Whether you’re a beginner hooper or fan, understanding the nuanced language of basketball adds a layer of appreciation to all the jaw-dropping jump shots, lightning-fast crossovers, and the strategic symphony of defensive maneuvers. Plus, it’ll help you communicate better with your team or about your favorite squad. From the finesse of a Euro step to the tactical brilliance of a box-and-one defense, today we’ll share some of the most common basketball terms and their definitions in our handy basketball glossary. So lace up and let’s get after it.
To learn more about basketball terms and strategy, check out our printable Creative Basketball IQ Card Pack for Beginners.
Learn Common Basketball Terms and Definitions
Our basketball terms and definitions are sorted into sections to hopefully make it easy for you to find the exact part of the game you want to learn more about. Explore basketball court terms, discover the basketball positions, learn defensive and offensive terms, pick up basketball skills and passing terms, learn about fouls and violations, and finally dive into basketball statistics.
Basketball Court Terms
Get to know the court so when your coach tells you to be somewhere, you know where to go.
- Baseline: The baseline is the boundary line running parallel to the end of the court, behind each basket. It marks the limit of the playing area, and stepping out of bounds over the baseline results in a turnover.
- Baseline Out-of-Bounds (BOB): Baseline out-of-bounds refers to the area outside the court along the baseline where players inbound the ball after it goes out of bounds under the basket. Teams often have specific plays for baseline out-of-bounds situations.
- Behind the Arc: Behind the arc is where the three-point magic happens! It refers to the area on the court outside the three-point line. Players skilled at shooting from behind the arc (hello, Steph Curry and Diana Taurasi!) can make those long-distance shots that add an extra thrill to the game.
- Corners: The corners are the areas on the court where the baseline meets the sidelines. Players often use the corners for three-point shots or as starting points for offensive plays.
- Elbow: The elbow is the junction where the free-throw line meets the key. Offensive and defensive players commonly use the elbows as strategic positions for mid-range shots, passes, and initiating plays.
- Free-Throw Line: The free-throw line is a vital component of the basketball court, situated 15 feet away from the backboard. It is the horizontal line drawn parallel to the baseline facing the basket and extends across the width of the key. Free throws need to be taken behind this line, which are awarded to a player or team following certain types of fouls.
- Free-Throw Line Extended: The free-throw line extended is an imaginary line that continues from the free-throw line out towards the sidelines. It’s a common reference point for offensive and defensive positioning, especially during set plays.
- Half-Court Line (Midcourt Line): The half-court line divides the court into two equal halves. Teams must advance the ball past this line within a specified time to avoid a violation.
- High Post: The high post is the area near the free-throw line at the top of the key. Players positioned at the high post are often involved in passing, screening, and mid-range scoring opportunities, contributing to offensive versatility.
- In the Paint (Key): In the paint is where the action happens near the basket! It’s the area inside the key (the rectangle with the foul line in it), and it’s the battleground for rebounds, layups, and close-range scoring. Get comfortable in the paint, and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the heart of the basketball action.
- Out of Bounds: This is a special line, running all the way around the court on all four sides, that tells players where they can and can’t go on the court. It’s a bit like playing a game of tag, and if you step outside this special area, you’re out of play. So, when the ball or a player goes out of bounds, the other team gets a chance to take control and keep the game rolling.
- Post Area: The post area in basketball refers to the region near the basket, typically within the key or paint or on the blocks right around it. It is a crucial zone where players, especially power forwards and centers, use their physicality and skill to score close-range baskets, execute post moves, and secure offensive or defensive rebounds.
- Sidelines: The sidelines are the boundary lines along the length of the basketball court (these are the sides your team bench is along). Players must stay within these lines during play, and the ball is considered out of bounds if it crosses over them.
- Top of the Key (Top of the Arc): The top of the key, or top of the arc, is the area at the free-throw line directly in front of the basket. It’s a prime spot for three-point jump shot attempts and orchestrating offensive plays.
- Wing: The wing refers to the area on the court between the sidelines and the key. Players often position themselves on the wings for perimeter shots, drives to the basket, or to initiate offensive plays.
Basketball Position Terms
- Center (C): The center is the defensive anchor and a dominant force in the paint (for example Shaquille O’Neal and Brittany Griner). This player is typically the tallest on the team and focuses on rebounding, shot-blocking, and scoring near the basket. Centers play a critical role in both offensive and defensive strategies, often serving as the team’s primary rim protector.
