Basketball Terms

Basketball Terms and Their Meanings: The Definitive Guide

You’ve been playing basketball for a week now. When in the court, you hear the player mention certain words. But you don’t seem to understand any of these terminologies. You feel that you’re not a competent basketball player.

Does all this sound familiar?

  • YES

I know what you’re lacking: the meaning of different terminologies used in the basketball game. Like any other sport, basketball too has its language that you need to fully understand if you want to be the next Michael Jordan or Yao Ming.

Eager to learn these terms that can make your game fun? Nice. Here we go...


All Basketball Terms and their Meanings

Assist:

Starting with the most straightforward term in basketball which is assist. It means passing the ball to your teammate that will directly lead to a goal.

Alley-Oop:

This must be the most amusing basketball term by far to say out loud. And it refers to a high pass near the basket that has been tipped in or dunked by another player.

You’ll be more amused to hear the origin of this word. It comes from the French exclamation- “Allez-hoop!” where it’s used to draw attention to athletic feet e.g. a lift upwards.

Buzzer beater:

This term is used to refer to the shot a player takes before the end of the buzzer but goes into the basket when the buzzer has already gone off.
Next time you hear the referee utter Buzzer beater, you know exactly what he means!

Backboard:

Describes the board behind the basket where the ball usually hits ad rebounds.

Rebound:

A rebound in basketball will occur when the player possesses the ball right after a three-point field goal, free throw attempt, or a field goal.

The ball will hit the rim or the backboard to be credited with the rebound before the player possesses it.

Note that there are only two rebounds in basketball- offensive and defensive basketball. If you happen to possess the ball after a blocked shot, this is not counted as a rebound.​

Rebound per game:

This is directly related to the previous term. It’s a statistic term that refers to the mean number of rebounds that a player achieves per game.

It’s calculated by dividing the total number of games in a given sum of games by the total number of games.

Cherry-Picking:

As the words might give you a slight clue, this lingo refers to the strategy of a player who does very little defensive work. Instead, he waits for an opportunity at the opponents’ basketball to score.

This strategy is highly attributed to the tallest players in the team. However, it’s important to note that is seen as a controversial tactic in amateur leagues and ca result into a penalty.

Double:

As the words might give you a slight clue, this lingo refers to the strategy of a player who does very little defensive work. Instead, he waits for an opportunity at the opponents’ basketball to score.

If you hear someone say double-double, it simply means that he/she has doubles in two of these 5 categories. For a triple-double, the player has doubles in any three of the five categories.

Fast Break:

Before we move on, note that this is an offensive strategy in the basketball game. And it involves moving the ball up the court as fast as possible with the real intentions of securing a good position that will grant you scoring opportunity before the defense sets up. A fast break is sometimes related to cherry picking.

Field Goal:

NO! We’ve not jumped into the football lingo. We’re still defining basketball terms, where a field goal is taken to describe either two- or three-pointer shots (excluding the free throws).

Another term you might hear and is directly related to this is field goal percentage. It describes the total number of basket shots to the shots taken by a player or a team.

Full-Court Press:

You’re likely to hear this team when your team plays defense for the entire court’s length, rather as what you could expect (i.e., half-court length).

Though most teams might deploy this defense tactic for the entire period of the game, some will only utilize it when the game is trailing towards the last minute and the team tries to force turnovers.

Key:

Look at your basketball court. Can you locate the rectangular-shaped keys with one part beneath the basket and the other directly in front of the basket?

  • YES

Good. These are the keys. They’re defined by the free-throw line, the end line, and the two other lines that connect them. The area is officially known as free throw lane and unofficially referred to as the paint?

Pick and Roll:

Pick and Roll is the most common offensive play in this sport. How it rolls out? Well, it begins with a member of the offense being in possession of the ball and being guarded by a member of the defense.

Then another player in the offense team pops up behind the defensive player to set a screen (a pick) behind the player. In such a setting, the player handling the ball will “roll” around his fellow player.

This leaves the defender to choose whether t continue defending the ball handler or the player who picked him.

Posting Up:

Another basketball offense…It describes the scenario where a player (of course on the offense), sets up close to the basket ad right below the foul line. He usually faces away from the basket and his back towards the defender. As you can see, this position will allow the player to protect the ball and even open up multiple scoring opportunities.

Run and Gun:

Run and gun! A term that describes a super fast offensive tactic that emphasis on fast breaks and scoring opportunities. Usually, teams playing with this type of offense will both score and allow rewarding of many points.

Sixth Man:

Are you the sixth man of your basketball team? Find out right below here...

While there are five players from your team in the court, the sixth man is usually used to refer to the first, non-starting player who’s off the bench. This player is considered by his team as more valuable than any other reserve player.​

Rejected:

Another term that can be used to described a blocked shot.

