position. Other offensive fouls may still be called.


Points made on the key are termed as "points in the paint" or "inside points". The area around the free throw circle's farthest from basket is called the "top of the key", and several plays revolve around this area, such as screens and pick and rolls. In American collegiate basketball, the three-point arc intersects at the top of the key, which could translate plays conducted in this area as three-point field goal conversions.


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