- Point Guard (PG): The point guard is like the quarterback of basketball. This player (for example Luka Doncic and Sue Bird) typically brings the ball up the court, directs the team’s offense, and sets up plays. Point guards are known for their ball-handling skills, court vision, and decision-making.
- Power Forward (PF): The power forward is a force in the paint (for example Rui Hachimura and Breanna Stewart). This player combines strength with agility, excelling in rebounding, scoring in the post, and defending the interior. Power forwards are essential for both offensive and defensive strategies, providing a physical presence near the basket.
- Shooting Guard (SG): The shooting guard is a scoring maestro (for example Kobe Bryant and Jewell Loyd). This player is adept at shooting from long range, driving to the basket, and often plays a key role in perimeter scoring. Shooting guards are versatile offensive weapons with a mix of shooting, agility, and scoring ability.
- Small Forward (SF): The small forward is a dynamic and well-rounded player (for example LeBron James and DeWanna Bonner). This position requires a combination of scoring, rebounding, and defensive skills. Small forwards are often tasked with guarding multiple positions and contribute both inside and outside the paint.
Defensive Basketball Terms
Defense is such an important part of the game, study it!
- Box-and-one defense: The box-and-one defense is a tactical strategy that combines zone and man-to-man defenses. In this approach, four defenders play zone defense, forming a box, while one defender closely guards a specific opponent, usually the opponent’s best scorer. It’s an unconventional defense designed to neutralize a key offensive threat while maintaining zone coverage.
- Box Out: Boxing out is your secret weapon for rebounding! When a shot goes up, you shield your opponent from the basket by putting your body in between. It’s like building a personal force field to secure the rebound.
- Close Out: In basketball, a closeout is like playing superhero defense to stop the opposing offensive player from shooting the ball. When you close out, you quickly run towards the player with the ball, trying to block their shot and protect your team’s basket.
- Contest: Contesting in basketball is like putting up a magical shield to challenge the player with the ball and make it harder for them to score. When you contest, you stretch your arms and jump high, trying to block or distract the shooter to protect your team’s basket. It’s the defender’s way of saying, “Not so fast! You’re going to have to work a bit harder to make that shot!”
- Defense: Defense is your shield on the court! It’s all about stopping the other team from scoring. Like a fortress, you use your body and skills to block shots, steal the ball, and make it tough for the opponents to get past you. Be a defensive maestro and protect your basket.
- Defensive Rebound: A defensive rebound occurs when a defensive player grabs the ball after a missed shot by the opposing team, preventing them from getting another chance to score. Strong positioning, boxing out, and timing are crucial for successful defensive rebounds.
- Double-Team: Double-team is like bringing backup to the basketball party! It’s when two defenders work together to put extra pressure on an offensive player. It’s a tag-team effort to steal the ball, block shots, or force a tricky situation.
- Full-Court Press: The full-court press is when you turn up the heat on defense! Instead of waiting near your basket, you and your teammates put pressure on the opposing team all over the court. It’s like a basketball version of tag, where you try to steal the ball and create chaos.
- Hedge (Pick and Roll): In pick-and-roll situations, a hedge is a defensive strategy where the defender guarding the screener steps out to momentarily disrupt the ball handler’s progress. The goal is to slow down the ball handler and allow the original defender to recover. Proper hedging is a key aspect of defending against pick-and-roll plays.
- Ice Defense: Ice defense is a strategy employed in pick-and-roll situations where the defender forces the ball handler away from the screen and toward the baseline. The goal is to deny easy access to the middle of the court, making it more challenging for the offensive player to create scoring opportunities.
- Man-to-Man Defense: Man-to-man defense is like having a personal bodyguard on the court! In this defensive strategy, each player is assigned to guard a specific opponent, with the goal of preventing them from scoring. It involves close monitoring, quick reactions, and individual responsibility for defense.
- Offensive Rebound: An offensive rebound occurs when an offensive player grabs the ball after a missed shot by the their own team, securing another chance to score.
- Rebound: Rebounding is the art of grabbing the missed shots! When the ball bounces off the hoop or backboard, it’s your chance to swoop in and grab it like a superhero catching a falling star. Get those rebounds, and you’ll be a basketball superhero!
