How many travels refs miss per game, and the reasons why
This video explains how many travels refs miss per game on average, and the reasons why. If you haven’t seen some of our other videos that reference it, you might be surprised.
If you’d rather read the transcript than watch the video, checkout the transcript below, although keep in mind there are good some video samples of actual missed travels at the 2:25 and 4:35 marks of the video.
Transcript of video:
We all know in basketball that missed travels are a problem, but it’s really hard to know just how MANY travels are getting missed by refs unless you break down a bunch of game video to get a good sense of the magnitude of the problem.
So we decided to find out for ourselves and break down a bunch of NBA game video to see just how many traveling calls were being missed, taking into account the language in the rulebook.
Well, after doing our analysis — depending on the specific players playing in the game — we counted arguably up to 40-50 travels per game that are not getting called, which is about half of the number of violations overall that are wrong or are missed!
Obviously, all of these travels – if they were called — would have a MAJOR impact on the outcome of most games. And it’s incredible that all of these missed travels are happening right in front of our eyes, and that includes the refs, the players, the coaches, the fans, and the media, but no one is really talking about it! Why is that? Do we just not care if a lot of players are getting away with exploiting our complacency on these missed travels?
I would bet die-hard basketball fans, deep down inside, do care that the rules be enforced and that the eventual champions are truly the champs…fair and square.
We’ve seen what happens when we blow off some of the underlying problems in other industries that turn out to be a house of cards when you look back on it…say, for example, the mortgage lending business. I know the collapse of the housing market is a much bigger deal than this, but when it comes to basketball, we STILL think it’s important to bring up the problem with missed travels so that people can decide for themselves if it’s something that should be addressed, and if not, why not?
With that, let’s go through some detailed examples of travels that are missed.
We’ll call the first category..
1) Pivot foot is raised before the ball is released.
According to the NBA rulebook, it states, “In starting a dribble after (1) receiving the ball while standing still, or (2) coming to a legal stop, the ball must be out of the player’s hand before the pivot foot is raised off the floor.” This is a big one that is missed A LOT, and here are a few examples to point out what we’re talking about…
[2:25 of video starts playing of missed travel examples]
As you saw, there were several examples in less than one quarter of play in one game where we saw this type of violation, yet it wasn’t called.
There’s a second category of travels that’s frequently missed that we’ll call…
2) Sneaking in an extra 1/2 step or full step while “completing a dribble”
According to the NBA rulebook, “A player who receives the ball while (1) he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may take two steps coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.” The operative phrase here is “completion of a dribble.”
The problem with that is that “completion of a dribble” is vague. Refs are very inconsistent in calling what “completion of a dribble” is, which allows many players to sneak in an extra step before the first two steps. And this all gives the ballhandler a huge advantage over the defense and their defender. Here are a few examples.
[4:35 of video starts playing with more missed travel examples where we address the fact the word "gather" (as in "gathering the ball") is used in many NBA circles. But there's only one problem -- the word "gather" does not appear in the NBA rulebook, only the phrase "completion of a dribble," which is very subjective!]
As you saw from some of these video clips, players who exploit the inconsistency in how the refs are calling “completion of a dribble” are able to gain a really big advantage against their defenders, and when you add it up, can have a major impact on the outcome of the game.
Let’s get into a couple of games that we’ve analyzed to show just how many travels are being missed. For the 10/30/10 game between Denver and Houston, we counted 47 missed travel calls, which we’re calling “non-obvious,” which are basically those travels that are tough to catch we’ve been talking about. You’ll see that the pivot foot was lifted before releasing the ball 38 times between both teams. Denver had 24 of these violations. Houston had 14. And Carmelo Anthony was the lead in that he had 14 of these violations that were not called.
The second game involved Houston and LA (10/26/10) where there were 40 of these missed traveling calls. 34 were “pivot foot being raised before the ball is released,” with LA having 16 violations, with Kobe Bryant leading his team, and Houston having 18 with Kevin Martin having 6.
And isn’t it interesting that the leading scorers on their teams are typically the ones who are violating these rules, but are not getting called. So is it a coincidence? We think not. We think there is a very high correlation between high-scoring players and those players who are able to get away with travels.
So what are the reasons WHY we think so many travel calls are being missed?
1) Sometimes it can happen so quickly, it’s hard to detect with the naked eye at real speed. But we think that over time that if refs — if they were trained properly and knew what to look for — it would become much more natural for them to pick up on it and police these infractions.
2) When they do see it, we think “omission bias” kicks in, which is basically the concept that it’s less risky for a ref not to call it and be wrong (because less people will know they are wrong) than if they were calling it, and everyone knew they were calling it, and they were wrong.
3) They just don’t want to slow down the game, or get booed by fans. But we think over time, just like any other rule the NBA starts enforcing, the players will adjust and get better at not violating the rule if the refs are calling it, and eventually the game won’t be slowed down. Maybe at first as players are getting accustomed to it being called, but over time we think it will clean up the game and the game will resume at its normal pace.
So until the NBA does something to cleanup the massive number of missed travels that are occurring in a game and not getting called, we only have enough time at RefCalls.com to report on the most egregious traveling calls that are wrong or missed that have an impact on the game’s outcome at the end of games. But of course, we’ll also be publishing other bad calls and missed no-calls not related to traveling that have a bearing on the outcome of close games. too.
Remember that you can be a part of all this by reporting some of the most major violations that are called incorrectly be refs, or missed, by reporting them in the RefCalls.com/forums. And don’t forget that you can report really bad flops by players in the same forum that could eventually be featured on our sister site TopFlops.com.