To determine the ball location, all you really only need to know is: Who or what is touching it? Or, what touched it last?
Rule 4-4 about Ball Location says a lot. This section of the rulebook includes some of those rules that we take for granted. It’s not sexy, but it is important. The location of the ball, or status of the ball, is determined by this rule. Articles 1 and 2 focus on when the ball is in the front court (or rather, not in the backcourt), and when it is in the backcourt. Article 3 covers the status of the ball when it is in flight. Article 4 is the focus of the following video. Article 5 says which parts of the backboard a ball can touch and still be inbounds. Article 6 gives us the language we use to determine backcourt violations (two feet and the ball), and article 7 defines when the “ball is at the disposal of a player.”
Article 4-4-4 states, “A ball which touches a player or an official is the same as the ball touching the floor at that individual’s location.” If you want to review player location, find Rule 4-35. If we consider that ball location is important, we should probably then also consider the rules that determine player location as also important!
The following play is pretty straight-forward. The defensive player swipes at the ball a few times, and our vantage point doesn’t really allow us to determine if he actually hit the ball or not. The important thing to recognize is that the official was able to rule that the defender was in contact with the ball while his foot was touching out of bounds. If these two things don’t happen at the same time, then the ball location is never out of bounds. The ball location is out of bounds only when the player is in contact with the ball and the out of bounds area simultaneously.