- Shot Block: Shot blocking is like building a fortress around the basket! It happens when a defensive player jumps to deflect or block an opponent’s shot, preventing the ball from reaching the basket. Shot blocking requires timing, leaping ability, and intimidation to disrupt the opponent’s scoring attempts.
- Steal: A steal is the defensive player’s sneak attack! It occurs when a defender legally takes the ball away from an opponent, turning defense into offense in a split second. Quick hands, anticipation, and agility are key elements for a successful steal.
- Trap: A trap is a defensive strategy where defenders (usually two) work together to corner an offensive player, usually near the sidelines or in a corner. The aim of a trap is to create pressure on the ball handler, limit their passing options, and force turnovers. Successful trapping requires coordinated teamwork, quick rotations, and anticipation to disrupt the flow of the opposing team’s offense.
- Weakside Help: Weakside help is the defensive principle of providing support on the side of the court away from the ball. Defenders must be aware of the action on the strongside to help teammates in need, prevent easy baskets, and rotate effectively. Understanding weakside help is crucial for a well-coordinated defense.
- Zone Defense: Zone defense is the basketball version of teamwork on defense! Players are responsible for guarding specific areas on the court rather than individual opponents. It creates a defensive wall, making it challenging for opponents to find open spaces and score.
Basketball Skills Terms
Build your skills and get better results.
- Behind-the-Back Dribble: The behind-the-back dribble involves dribbling the ball behind your back to deceive defenders and change directions quickly. It adds flair and unpredictability to your ball-handling skills, and shield the ball from defenders’ reaching arms.
- Crossover Dribble: The crossover dribble is when you quickly dribble the ball from one hand to the other, leaving your defender a bit dizzy and confused. It’s all about fancy footwork and style.
- Dunk: Dunking is the high-flying, rim-rattling spectacle of basketball! It’s when a player jumps and forcefully slams the ball through the hoop. Dunking turns the game into an aerial acrobatics show!
- Euro Step: The Euro step is a stylish move that originated in European basketball and adds a touch of finesse to scoring. It involves taking a quick side step (rather than directly forward) after picking up the ball while driving to the basket, enabling the offensive player to navigate around defenders and finish.
- Floater: The floater is the basketball version of a gentle touch! It’s a shot taken from the mid-range where a player releases the ball with a soft touch, allowing it to float high over defenders and into the basket. It’s a crafty move for scoring in traffic and used a ton by Ja Morant.
- Hesitation Move (Hesi): A hesi is a deceptive dribbling technique used by offensive players to momentarily freeze or confuse their defender. This maneuver involves a sudden and deliberate pause in the player’s dribble, creating the illusion of an impending change of direction or speed. The hesitation move is designed to make the defender hesitate, providing the offensive player with an advantage to drive past, pull up for a shot, or initiate another offensive action.
- Jab Step: A jab is like a move that players use to fake out their defender and create space to make a play. You keep one foot planted and move the other in any direction, faking like you’re going to drive by whipping the ball and your shoulders low with your moving foot. However, you actually just quickly bring your body back up to shoot or go into any move you want. Check out the master Carmelo Anthony doing some jabs.
- Jump Shot: The jump shot is your ticket to scoring from a distance! You jump into the air, and release the ball aiming for the basket, and following through with your hand (as if dipping into a cookie jar). Master the jump shot, and you’ll be a scoring sensation!
- Layup: The layup is the easiest way to score in the game! It’s like a gentle, high-five with the basket. You dribble, dash towards the hoop, and softly release the ball off the backboard or into the net.
- Pivot: A pivot refers to a player’s foot movement while holding a single foot in place and rotating the other around it. Pivoting is a fundamental skill used to maintain a stationary position without traveling and to change the direction of the player’s body while keeping one foot grounded. It is a crucial technique for players, especially those in the post area, to create space, evade defenders, and execute various offensive moves.
- Post-Up: Post-up is your power move near the basket! If you’re a taller player, you can use your size and strength to position yourself close to the hoop, with your defender on your backside, and your arm out calling for the ball, making it easier for your teammates to pass you the ball. It’s like claiming your spot and saying, “I’m ready to score, pass me the rock!”
- Pro Hop: The pro hop move is a dynamic offensive technique used by players to navigate through defenders when finishing a layup. It involves a quick, explosive jump step, allowing the offensive player to cover ground while absorbing contact.
- Pump Fake: The pump fake is a deceptive move where a player mimics a shot attempt, causing their defender to jump or react prematurely. Once the defender is off balance, the offensive player can take advantage of the opening to drive or take a shot.
