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NBA’s technical foul limit: After how many do players get a suspension?

Necessary? Controversial? Silly? Some of the words used to describe the disciplinary call known as the technical foul, but what is it and how does it work?

Necessary? Controversial? Silly? Some of the words used to describe the disciplinary call known as the technical foul, but what is it and how does it work?
Alonzo AdamsUSA TODAY Sports

We’re taking a look at the NBA’s technical foul. A much maligned part of the referee’s arsenal when it comes to controlling a game, the ‘tech’ can be both infuriating and fair when it comes to the dynamic world of the NBA.

What is the technical foul and how does it work?

In simple form, a technical foul can be called on any player who is in the game or sitting on the bench for conduct that is deemed by an official to be detrimental to the game. To be clear, the technical foul must be charged to an individual and can’t be called as a result of physical contact while the ball is in play. It’s worth noting, that the technical foul exists at all levels of basketball. From high school to college and of course the NBA, it is part of the game and in each of those cases, if a player accumulates two techs within a game, he is automatically ejected from it.

On the other hand, the NBA differs in one important aspect in that the league utilizes a technical foul tally. What that means is that players can accumulate up to 16 technical fouls in a season, after which they receive an automatic suspension for every two additional technical fouls that they pick up. In other words, if you’ve got a player sitting on 16 technical fouls, they will be automatically suspended for one game when they hit 18 and understandably the same will occur if/when they get to 20. The idea is obviously to curb ill-discipline.

The NBA uses fines to support the technical foul

Aside from playing time which can be cut for a player who can’t behave, the league has also taken the stance of hitting them in their pockets. That’s to say that all NBA players are fined for each and every technical foul that they receive. Adding further weight to this scenario, is the fact that the fines themselves are tiered, meaning that the amount charged increases as they approach their 16th. For a look at what those tiers are, see below:

  • Technical fouls 1-5: $2,000 fine each
  • Technical fouls 6-10: $3,000 fine each
  • Technical fouls 11-15: $4,000 fine each
  • Technical foul 16: $5,000 fine + one game suspension
  • Each additional technical foul: $5,000 fine
  • Each two additional technical fouls (18, 20, etc.): $5,000 fine + one-game suspension

It’s also important to note, that when a player is suspended, he is not paid for that specific game i.e., aside from the sanction which he has to pay, he doesn’t get paid himself. If there is any concession, it’s the fact that should a player receive his 16th technical during the final game of the regular season, it isn’t carried into the post season or the following season if his team failed to make the playoffs. On that note, we should mention that all technical foul tallies are reset when a player’s team makes the playoffs, however, automatic suspensions still exist in the post season. To that end, players are suspended after their seventh technical foul during the playoffs.

The NBA’s technical foul leaders

Back on March 3rd, the Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks picked up his 16th technical foul which resulted in his automatic suspension for the game which followed on March 5th. Similarly, the Warriors’ Draymond Green picked up his 16th just two days ago on March 15th, meaning he won’t be available to the team when they play the Hawks on Friday 17th. Close behind them, we’ve got the ever-tenacious Luka Doncic who is one tech away from a suspension and so too is the Hawks’ Trae Young.

As for who has the record for the most technical fouls in NBA history, that honor belongs to Rasheed Wallace who picked up more than 300 techs across his 16-year career. In case you’re wondering, that’s 19 per season, but to be fair to Wallace, the suspension rule was only implemented 11 years into his career. For a player to break his record, he’d have to serve a minimum of 14 suspensions, which is a lot.


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