Basketball Glossary – A


Air Ball – A shot that completely misses the rim and the backboard.


Alley-Oop Pass – A pass thrown with a high arc near the basket so a teammate can make a leaping catch and score in a single motion.



Basketball Glossary – B


Backboard – The flat surface directly behind the basket. The basket is connected to the backboard.


Backcourt – That half of the court that is the farthest from the offensive basket. Also, the position played by the guards.


Back-Door Cut – A cut behind the defender and toward the basket.


Back Screen – A move by an offensive player away from the basket to set a screen for a teammate.


Ball – The basketball is 9 ½ inches in diameter and weighs 20 to 22 ounces.


Ball Fake – A fake pass or shot.


Ball Handler – Player controlling the ball; can also mean a player known for skillful handling of the ball.


Ball Side – The side of the court on which the ball is located. Also called the strong side.


Bang the Boards – To go after a rebound very aggressively.


Bang the Glass – See the basketball glossary term “bang the boards”.


Bank Shot – A shot in which hits off the backboard and then rebounds into the basket.


Baseball Pass – A one-handed pass used to advance the ball to a cutter going toward the basket.


Baseline – Also called the end line. This line extends across both ends of the court behind the baskets.


Basket – Consists of the rim and the net.


Behind-the-Back-Dribble – A dribble behind the body from one hand to another.


Behind-the-Back-Pass – A pass thrown behind the back.


Between-the-Legs-Dribble – A dribble through the legs from one to another.


Blocked Shot – Deflection of a shot by touching part of the ball on its way to the basket.


Blocking – The use of a defender´s body position to prevent an opponent´s advance.


Blocks – The square markings six feet from the baseline on each side of the lane.


Bounce Pass – A pass that hits the floor between the passer and the receiver.


Box Out – Establish and maintain a rebounding position between the basket and your opponent.


Basketball Glossary – C


Carrying – You may not dribble the ball with both hands at once or turn the ball over in your hands. You’ll be called for carrying if you do. This is also called “palming”. To avoid this offense, be sure to always keep your palms facing the floor while you dribble the ball.


Catch & Face – Technique for receiving a pass and squaring up to the basket; similar to the triple-threat position.


Center – Often the tallest player on the team. Normally plays close to the basket and is responsible for getting rebounds and blocking shots.


Change-of-Pace Dribble – Alternately slowing down and speeding up in order to penetrate past a defender.


Chest Pass – A two-handed pass thrown from the chest.


Chin It – The position of the ball after a rebound: directly under the chin with the elbows and fingers up.


Clear Out – When an offensive player leaves an area so the ball handler has more room to maneuver.


Clock-Down Cut – A cut toward the baseline by a helpside forward.


Control Dribble – A low dribble used when closely guarded.


Court – The area on which a basketball game is played; bounded by 2 sidelines and 2 end lines, containing a basket at each end.


Cross Screen – A lateral move by an offensive player to set a screen for a teammate.


Crossover Dribble – A dribble from one hand to the other in front of the body.


Crossover Step – An offensive move consisting of a jab step followed with a step in the opposite direction.


Curl Cut – A cut off a screen toward the basket; is used when the defender is trailing the cutter.


Cut – An offensive move to elude a defender or drive to the basket.


Cylinder – The imaginary area directly above the basket where goaltending or basket interference can occur.


Basketball Glossary – D


Dead Ball – Any ball that is not live; occurs after a successful field goal or free-throw attempt, after the whistle is blown, and if the ball leaves the court.


Defense – The team without the ball; also the act of trying to stop the opponent from scoring.


Defensive Rebound – A rebound by a player on defense.


Disqualification – A player is disqualified after reaching five personal fouls in high school and college and six fouls in the NBA. Both players and coaches can also be kicked out of a game for many offenses such as arguing with a ref or fighting.


Double Team – When two players from the same team move up to guard one offensive player it’s called a double team. When two players cover an offensive player in a corner it’s also known as a “trap”.


Downcourt – Moving from the backcourt toward the frontcourt, or toward the offensive basket.