- Spin Move: The spin move is a dazzling offensive maneuver! It involves a player planting one foot (their pivot foot) and spinning quickly while dribbling to evade defenders and create space. It’s like a dance move that leaves opponents twirling in confusion. Here’s a good example from LaMelo Ball.
- Step-Back Shot: A step back shot in basketball is when a player is dribbling and then quickly pushes off their pivot foot in a backwards jump as they pick up their dribble, before shooting the ball. It’s a sneaky way to quickly create a little space. Watch James Harden do the step back.
- Three-Pointer: The three-pointer is is a shot taken from beyond the three-point arc, and if it goes in, it’s worth three points instead of the usual two.
- Triple Threat: Triple threat is your superhero stance. When you catch the ball, you can stand in the triple threat position, ready to dribble, shoot, or pass. It’s like having three superpowers at your disposal.
- Up and Under: The up and under is a move where a player fakes a shot, causing the defender to jump, and then quickly moves around or under them to attempt a different shot. It’s a crafty way to outsmart defenders anywhere on the court, but it’s especially used in the post a lot.
Basketball Passing Terms
Be a great teammate and pass the ball. Check out some of the NBA’s greatest passing moments to get inspired.
- Alley-Oop: The alley-oop happens when a teammate throws the ball near the basket, and another teammate jumps, catches it mid-air, and scores in one fluid motion. It’s a jaw-dropping move that brings magic to the game!
- Behind-the-Back Pass: The behind-the-back pass involves passing the ball to a teammate by reaching around the back and releasing the ball, adding flair and unpredictability to the play. This pass is a stylish way to surprise defenders and create scoring opportunities.
- Bounce Pass: The bounce pass involves bouncing the ball off the floor towards a teammate to evade defenders. This pass is particularly effective in crowded situations, as it keeps the ball low and less prone to interception.
- Chest Pass: The chest pass is your basketball delivery service! Hold the ball close to your chest and push it out with two hands towards your teammate’s chest. It’s a quick and accurate way to share the basketball love with your teammates, especially your taller teammates, so they don’t have to bend.
- No-Look Pass: The no-look pass is the basketball version of a surprise party invitation! It’s a pass executed by a player without making direct eye contact with the teammate receiving the ball. This skill keeps defenders guessing and adds an element of style to the game.
- Outlet Pass: The outlet pass is a quick and long-distance pass from a rebounder to a teammate way down the court, often triggering a fast-paced offensive transition. Outlet passes aim to catch the opposing team off guard and capitalize on speed.
- Overhead Pass: The overhead pass is executed by extending both arms overhead and releasing the ball with a two-handed push. This pass is useful for covering longer distances and passing over defenders.
- Passing: Passing is the basketball version of sharing smiles. It’s when you throw the ball to your teammate with precision and teamwork. Whether it’s a chest pass, bounce pass, or overhead pass, passing is the key to making your team shine.
- Wraparound Pass: The wraparound pass is a crafty move around defenders! It involves wrapping the ball around the defender with one hand while passing it to a teammate. This pass is effective in tight spaces and helps avoid defenders’ hands.
Basketball Offensive Terms
Not offensive like rude, offensive like we’re going to get buckets!
- Backdoor Cut: A backdoor cut is the basketball equivalent of a surprise party! It’s a clever offensive move where a player makes a sudden and quick cut behind their defender toward the baseline or basket. The objective is to catch the defender off guard and receive a pass for an easy scoring opportunity near the hoop.
- Baseline Cut: The baseline cut is a sneaky play behind the curtain, along the baseline! A player swiftly moves along the baseline to catch the defense off guard as they’re typically looking forward watching the ball, often leading to an open shot or a quick drive to the basket.
- Baseline Drift: Baseline drift refers to the subtle movement of offensive players along the baseline. It’s an essential concept for both attackers and defenders, as offensive players use baseline drift to find open spaces for shots or passes, while defenders need to be aware of this movement to prevent easy scoring opportunities.
- Baseline Drive: A baseline drive is an offensive move where a player with the ball dribbles along the baseline towards the basket. It’s a strategic maneuver to penetrate the defense, potentially leading to a layup or creating opportunities for kick-out passes to open teammates.
