Did Stephen Curry really travel in the last minute?

In the last regulation minute of Saturday’s thrilling Warriors-Thunder game, Stephen Curry was called for a traveling violation and the Warriors lost the possession. Was it a good call?

We recently posted a breakdown of a wrong travel call on Isaiah Thomas (BOS-MIL); this is a follow-up, about a different kind of travel.

As you probably know, a player is permitted to take two full steps "after the gather." The step during which he is still gathering up the ball from the dribble does not count in determining whether or not a traveling violation occurred; it’s considered "part of the dribble."

Curry clearly took only two steps after the gather (see video link above & pics below) — so how was that a travel?

Let’s break it down....

In this first pic, Steph is taking his last dribble. He’s still on his left foot.
Final dribble

Next, he‘s gathering the ball as he steps onto his right foot. This then is his “gather” step, the last one that’s still part of the dribble: — on his right foot.
Gather step (onto right foot)

The next thing he does is jump off of his right foot. (It’s not unusual or particularly important that both feet are off the ground at the same time. That happens whenever humans run. What’s important is how he lands.)
Jump off right foot

This next pic is the critical one. After jumping off his right foot, Steph lands on that same right foot. (A "hop.")
Landing on right foot

So far, Steph hasn’t traveled. A player may jump (or “hop”) and land on either both feet or his gather-step foot and then immediately get rid of the ball (shoot or pass). He may NOT take another step.

Had Steph jumped and landed on his left foot, that would have counted as his first post-dribble step and he would be allowed to take one more step before getting rid of the ball. By landing on the same foot as his gather step — his right — he lost the right to take one more step. At that point, he was done taking legal steps. To avoid the travel call, he would have had to shoot or pass off his right foot after landing.

This last pic shows Steph, after the hop, stepping onto his left foot and about to take the shot.
The travel

This is considered a travel in the NBA — a specifically-defined exception to the 2-steps-post-dribble rule.

Here are several video examples the NBA provides to clarify the “hop” rule: http://videorulebook.nba.com/rule/hop-same-foot-travel. They are virtual copies of what Steph did.

Given that travel calls are so notoriously difficult to get right, gotta give kudos to the refs for nailing this one — on national TV, in one of the biggest games of the regular season.

Green Trends is a regular series of posts in which we analyze the Celtics & identify emerging new trends — before they become obvious. Posts generally run within ~1-20 hours after Cs games.
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