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Basketball Terms




Air Ball: A missed shot that does not hit the rim or the backboard.

Alternating-Possession Rule: The alternating-possession rule is a method of replacing the jump ball situation with a throw-in. Under this rule, the team alternates possession of the basketball in successive jump-ball situations. For example, if Team A gets possession after the first jump-ball situation, Team B would get possession after the second jump-ball situation.

And One: Refers to when a player is fouled while scoring and gets a chance to shot one more free throw.

Assist: A pass that leads directly to a scoring play.

Backcourt Violation: Refers to after the offense has brought the ball into the front court, the basketball goes to the backcourt without being touched by the defensive team. A backcourt violation results in a turnover and the ball is awarded to the defensive team.

Ball Boy: A boy who retrieves the ball for players and or referees in a basketball game or practice.

Ball Hog: A player would is unwilling to pass the ball.

Bank Shot: A shot that bounces of the backboard.

Benchwarmer: A player who rarely enters the game, and thus keeps the bench warm.

Block: When the defensive player legally touches a field goal attempt from an offensive player and results in a miss.

Block Out: When a defensive player blocks the offensive player's path to the basket when a shot goes up. The purpose of a block out is to gain a better rebounding position.

Boards: Rebounds.

Bounce Pass: A pass where the ball bounces on the ground at least once before reaching the receiver.

Box Out: Same as block out.

Brick: A badly missed shot.

Bucket: A made basket.

Buzzer Beater: A basketball right before the buzzer that signals either the end of the game, the end of a half, or the end of a quarter.

Center: A position in a regulation (5 on 5) basketball game. A center is usually the tallest player on the team, and is responsible for using his or her size to score and to defend.

Charity Stripe: Free throw line.

Combo Guard: A player who can either play the point guard position or the shooting guard position.

Defensive Rebound: A rebound by the team/player that is playing defense.

Dish: Pass

Double Double: Refers to double-digit stats in two positive categories. For example, 16 points and 14 assists is a double-double.

Double Dribble: Refers to when a player dribbles the ball, touches the ball with both hands, and then dribbles the ball again. A double dribble results in a turnover, and the ball is awarded to the defensive team.

Double Team: When two defenders guard one offensive player.

Downtown: Beyond three-point line.

Dunk: A type of shot where a player powers the ball through the basket using one or both hands.

Fast Break: A type of offense where the offensive team moves the ball to the front court quickly in an attempt to score a basketball by outnumbering the opposing team.

Field Goal: A made basketball during live play. A field goal is worth either two or three points, depending where the shot is initiated.

Field Goal Percentage: Number of field goals made divided by number of field goal attempts.

Finger Roll: A type of shot where the player rolls the ball off his or her fingers with one hand.

Flagrant Foul: A serious personal foul, where the referee judges that the foul involves excessive or violent contact. The result of a flagrant foul is usually free throw(s) plus possession of the ball to the team whose player is fouled.

Flop: Refers to an act where a defensive player intentionally falls down backwards when guarding an offensive player with little or no physical contact, in an effort to get the referee to call a foul on the offensive player.

Forward: A player who plays the small forward or the power forward positions is considered a forward.

Foul Out: Each player can only commit a certain number of personal fouls (5 in international play and 6 in the NBA). When the player reaches this limit, he or she fouls out and cannot stay in the game.

Foul Shot: Free throw.

Four-Point Play: Refers to the play where a player is fouled while making a three-point shot, and who subsequently makes the free throw, for a total of 4 points.

Free Throw: An undefended shot from the free throw line, which is 15 feet from the basket. Each made free throw is worth one point.

Full-Court Press: When the defending team actively guards the offensive players in the offensive backcourt.

Goaltending: When the defensive player touches a shot when it is on the way down but still above the basket. In such instances, the shot is considered good whether it actually goes through the basket or not.

Guard: A player who plays either the point guard or the shooting guard positions is considered a guard.

Hook Shot: A type of shot where the player, usually not facing the basket directly, shots the ball using one hand with a sweeping motion that ends with the shooting hand above the head.

Hoop: The rim that players try to put the basketball through. A hoop is mounted to a backboard.

In The Paint: Refers to when a player is in the rectangular area between the free throw line and the end line, an area that is usually painted.

Jump Ball: A jump ball is used to start a play. A referee tosses up the ball between two players, and these players attempt to gain control of the ball by tapping it to a teammate.

Layup: A two-point shot where a player drives in to the basket, releases the ball off one hand, and bank the shot off the backboard.

Man-To-Man Defense: A defensive scheme where each player on the defensive team is responsible for guarding a single player on the offensive team.

Nothing But Net: Refers to a shot that swishes throw the net without hitting the rim or the backboard.

Offensive Foul: A personal foul committed by an offensive player.

Old-Fashioned Three: Refers to the play when a player is fouled while making a two-point field goal, and who subsequently makes the free throw, for a total of three points. This is referred as "old-fashioned" because prior to the introduction of the 3-point line, this was the only way to get three points in a play.

Personal Foul: A violation of rules, usually related to contact with an opponent.

Point Forward: An unofficial position in basketball, where a forward whose primary responsibility is to pass the ball to teammates.

Point Guard: A position in a regulation (5 on 5) basketball game. A point guard is usually the shortest person on the team, and his/her primary responsibility is to distribute (pass) the ball to set up teammates for a score.

Power Forward: A position in a regulation (5 on 5) basketball game. A power forward is usually taller than all other players with the exception of the center. A point forward's primary responsibility is to score from close to medium range, as well as to rebound.

Prayer: A desperation shot that has little chance of going into the basketball.

Quadruple Double: Refers to double-digit stats in four positive categories. For example, 16 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds, and 10 blocks is a quadruple-double.

Rebound: The act of gaining possession of the ball after a missed field goal attempt or a missed free throw.

Shooting Guard: A position in a regulation (5 on 5) basketball game. A shooting guard is usually shorter than the forwards and the center, and his/her primary responsibility is to score.

Shot Clock: In basketball, each team has a certain amount of time to put up a shot (for example, in the NBA this is 24 seconds). The shot clock is used to track the amount of time a team has before this allotted time runs out.

Sixth Man: The first substitute who enters the game.

Sky Hook: Usually refers to the hook shot by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He is able to throw up the hook shot from further than most other players, and hence the shot looks as though it falls from the sky, thus the name "sky hook."

Small Forward: A position in a regulation (5 on 5) basketball game. A small forward is usually shorter than the center and the power forward and is taller than a guard, and his/her primary responsibility is to score points, while also bearing secondary rebounding responsibilities.

Starting Lineup: The five players who are on the court at the start of a basketball game.

Steal: When a defensive player gains possession of the basketball from the offensive team in live play.

Swingman: A player who can play either the shooting guard position or the small forward position.

Team Fouls: The number of fouls a team has in that stanza of play (quarter or half).

Three-Point Field Goal: A field goal where the shooter has both feet outside of the three-point line. That field goal counts as three points.

Timeout: A stoppage of play.

Trey: Three-point shot.

Triple Double: Refers to double-digit stats in three positive categories. For example, 16 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds is a triple-double.

Turnover: Refers to when a team gives up possession to the opposing team without putting up a field goal attempt or a free throw attempt.

Zone Defense: A defensive scheme where each player on the defensive team is responsible for guarding a specific area as opposed to a specific offensive player.