- Dribbling: Dribbling is like dancing with the basketball. It’s the skill of bouncing the ball with your fingertips onto the ground while you move around the court. Imagine you’re guiding the ball with your hand, keeping it close and under control.
- Drive (to the Basket): Driving to the basket involves a player aggressively dribbling towards the hoop, aiming to get past defenders and finish with a layup or draw a foul. It’s a bold and direct offensive move.
- Fast Break: The fast break is the express lane to the basket! It’s when your team steals the ball or gets a rebound and quickly moves the ball down the court, catching the opponents off guard. It’s a race to the basket, and speed is your best friend.
- Field Goal (Basket): A field goal refers to a successful scoring play made by a player when the ball enters the opponent’s basket. Field goals can be scored from anywhere on the court, and they contribute various point values depending on the location of the shot.
- Finishing: Finishing in basketball is like putting the perfect topping on an ice cream sundae—it’s making sure the ball goes into the hoop and scores points for your team. Whether it’s a smooth layup, a powerful dunk, or a tricky shot, finishing is about making that last move to get the ball through the basket. So, when you’re near the hoop, think of finishing as the grand finale to your basketball performance!
- Flare Screen: A flare screen is a strategic offensive play where a player sets a screen away from the ball handler, usually toward the three-point line. This creates space for a teammate to receive a pass and take an open shot. It’s a clever way to free up shooters and catch the defense off guard.
- Flash Cut: A flash cut is a quick and decisive movement by an offensive player towards the ball, often from the weakside to the strong side. This cut is aimed at receiving a pass and making an immediate offensive move, catching the defense off guard.
- Free Throw: Free throws are the basketball version of a quiet moment. When a foul is called, you get a chance to shoot unopposed from the free-throw line. It’s like having a one-on-one conversation with the hoop. Breathe, aim, focus, and shoot for those easy points.
- Give and Go: Give and go is a classic play that’s all about teamwork! A player passes the ball to a teammate and immediately cuts towards the basket. The teammate then passes it back (gives) for an open shot or layup (go). It’s a quick and effective way to keep the defense on their toes.
- Isolation: Isolation, or iso for short, is like having a solo in a basketball performance! It’s a play where a player takes on their defender one-on-one, using their skills and creativity to create scoring opportunities without much involvement from teammates.
- Iverson Cut: Named after basketball legend Allen Iverson, an Iverson cut involves a guard making a sharp cut across the court using a series of screens. This maneuver is designed to create separation from the defender, allowing the offensive player to receive the ball with space to operate.
- Off-Ball Movement: Off-ball movement is like playing hide and seek on the court! It involves a player without the ball making strategic cuts, screens, or changes in direction to get open for a pass or shot. It keeps the defense guessing and creates scoring opportunities.
- Perimeter Shooting: Perimeter shooting is showcasing your shooting skills from the outside. It involves taking shots from beyond the key or three-point line, adding variety to the team’s offensive arsenal and keeping defenders guessing.
- Pick and Pop (Screen and Pop): The pick and pop is a dynamic duo move! A teammate sets a screen (pick) for the ball-handler, then quickly moves away (pops) to an open spot for a potential shot. The pick-er makes the decision to pop if their defender is sagging off of them, staying back towards the basket.
- Pick and Roll (Screen and Roll): The pick and roll is the ultimate tag team move. It involves one teammate setting a screen (the pick) to block the ball handler’s defender, allowing the ball handler to zoom around to the basket like a race car. The pick-er can also then roll towards the basket or flair out towards the three, to get a pass from the ball handler. It’s teamwork at its finest!
- Shot Clock: The shot clock is your game timer for scoring! It’s a countdown clock that limits the time a team has to attempt a shot. Teams need to take a shot before the buzzer sounds, adding an element of urgency and strategy to the game. Beat the shot clock, and you’ll keep the scoreboard busy!
- Staggered Screen: A staggered screen is an offensive play where two or more players set screens in sequence, creating confusion for defenders and allowing a teammate to navigate through the screens for an open shot or drive. It requires precise timing and coordination among the offensive players.
- Three-Point Field Goal (Three-Point Basket): A field goal made from beyond the three-point line is classified as a three-point field goal. Shots made from this distance, typically around 23.75 feet from the basket in the NBA, earn the team three points.
- Transition: Transition is the swift change from defense to offense (or vice versa)! It’s like flipping a switch and going from guarding your basket to sprinting down the court for a scoring opportunity. Master the art of transition, and you’ll catch your opponents off guard.