Down Screen – A move by an offensive player toward the baseline to set a screen for a teammate.


Dribble – The act of bouncing the ball up and down. The offensive player with the ball uses the dribble to move around the court.


Drive – Dribbling toward the basket; also called a dribble drive.


Dunk – Score a basket by driving or stuffing the ball into the basket from above the rim.


Basketball Glossary – E


Early Offense – The period just after a team has crossed over the midcourt line and set up its half-court offensive.


Elbowing – Throwing your elbows during play in order to hit another player or push him away; it’s a foul if contact is made.


End Line – Also caled the baseline. This line extends across both ends of the court behind the baskets.


Basketball Glossary – F


Fade Cut – A cut used by an offensive player coming off a screen when the defender is is a sagging position.


Fake – A technique used to get a defensive player off balance or out of position.


Fast Break – The act of moving the ball quickly downcourt by an offensive team in hopes of getting ahead of the defense to score.


Field Goal – A basket made while the ball is in play.


Field Goal Percentage – The percentage of converted field goal attempts.


Fish-Hook Cut – A change-of-direction cut that takes the shape of a fish hook and is used as a pressure release.


Five-Second Violation – When passing the ball inbounds after gaining possession, players have five seconds to get the ball to a teammate.


Floor – The area of the court within the end lines and sidelines.


Forwards – Two players generally positioned closer to the basket than the guards. They often assume a floor position along the perimeters of the free-throw lane and maneuver both inside and outside.


Foul – Actions by players which break the rules but are not floor violations.


Foul Line – The line 15 feet from the backboard and parallel to the end line from which players shoot free-throws.


Foul Trouble – Players who accumulate too many fouls during the course of a game are said to be in foul trouble. Players who commit five fouls in high school and college or six fouls in the NBA are disqualified or eliminated from that particular game. Teams need to avoid the total number of team fouls reaching more than six in each half. Once they reach this number, the other team is “in the one-and-one” and goes to the charity stripe for all subsequent fouls in that half.


Free Throw – An unguarded attempt to score from a line 15 feet from the basket.


Free Throw Line – See the basketball glossary term “foul line”.


Free Throw Percentage – The percentage of converted free throw attempts.


Frontcourt – The offensive area of the court from the midcourt line to the baseline. Also the positions played by the forwards and center.


Front Pivot – Moving forward while turning on the pivot foot.


Full-court Press – When defenders guard the offense in the backcourt.


Basketball Glossary – G


Goaltending – If a defensive player interferes with a shot while it’s on the way down toward the basket, while it’s on the way up toward the basket after having touched the backboard, or while it’s in the cylinder above the rim, it’s goaltending and the shot counts. If committed by an offense player, it’s a violation and the ball is awarded to the opposing team for a throw-in.


Give & Go – An offensive maneuver, sometimes called an inside cut, whereby a player passes to a teammate and cuts for the basket.


Guarding – Following an opponent around the court to prevent him from getting the ball, taking a shot or making a pass.


Guards – The two players who typically move the ball from the backcourt into the frontcourt and then position themselves farthest from the basket.


Basketball Glossary – H


Half-Court Press – Defensive pressure applied as soon as the opposing team takes the ball into the frontcourt.


Hand Check – A personal foul where a defender intermittently or continuously uses one or both hands on an opposing player, usually the ball handler.


Hashmark – See the basketball glossary term “midcourt area marker”.


Held Ball – When two opposing players both possess the basketball but neither one can gain sole possession. In the NBA, the ball is blown dead and a jump ball restarts play. College teams use the alternate-possession rule.


Help Side – The side of the court opposite that of the ball. Also called the weakside.


High Post – An area of the court located near the free-throw line.


Holding – Using the hands to interfere with or limit an opponent’s freedom of movement.


Hook Shot – A one-handed shot on which the player is sideways to the basket and the ball is released above the head from the hand farthest from the basket.


Hoop – The basket.


Basketball Glossary – I


Inbounds Pass – Pass thrown-in from out-of-bounds.


