Staying Live During a Dead Ball

By Tim Malloy

When the ball becomes dead, the officiating crew must remain ‘live’ and on high alert!

To break your concentration during this temporary break in game action because of a timeout, a violation, a free throw or free throw, etc. is a bad habit that will quickly harden and betray you at the worst opportune time.

 Dead ball officiating is about concentration and awareness.


When calling a foul, do not turn from the play too quickly and head to the reporting area without assessing the situation that  just transpired…Read the mood of the ‘crime scene’ before striding to the score table. And as an off-official switching on fouls, be sure to observe the players, and do not concern yourself with the whereabouts of the ball. It will either carom off a wall and roll not too far away, or a kindhearted spectator will return t to you.

It is important to freeze your field of vision. There can be few things worse for an official, and a crew, for a player to be injured by a punch or a deliberate elbow, and no one saw what happened.


Do not turn your back on an out of bounds play and when signaling a violation. Keep your eyes on all of the players.


During this stoppage of play, know the position and demeanor of all of the players as they cross paths moving towards their respective benches. Being mindful that something unsportsmanlike could occur at this time will allow you stifle any player posturing, and accurately punish the rightful offenders.


Before you administer a throw in, visually “sweep the floor;” find your clocks (game and shot); make sure each team has five players on the floor; and glance at the score table to see if there are any substitutes waiting to  come in.


The calling official must hustle to, and stay with, the player that was fouled and preempt any thoughts that player may have of retaliating. The off-official(s) must move quickly into the scenario and be both a calming and authority presence that will keep any teammates of the fouled player from expressing their displeasure on the nature and severity of the foul.

Remember, dead ball officiating is all about concentration and awareness.

You must remain ‘live’ (and in a mindset of readiness) when the ball is dead. You and your crew will be ‘autopsied’ to determine how much burden you will bear for what misconduct occurred during this break in the action, so it would be in your best interest to form the good habit of being alert at all times you are on the floor.

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