- Transition Offense: Transition offense is the basketball version of a fast-paced chase! It’s the strategy of quickly moving the ball down the court after gaining possession, catching the defense off balance and creating scoring opportunities before they can set up.
- Two-Point Field Goal (Two-Point Basket): A field goal made from anywhere inside the three-point line is considered a two-point field goal. This includes shots made close to the basket, mid-range jumpers, and other areas within the arc.
Basketball Fouls Definitions
Steer clear of fouls by knowing the rules.
- Clear Path Foul: A clear path foul happens when a defender fouls an offensive player who has a clear path to the basket and no defenders between them and the hoop. The fouled player gets free throws and their team retains possession of the ball.
- Defensive Foul: A defensive foul is the defender’s version of breaking the rules. It happens when a defender makes illegal physical contact with an opponent by hitting or pushing them, or touching their shooting hands. Avoid those defensive fouls to keep your opponents on their toes without any freebies!
- Flagrant Foul: A flagrant foul is the basketball version of a major no-no! It’s an aggressive foul where a player makes unnecessary or excessive contact with an opponent, and it can result in severe penalties. Both flagrant fouls carry a penalty of two free throws and the team that was fouled retains possession. An FF2 also results in the ejection of the player committing the foul (a player who commits two FF1’s in the same game is also ejected). Remember, play hard but play fair – avoid those flagrant fouls!
- Foul: A foul is when you break the rules by being a bit too physical or not giving your opponent enough space. When a foul happens, the other team gets a chance to shoot free throws. Play fair, play smart, and avoid those fouls! There are many types of fouls including:
- In the Bonus: Being in the bonus is like a reward for drawing fouls! When a team accumulates a certain number of team fouls in a quarter or half (five in the WNBA and NBA), the opponent gets free throws for every subsequent foul. It’s an opportunity to capitalize on your opponent’s mistakes and score without the clock running.
- Loose-Ball Foul: A loose-ball foul occurs when players jostle for a rebound or a loose ball, and one of them commits a foul in the process. It results in free throws for the other team.
- Offensive Foul: An offensive foul occurs when an offensive player uses illegal tactics to gain an advantage, like pushing off or charging into a defender. It results in a turnover, giving the ball to the other team. As one example, in the WNBA, Arike Ogunbowale gets called for the push off quite a bit.
- Over-the-Back Foul: This is a type of foul that is common lexicon, but is really just a defensive foul, that happens when a player tries to rebound the ball by moving, pushing, pulling, or jumping over the back of an opposing player who is already in position. The fouled player gets free throws as a reward for proper box-out technique.
- Personal Foul: A personal foul happens when a player makes illegal physical contact with an opponent. Each player is allowed a certain number of personal fouls (six in WNBA and NBA) before facing consequences like free throws for the other team.
- Shooting Foul: A shooting foul is the price to pay for being too hands-on during a shot attempt. It occurs when a defender fouls a player in the act of shooting. The fouled player gets free throws, providing a chance to score without the pressure of defenders.
- Technical Foul: A technical foul is the referee’s way of saying, “That’s not cool!” It’s called for unsportsmanlike conduct, arguing with officials, or other non-contact rule violations. Technical fouls result in free throws for the opposing team when one technical foul is assessed. No free throw attempts are awarded when a double technical foul is assessed.
Basketball Violations Definitions
Watch out for violations.
- Backcourt Violation: Backcourt violation is the basketball version of crossing forbidden lines! It occurs when the team in possession of the ball takes it back across the half-court line once they’ve already crossed it.
- Double Dribble: Double dribble is a no-no! It happens when you dribble, stop (by picking up the ball or putting your hand all the way under it), and then start dribbling again. It’s like hitting pause on your favorite song and then trying to start a new one.
- Five-Second Inbound Violation: The five-second inbound violation is the basketball version of a countdown before the curtain rises! It happens when a player with the ball has five seconds to pass it inbounds to a teammate. If the pass doesn’t happen within the time limit, it’s a turnover, and the other team gains possession.
- Goal Tending: Goal tending is when a player blocks a shot that’s already on its way down toward the basket.
- Ten second violation: The ten-second violation occurs when the team with possession of the ball takes more than ten seconds to get the ball past the half-court line (NBA). Keep the game moving forward to avoid this violation.
