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Megan Avi HeaderThe jump ball is used in every single basketball game, no matter the level of play, to start the game a.k.a. the tip-off. It’s a neutral start (or as neutral as human error can allow for) where the ball is thrown up in the air between two opponents who then swat at the ball for possession. Basically, it’s a hockey faceoff in the sky. That sounds way more badass than it actually is.

Unlike hockey’s faceoff, the jump ball is really not used for the rest of the game. In the NBA, the jump ball will only be used after instances where neither team has clear possession of the ball like when they are both wrestling for it on the floor or when both teams are assessed penalties that cancel each other out. Jump balls are also used to start any overtime period.

In college hoops, the jump ball is only used to start the game and overtime periods. For any other possession disputes like the ones listed before, the NCAA uses a possession arrow. The possession arrow is set after the tip off, pointing to the team that lost the fight for first possession. After that, the possession arrow alternates back and forth for the duration of the game as possession situations occur. The arrow also determines which team will get the ball to start each half. This seems extremely participation trophy-esque to me, but then, all of college basketball is sad compared to the NBA.

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