Basketball Glossary

Posted by Rebekkah On July - 12 - 2012

24 second violation: Inability of a team to shoot and hit the rim before the shot clock expires.

Air ball: A shot that misses the backboard & rim of the basket.

Alley-oop: A pass where the receiving player catches the ball in the air and shoots the ball without touching the ground.

And one: This is when a player gets fouled while in the act of shooting but still scores the basket. He then gets the opportunity to make it a three-point play by getting one free throw attempt.  Originates from the referee call team gets the bucket and one free throw.

Assist: A player earns an assist when his pass leads directly to a basket by a teammate.

Backcourt: The half of the court a team is defending. The opposite of the frontcourt. Also refers to a team’s guards.

Backdoor: An offensive play in which a player on the perimeter steps away from the basket, drawing the defender with them, and suddenly cuts to the basket behind the defender for a pass.

Ball fake: A sudden movement by the player with the ball intended to cause the defender to move in one direction, allowing the passer to pass in another direction

Ball hog: A player that does not pass the ball often

Bank shot: A shot that hits the backboard before hitting the rim or going through the net.

Baseball pass: A one-handed pass thrown like a baseball.

Baseline (endline): The mark surrounding the perimeter of the court where all the game action takes place. The baseline is the part of that line at the end of the courts.  The opposite of a baseline is a sideline.

Bench: Refers to substitutes sitting on the sideline, as well as to the bench or chairs they sit on.

Block: 1) To tip or deflect a shooter’s shot before the ball reaches its highest point, altering its flight so the shot misses. Often referred to as a rejection or a blocked shot. 2) A violation in which a defender steps in front of a dribbler but is still moving when they collide. Also called a blocking foul. 3) The small painted square on the floor next to the basket just outside the lane.

Board: A term for a rebound

Bonus: A team is in the bonus when it accumulates seven or more team fouls in a half, giving the other team a free throw on each subsequent foul. Also called being over the limit.

Bounce pass: Passing the ball from one player to another by bouncing it on the floor.

Box and one: A combination defense in which four defenders play zone in a box formation, and the fifth defender guards one player man-to-man.

Box out: To make contact with an opposing player to establish rebounding position between the player and the ball. Also called block out.

Brick: A bad shot that clanks off the backboard or rim.

Buzzer beater: A basket in the final seconds of a game (right before the buzzer sounds) that in itself results in a win or overtime.

Center: Usually one of the tallest player on the team whose skills may include shot-blocking, rebounding and scoring.

Cylinder: The imaginary cylindrical space directly above the rim of the basket. Under NBA rules, the ball cannot be touched when it is in the cylinder.

Dime: Slang term for an assist.

Dish: Slang term for an assist.

Double bonus: In U.S. college basketball, when a team accumulates 10 or more fouls in a half, the other team is in the double bonus, earning two free throws on each subsequent non-shooting foul by the defense. Under college rules, the seventh team foul in a half puts the opponents in the one-and-one, in which the fouled player must make the first free throw in order to earn a second (except for fouls in the act of shooting).

Double double: The feat of collecting ten or more of two statistical categories in one game.

Double dribble: A penalty for dribbling the ball with two hands at the same time or dribbling, stopping, and then beginning to dribble again.

Double team: The act of using two defensive players to guard a single offensive player.

Draft: The selection process to determine on which NBA teams the top newcomers will play.

Draft Lottery: The process that determines the first 13 picks in the NBA Draft. The team with the worst record gets the most chances. The team with the second worst record gets the second most chances, etc. The first three picks are determined by chance, the rest are in inverted order of the teams’ record the previous season.

Dribble: The act of bouncing the ball continuously with one hand.  Dribbling is a requirement for a player to take steps with the ball. To dribble, a player pushes the ball down towards the ground with the fingertips rather than patting it; this ensures greater control.

Dunk (Stuff or Jam): Making a basket by stuffing the ball down through the rim and into the net.

Fast break: A play that occurs when the offensive team quickly gets the ball ahead of the defensive team.

Field Goal: A shooting attempt, missed or successful, by an offensive player during the course of a game.

Flagrant foul: A foul that concerns serious unsportsmanlike personal contact with an opponent on the court.

Foul: Actions by players which break the rules but are not floor violations. These are most commonly committed by defensive players; however, they can be committed by offensive players as well. Players who are fouled either receive the ball to pass in-bounds again, or receive one or more free throws if they are fouled in the act of shooting, depending on whether the shot was successful. One point is awarded for making a free throw, which is attempted from the free throw line.

Forward: One of the three standard player positions, forwards are primarily responsible for scoring and rebounding.

Free throw: An unopposed attempt to score a basket, worth one point, from the free throw line. Generally, two attempts are awarded when the player is fouled in the act of shooting (three attempts are awarded in the case of three point shot), fouled flagrantly, or when the opposing team fouls while over the foul limit. One attempt is awarded for technical fouls.

Free throw line: A line on the court that is 15 feet (4.6) in front of the basket.

Goal tending: A defensive player illegally blocking an opponents shot attempt when the balls’ trajectory is downward, or within the parameters of the rims cylinder.

Half-time: The intermission between the first and second half which usually lasts 12-15 minutes. Teams change the end of the court that they shoot at during half-time.