- Three-Second Violation: The three-second violation is like overstaying your welcome in the paint. It happens when an offensive player spends more than three seconds in the key (the painted rectangle area around the basket) without attempting a shot or leaving. Tap both feet in and out of the paint to avoid this violation.
- Traveling: Traveling is when you move your feet without dribbling or passing. Keep those feet in check, and you’ll stay in the basketball groove.
- 24-Second Shot Clock Violation: The shot clock violation is the basketball version of running out of time on the dance floor! It occurs when a team fails to attempt a shot within 24 seconds of gaining possession of the ball. Time management is crucial to avoid the shot clock violation and keep the game flowing smoothly. Please remember that even though the shot clock doesn’t start when you chose to let the ball roll on the ground down the court, but the game clock does! Jordan Poole learned this the hard way.
Basketball Statistics Terms
Some of these are a bit advanced, but they’ll help you study up on how to improve your game.
- Assist-to-Turnover Ratio (AST/TO): The assist-to-turnover ratio, expressed as AST/TO, is a measure of a player’s passing efficiency. It is calculated by dividing the total number of assists by the total number of turnovers. A higher assist-to-turnover ratio indicates effective playmaking and decision-making on the court.
- Double-Double: A double-double occurs when a player achieves a double-digit number in two statistical categories, typically points and rebounds, or points and assists. It’s a sign of a well-rounded and impactful performance.
- Field Goal Percentage (FG%): Field goal percentage is a statistical measure of a player’s accuracy in making field goals. It is calculated by dividing the total number of made field goals by the total number of field goal attempts and then multiplying by 100. A higher field goal percentage indicates greater shooting efficiency.
- Free Throw Percentage (FT%): Free throw percentage, abbreviated as FT%, measures a player’s accuracy in making free throws. It is calculated by dividing the total number of made free throws by the total number of free throw attempts and then multiplying by 100. Free throw percentage is crucial for capitalizing on scoring opportunities from the free-throw line.
- Player Efficiency Rating (PER): Player Efficiency Rating, known as PER, is an advanced statistic that evaluates a player’s overall performance by taking into account various statistical contributions, such as scoring, passing, rebounding, and defense. It provides a comprehensive assessment of a player’s impact on the game.
- Triple-Double: A triple-double is the basketball version of a jackpot! It happens when a player reaches double digits in three statistical categories, usually points, rebounds, and assists. It’s a rare and impressive feat that highlights a player’s versatility and all-around contribution to the game.
General Basketball Terms
- Airball: An airball is the basketball version of a miss that misses everything! It occurs when a player’s shot fails to touch the rim, backboard, or net. (On our court, you do push ups when you have one of these. It’s OK though – it happens to even the best players sometimes!)
- And-One: And-one is the basketball bonus! It happens when a player makes a basket while being fouled, and the points from their basket count. The player then gets a free throw opportunity to add an extra point to their score. It’s a chance for a three-point play.
- Ball Movement: Ball movement is the fluid and efficient passing of the ball among teammates on offense. A team with good ball movement creates open shot opportunities, confuses the defense, and maximizes scoring chances. It emphasizes teamwork, communication, and unselfish play.
- Bench Points: Bench points are the points scored by players coming off the bench rather than the starting lineup. A strong contribution from the bench is valuable for a team, providing fresh energy, different skill sets, and maintaining scoring efficiency when starters are resting.
- Coach: A coach in basketball is a leader who helps the team become amazing at the game! They often wear a whistle and draw up plays to guide the players, as well as run practices. Coaches can teach you how to dribble, shoot hoops, and work together, making basketball a blast to play.
- Hooper: This is used to describe someone who is skilled and proficient at playing basketball. It’s a casual and affectionate term within the basketball community, often used to refer to individuals who not only play the game but also embody a deep passion and dedication to basketball culture.
- Jump Ball: A jump ball in basketball is like a mini contest that starts the game with excitement! It happens at the center circle, and two players from different teams jump to catch the ball thrown up by the referee. The team that grabs the ball gets the first chance to score and show off their awesome basketball moves.
- Points: Points are the magical numbers that light up the scoreboard and show how well a team is doing in the game. Every time a player successfully puts the ball through the hoop, their team earns points. Whether it’s a gentle layup for two points or a long-distance three-pointer worth three points, the more points a team scores, the closer they get to winning the game and celebrating victory.
