The Controversy over the NBA’s “Take Fouls” Tactic

Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals: the Cleveland Cavaliers vs the Golden State Warriors. The score is 89-89 with 2 minutes and 11 seconds left to go in the game. Kyrie Irving brings the ball up for the Cavaliers and drives in for a layup off the screen by Jr Smith. He misses, and the rebound is grabbed by Andre Iguadala of the Warriors.

Now, the Cavs have options, either foul a Warriors player to stop the fastbreak scoring opportunity, or rush back in hopes of stopping a basket on the other end. They choose the latter. This led to one of the biggest blocks in Finals history by one Lebron James in transition. What if they took a take foul instead? A play like that would not have been possible.

A take foul, also known as a Euro foul from its common use in International play before FIBA (The International Basketball Federation) changed the rules surrounding the tactic, is an intentional foul committed by a player to stop the opposing team from scoring in transition or on a fastbreak. 

This tactic from a fan’s perspective is often seen as annoying and unnecessary. Teacher Steven Pyle, long time basketball and Philadelphia 76ers fan says, “It’s stopping a lot of exciting plays. I think that as a fan, that it’s frustrating and takes away from the enjoyment of the game.” 

There’s been an increase in take fouls in the league for the past couple of years, especially during the 2021-2022 NBA season. 

Pyle says, “They’re happening more often. I think it’s starting to become coached. If they had been doing this back in the day, the Showtime Lakers probably wouldn’t have been able to do what they did.”

Those Lakers, from 1979-1991, led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, prioritized their fastbreaks and won five championships from this style of play. 

Even league coaches want to see this tactic taken out of the game. Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, expressed his dismay on this tactic, telling ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, “It’s terrible. It’s terrible for the game. It’s terrible for the fans.” 

Local youth basketball coach Tim Peeples adds about take fouls, “I don’t like them; I think it slows the game down. It’s a smart strategy for coaches to use, but from a fan’s perspective, it’s no fun and slows the game.” 

From more of a coach’s view, though, he then said, “A coach’s job is to use whatever he has at his disposal to win the game, so if it’s going to help me win a game, I’ll probably do it even though I don’t like it, but if it’s at my disposal, I gotta do what I gotta do.” 

Regardless of advantages or disadvantages, viewers want one thing from NBA games, highlights. They want the poster dunks, the lob passes, the alley-oop jams, the pull-up threes from 30 feet. Those plays are being taken by the take foul, and as for now, it’s up to the league to remove this tactic, all eyes are on them to address this situation.