Illegal defense: Two-defensive players guarding an offensive opponent without possession of the ball.

Jump shot: A shot taken while jumping

Key: The painted part of the court around the basket.  The bottom of the key is the baseline.  The top of the key is the free throw line.  The sides of the key draw a line between both lines and represent the area that players stand behind during a free throw.  Offensive players are also not allowed to stand in the key for more than 3 seconds.  Also called the box, the paint, or the lane.

Lane (or the Paint): The painted area from the end line under the basket to the free-throw line. (Offensive players can not be in the lane more than three seconds this is called a three second violation)

Lay-up: A field goal attempt made from below the basket, laying the ball up near the basket.  The player either lays the ball over the rim and into the basket or banks it off the backboard and into the basket.

Man-to-man defense: A defense designed to allow each player on a team to guard one player from the other team when on defense, as opposed to guarding an area of the floor on defense (zone).

NBA: The National Basketball Association, the largest professional league in the United States

Offensive foul: A rule violation committed by a member of the team playing offense.

One-and-one: In U.S. college basketball, once a team accumulates seven fouls in a half, the other team enters the one-and-one. If a team’s 7th, 8th, or 9th team foul is a non-shooting foul when it is on defense, the fouled player must make the first free throw in order to earn a second. On the 10th team foul, the opponents enter the double bonus, in which all non-shooting fouls by the defense result in two free throws.

Outlet pass: A pass thrown by a rebounder to start a fast break.

Over-and-back: A violation that occurs when the offensive team lets the ball cross the center line back into their own half-court after already establishing a presence in the offensive half-court.  Also called a Backcourt violation.

Overtime: When a game is tied at the end of regulation play, the two teams play a five minute (NBA) overtime. A game can include as many overtime periods as necessary to determine a winner.

Paint: See the lane or key above.

Pass: When a player throws the ball to a teammate.  Used to transfer possession of the ball from one player to another.

Personal Foul: A violation committed by one player against another player. Following a playerís fifth personal foul (sixth in the NBA), he or she is disqualified for the rest of the game.

Pivot foot: The foot that must remain touching the floor until a ball handler who has stopped dribbling is ready to pass or shoot.

Point guard: Usually a teamís best ballhandler. He leads the offense and distributes the ball to the teamís best scorers.

Power forward: Known primarily for their rebounding and defensive skills, they spend most of their time around the basket.

Quadruple-double: The rare feat of amassing double digit figures in four statistical categories during one game.

Rebound: Controlling the ball following a missed shot.

Rejection: See Block above.

Reserve: A player sitting on the bench other than the five currently competing in the game.

Rookie: A player with no prior NBA experience, who usually is acquired in the NBA Draft.

Screen (or Pick): The act of delaying or preventing an opponent from reaching a position, without causing undue contact.

Set shot: A field goal that is shot from a stationary position.

Shot: A player’s attempt to score a basket. The most common form of shooting is jumping straight-up facing the basket, and releasing the ball using your fingertips as a guide.

Shot clock: The shot clock is used to time possessions. The offensive team has a certain time (NBA: 24 seconds, NCAA: 35 seconds) to make a scoring attempt.

Shooting guard: Known primarily for their scoring and shooting, the shooting guard is usually one of the teams top offensive weapons.

Sideline: The white or colored lines which mark the outer boundaries of a court. The opposite of a sideline is a baseline.

Sixth man: Refers to the teamís first player off the bench, after the staring five.

Small Forward: Known primarily for their offense, the small forward is not necessarily smaller than the power forward.

Steal: Taking the ball away from an opponent or intercepting a pass.

Swing-man: A player who can swing back and forth and play two positions.  Often the Small Forward.

Swish: When a shot goes through the net without hitting the backboard or rim.

Technical foul: A foul most commonly associated with unsportsmanlike non-contact behavior. However, some procedural violations are also technical fouls. The term is frequently abbreviated to simply tech or T.

Three-point field goal: A shot attempted anywhere from behind the three-point line of the defending team that, if successful, is worth three points.

Three-point line: An arcing line on the court representing the line behind which three point shots must be taken.

Three second violation: When an offensive player is in the lane more than three seconds.

Time-out: A requested break in action by a team either with the possession of the ball, or when the ball is dead.

Traveling: A violation that occurs when a player holding the ball illegally moves one or both of his feet without dribbling.

Trillion: A stat line in which a player fails to collect either a shot, point, rebound, assist, or foul, thus resulting in a stat line of all zeros.

Triple-double: The feat of amassing double digit figures in three statistical categories during one game.

Triple-Threat: The position derives from the fact that the offensive player with the ball has three choices regarding what to do with the ball. The player can either dribble, pass, or shoot the ball. Because of these variety of choices, defenders must respect the offensive player in the triple threat position and defend all three threats, thus giving a wide berth. The offensive player, therefore, has plenty of room to operate.

Turnover: When a player from one team gives possession to a member of another team by losing the ball. This can result from getting stolen, making mistakes such as stepping out or throwing the ball out of bounds, committing a violation (such as traveling) or committing an offensive foul.

Weak-side: The portion of the defensive team on the court furthest away from the offensive player with possession of the ball.

WNBA: The Women’s National Basketball Association, the largest professional basketball league for women in the United States.

Zone defense: A defensive strategy where one player defends one section of the court