- Overtime: Overtime is like a bonus round of the game when the score is tied at the end of regular playtime. It’s when teams get extra time to break the tie and find out who the real champions are. So, imagine it like getting extra dessert after dinner—it’s a little more time for more fun on the basketball court. (It also happens to be the name of a basketball media company.)
- Referees (Refs): Referees in basketball are like the superheroes of the game who make sure everything is fair and square! They usually wear cool stripes and blow a whistle to keep the players in check. Referees make sure everyone plays by the rules so the game stays super fun and as safe as possible.
- Score: You score when a player puts the ball through the hoop. So, the more baskets your team makes, the bigger the score, and that’s how you rock the basketball court. A teammate might also ask you, “What’s the score?” – and they’ll want to know the teams overall points.
- Scoreboard: The scoreboard in basketball shows everyone who’s winning! It has numbers that light up to tell us how many points each team has. So, when you glance at the scoreboard, you’ll know if your team is leading the game.
- Swish: Swish is the sweet sound of success! It happens when the ball goes through the basket – it’s that wonderful noise from the net.
- Tie: A tie is when two teams have the same number of points at the end of the game. It’s when the score is like a big high-five, saying, “Hey, we’re both really good!” When there’s a tie, sometimes teams play a little more to break it and find out who gets the ultimate victory.
Basketball League Terms
- Athletes Unlimited Basketball: Athletes Unlimited is a groundbreaking women’s sports organization founded in 2019 that has reimagined traditional team sports like basketball. The basketball league runs every winter for about a month – and the location switches to a new city each year. What sets this league apart is its innovative player-centric model, where athletes are not bound to specific teams. Instead, they earn points based on individual and team performances, leading to weekly changes in team compositions. Notable players sign to the league including Allisha Gray, Kelsey Mitchell, Natasha Cloud, and Izzy Harrison.
- NBA: The National Basketball Association is the premier professional basketball league globally, founded in 1946. What sets the NBA apart is its elite level of competition, featuring the world’s top basketball talent. The league boasts legendary players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant, who have left an indelible mark on the sport. Known for its intense rivalries, iconic teams, and the annual NBA Finals, the league has become a global phenomenon, captivating fans with its high-flying athleticism and thrilling matchups.
- WNBA: The Women’s National Basketball Association is the premier professional women’s basketball league, founded in 1996. What distinguishes the WNBA is its dedication to showcasing the extraordinary talent of female athletes in a highly competitive environment. The league has been a platform for iconic players like Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Maya Moore, whose skill and achievements have contributed significantly to the league’s global impact. The WNBA’s commitment to gender equality and providing a stage for women to excel in basketball has made it an influential force in the sports world.
- Fiba 3X3: FIBA 3×3 is a fast-paced and dynamic form of basketball played with three players on each team. Founded in 2010 by the International Basketball Federation, this variation emphasizes quick decision-making, agility, and skill in a half-court setting. What sets FIBA 3×3 apart is its unique scoring system, where baskets inside the arc are worth one point, and those made from beyond the arc are worth two points.
- Overtime Elite: Overtime Elite (OTE) Basketball League is a professional basketball league for young prospects founded in 2021. OTE is unique as it targets high school players who choose a professional path instead of traditional collegiate basketball. The league provides a platform for young talents to develop their skills and receive compensation, challenging the conventional route to the NBA. Specific athletes who joined the OTE League included top prospects like Amen and Ausar Thompson.
- Overtime Select League: Overtime Select League is a four-week league for elite high school girls basketball players taking place during the summer of 2024 at OTE Arena, Overtime’s 103,000 square-foot facility in Atlanta, Georgia
- Unrivaled League: Unrivaled is a new women’s professional basketball league that was founded by WNBA players Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier. The league will run from January to March during the WNBA offseason. The league will feature 30 of the top WNBA players on six teams. The players will compete in 3-on-3 and 1-on-1 games at a soundstage in Miami. The league’s goal is to give top women’s basketball players another option to play in the offseason without having to travel overseas.
- USA Basketball: USA Basketball is the national governing body for basketball in the United States, overseeing various national teams and programs. It was founded in 1974. What distinguishes USA Basketball is its role in assembling and training national teams to represent the United States in international competitions, including the Olympics and FIBA events. The organization has seen legendary athletes don the USA jersey, including Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Diana Taurasi, Jewell Loyd, Ariel Atkins, and more who have played pivotal roles in securing numerous gold medals for the United States.