Incidental Contact – Minor, usually inadvertent contact, that is usually ignored by officials.


Inside Cut – When the offensive player passes the ball to a teammate and cuts to the basket looking for a return pass.


Inside shot – Shot taken from near or under the basket.


Intentional Foul – A foul committed on purpose by a defensive player to stop the clock. In college basketball, the team that was fouled gets two free throws and possession of the ball.


In-the-Paint – The inside area of the free throw lane is painted a different color from the rest of the court; thus “in-the-paint”.


Basketball Glossary – J


Jab Step – A small step toward the defensive player with the non-pivot foot.


Jump Ball – A jump ball starts every game and occurs when a referee tosses the ball into the air between two players from opposite teams. During games a jump ball is called when two players from opposite teams gain possession of the ball at the same time. Players involved in a jump ball can’t catch or grab the ball once it’s tossed into the air by the official. They must tap the ball to a teammate who can then take control.


Jump Shot – An offensive shot in which the offensive player’s feet leave the floor.


Jump Stop – Coming to a full stop by jumping off one foot and landing in a parallel or staggered stance with both feet hitting the floor at the same time.


Basketball Glossary – K


Key – The area consisting of the foul lane and the free-throw circle.


Basketball Glossary – L


“L” Cut – A cut in the shape of the letter “L” that is used when the defender is in the passing lane but is playying very loosely.


Lane – The area running from the end line to the free-throw line and extending 12 feet across is called the lane. It’s also known as the “paint”.


Lane Violation – You cannot move into the lane looking to grab a rebound when a foul shot is being taken until the ball actually hits the rim. If you do enter the lane too soon, it’s called a lane violation and results in a turnover or the other team gets another free throw attempt.


Lay-up Shot – A close-in shot made when moving to the basket.


Live Ball – As soon as a ball is given to a free-throw shooter or a thrower on a throw-in, it’s live.


Loading the Gun – Placing the ball in the shootng pocket with the wrist cocked ready to shoot.


Low Post – An area of the court located near the basket.


Basketball Glossary – M


Man-to-Man Defense – Defensive style where each defensive player is responsible for guarding one opponent.


Midcourt Line – The line in the middle of the court that separates the frontcourt from the backcourt.


Midcourt Area Marker – One of four lines extending 3 feet in from a sideline, 28 feet from and parallel to a baseline.


Basketball Glossary – N


Net – A white mesh sleeve that hangs from the rim; 15 to 18 inches long.


Basketball Glossary – O


Offense – The team with the ball.


Offensive Rebound – A rebound by a player on offense.


Officials – Also called referees, they’re in charge of controlling the game.


Off the Dribble – A shot taken while driving to the basket.


One & One – A free-throw attempt awarded for certain violations that earns the shooter a 2nd attempt only if the first is successful; also called “One Plus One”.


Open – When a player is unguarded by a defender.


Out of Bounds – The area outside of and including the end lines and sidelines.


Outlet Pass – A pass made from a rebounder to an offensive teammate.


Overhand Lay-up Shot – A lay-up shot with the shooting hand positioned on the back of the ball with the palm facing the basket.


Overhead Pass – A pass made while the ball is held above the head with both hands.


Overtime – The extra period(s) played after a regulation game ends tied; also called OT.


Basketball Glossary – P


Paint – The area inside the free-throw lane.


Pass – When a player throws the ball to a teammate.


Passing Lane – The area between two offensive players where a pass can be made.


Penetration – When the ball is dribbled or passed inside the defensive area toward the basket.


Perimeter – The area outside the three-second lane area.


Period – Any quarter, half or overtime segment.


Pick – A screen set by an offensive player.


Pivot – The rotation of the body around one foot that is kept in a stationary position.


Point Guard – Usually a team’s floor leader, who initiates the offense and controls the tempo of the game.


Possession – To be holding or in control of the ball.


Post – The area on either side of the free-throw lane.


Post Player – The position usually played by the center.


Post Up – Take a position close to, and facing away from, the basket in preparation to receive a pass.