Turnover:

This word is taken to mean the different ways in which the ball moves from one team to the other. Can you picture a single way in which your team is able to take the ball from the team you’re playing against? Right, that’s a kind of turnover.

Triple Threat:

Look at this scenario: a player receives the ball and fails to dribble it. What might he/she be intending to do with it? We don’t know for sure. As such, the player is considered as a triple threat. 

  • He/she can either shoot, dribble, or pass it.

Restricted Area:

The area located under the basket, outlined by a dotted line and takes the shape of an arch. That’s the restricted area. Located inside the key, this is an area on the court where no charging foul can be taken by the offensive player.The defensive player is supposed to spend a maximum of three seconds in this area.

Running The Point:

If you’re playing point guard position, you’re running the point. Because the point guard is regarded as the leader of the offense, running the point is taken to mean setting up an offensive play.

Shot Clock:

In basketball, shot clock refers to a timer used to increase the game pace. In NBA, FIBA and WNBA games, a team is awarded 24 seconds to take a short. For men’s college games, the period is 35 seconds.

For women’s college games, the period is 30 seconds. Note that the offensive team is required to attempt the shot and hit the rim (at least) before this time expires. Otherwise, it might result in shot clock violation…

Shot Clock Violation:

This occurs when the offensive team fails to attempt a shot within the given timeframe we’ve just discussed above. It also occurs if the attempted shot fails to hit the rim.

Small Ball:

If you think this is about using a ball of smaller size that the actual size, you’re very wrong. Small ball refers to the strategy where one basketball team might sacrifice its strength and size and get a speed and outside shooting in return.

Usually, it’s the centerman who’s replaced with someone smaller and good at perimeter scoring.

Square Up:

Next time you watch a basketball game and note that the shooter faces their shoulders and feet towards the basket before actually attempting the field goal, that’s square up! In simpler, squaring up means facing the basket.

Stuff:

Every time the defensive blocker will meet the attacker at the net and then deflect the ball to the floor on the side of attacking team, this is referred to as stuff. It’s another term used to describe the block/ attack block.

Swingman:

Can you play two positions on your basketball team? f yes, you’re a true swingman. A swingman is anyone who takes two positions in their basketball team and does it excellently. Most swingmen handle the shooting guard and small forward.

Up and Down:

There are many violations made by basketball players and Up and Down is one of them. In this violation, the player jumps in the air and lands back to the ground while still in the possession of the ball. The appropriate penalty will follow this violation.

Up and Under:

A term used to describe the offensive move where the player tricks out the defender by acting like he’s going up for a shot (which is not the case).

When the defender is tricked this way, he leaves his/her feet and jumps leaving the player to freely dunk with the ball and move around him (the defender) and attempt a shot.

Use the Glass:

Also known as a bank shot and occurs when the offensive player uses the backboard to make shots. The name glass is used in this lingo since the backboard used by college teams and professionals are made of glass.

Windmill Dunk:

This is one of the many types of the dunk. It’s pretty awesome and you can try it by bringing the ball up to your waist level, move your arms straight back and up in circular motions you dunk the ball over your head.

You can conduct a windmill dunk with one or two hands. Can you do a windmill dunk?

Perimeter:

The area on your basketball court outside the free throw lane is known as the perimeter. But note that this area is inside the three point line. If you take any shots within this area, they’ll be labeled mid-range or perimeter shots.

Pure Shooter:

A player who can consistently make jump shots, especially from three-point range, is known as a pure shooter. If you observe such players keenly, you’ll note that they usually stay behind the three point line and will wait until they get open shots which have high shooting percentages.

Push the Ball:

I don’t want you to literally push the basketball when told to d so in your next game. I’ll, therefore, tell you the real meaning of this basketball term.

Pushing the ball is the case where an offensive player dribbles the basketball up the court quickly. They do this because they want to take advantage of fast breaks.

Put Back:

When you grab an offensive rebound, as an offensive player, and score a field goal right from under the basket, you’ve simply put back the basketball.

Outlet Pass:

For an uncountable number of times, you’ll hear this word being uttered in the basketball games. It occurs when the player gets a rebound on his defensive end, and then passes the ball to a teammate who proceeds to make a fast break.

Final Thoughts

Like any other sports, basketball has its own lingo. The above list comprises of the most common basketball terms you’ll hear every now and then.
These terms are used even in official NBA basketball games and the earlier you get to know them, the better.

Oh! Before I forget, Rock is a term used to describe the basketball.

About the Author Michael Jordan

This is Michael Jordan, a 26 years old guy. Besides my study and part time job, I'm passionate about playing basketball, cycling and exercising. BasketBallNinja.com is the place where I'm sharing my thoughts on the internet and I love the way here!Follow Our Guide and Be a NINJA Basketball Player with US!Keep following my blog Post and enjoy playing basketball like a pro!

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