How many fouls do you get in an NBA game?

David West, New Orleans Hornets. Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
David West, New Orleans Hornets. Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Listen, promise that you won’t hate me, but any time I’m playing pickup basketball and the opposing team is one point away from winning, and my assignment creates an advantage, I intentionally foul them. I’m gentle about it, but I still foul them.

From an analytical standpoint, my strategy makes sense. I have an unlimited number of fouls in pickup basketball, so why not foul to avoid conceding the game-winning layup? Why not force them to hit a tough jumper to beat you?

Fortunately, from an entertainment standpoint, you can’t replicate my strategy in an NBA game. There is a set number of times you are allowed to foul through the course of a game. And if you’re wondering (you probably are, considering you clicked on this article), that number is six. The most times you can foul in an NBA game is six.

What happens if you commit six fouls in an NBA game?

Nothing at all! No, I’m just kidding. If you commit six fouls in a single game, you are taken out and disqualified from checking back in for the rest of the contest. Keep in mind that the limit on the number of fouls a player can commit in a single game does not change regardless of the circumstance. It doesn’t matter if it is a preseason, regular season, or playoff game. The rule remains the same.

The limit also doesn’t change if the game goes to overtime – no matter how many overtimes the game requires in order to reach a conclusion. You get capped at six fouls if the game takes 48 minutes to complete. And you get six fouls if the game takes 78 minutes to complete (which actually happened once in 1951).

Who has committed the most fouls in New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets’ history?

Since this is a website dedicated to the New Orleans Pelicans, we may as well add a New Orleans wrinkle to this post. The Pelicans/Hornets’ all-time leader in personal fouls committed is franchise stalwart David West, who committed 1,386 fouls during his 530 games with the team. He committed 280 more personal fouls than the player in second place in this category, Anthony Davis.

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