Power Forward – Usually the bigger, stronger forward who plays close to the basket and is responsible for rebounding and inside scoring.


Power Lay-up Shot – A lay-up used when closely guarded.


Pull-Back Dribble – A dribble used to avoid defensive pressure or traps.


Push Pass – Used to pass through or past a defender who is guarding closely.


Basketball Glossary – Q


Quadruple Double – When a player racks up double-digit figures in four of five offensive categories (scoring, assists, blocked shots, steals or rebounds) during the course of a game. See also triple double.


Basketball Glossary – R


Rebound – Securing the ball off the backboard or the rim after a missed field goal or free-throw attempt.


Reverse Dribble – A dribble move used to change directions. Also called a spin dribble.


Reverse Pivot – Stepping backward while turning on the pivot foot.


Rocker Step – An offensive move consisting of a jab step followed by a step backward; the player can either shoot or drive, depending on the movement of the defender.


Basketball Glossary – S


Screen – An offensive technique used to block or delay an opponent from reaching a desired floor position.


Screen & Roll – When an offensive player screens for the ball handler and then rolls toward the basket.


Shallow Cut – A change-of-direction cut; also called a fish-hook cut.


Shape Up – A term used to describe the movement of the screener toward the ball after the screen has been set.


Shooter – A player who takes a shot at the basket.


Shooting Guard – Generally, the player who takes the majority of the shots from the perimeter, many of which are three-point attempts.


Shooting Pocket – Also referred to as the triple-threat position.


Shot Clock – A clock that limits the time a team with the ball has to shoot it.


Sidelines – The two boundary lines that run the length of the court.


Small Forward – Usually bigger than the guards but smaller than the power forward; responsibilities include both inside and outside work.


Spacing – Refers to the positioning of the offensive players, who should be approximately 15-18 feet from one another.


Speed Dribble – A high, quick dribble used to advance the ball up the court when there are no defenders blocking your path.


Spin Dribble – A change-of-direction move in which the dribbler’s body is always kept between the ball and the defender.


Squaring Up – When a player´s shoulders are facing the basket as he releases the ball for a shot.


Starting Line-up – The five players who begin a game for one team.


Stride Stop – Coming to a full stop by landing on one foot first and then the other foot.


Strong Side – The side of the court on which the ball is being controlled. If the ball is either passed or dribbled across court, then that side becomes the strong side.


Substitute – A player who comes into the game to replace a player on the court.


Swing Man – A player who can play both the guard and forward positions.


Basketball Glossary – T


Ten-Second Line – The half-court line is the ten-second line. When a team is advancing the ball up the court from their defensive end, they have ten seconds to get the ball across the half-court line.


Three-Point Line – Semi-circle that is 19 feet, 9 inches from the basket at all points.


Three-Point Play – A 2-point field goal followed by a successful free-throw.


Three-Point Shot – A field-goal attempt from outside the three-point line.


Three-Second Lane – An area that extends from the baseline under the basket to the free-throw line. Also called the “key”.


Three-Second Rule – No offensive player can be in the free-throw lane for longer than 3 seconds at a time.


Throw-in – Inbounding the ball.


Timeout – When play is temporarily suspended by an official or at the request of a team to discuss strategy or respond to an injured player.


Tip-Off – The initial jump ball that starts the game.


Top of the Key – The semi-circle that extends beyond the free-throw line.


Transition – When a team goes from offense to defense or defense to offense as the ball moves quickly upcourt.


Trap – A defensive tactic in which two players double-team the ball handler.


Traveling – Taking more than one and a half steps without dribbling while you have the ball. It’s also called traveling when you pick up your dribble and then move or change your pivot foot. Either way, you’ll turn the ball over to the other team if you travel, so don’t do it! (Also called Walking).


Triple-Double – When a player reaches double figures in three of five offensive categories – scoring, assists, blocked shots, steals or rebounds – they are said to have had a triple-double.


Triple-Threat Position – An offensive position from which the ball handler can either shoot, pass or dribble.


Turnover – When the offensive team loses the ball to the defensive team for any reason.


Basketball Glossary – U


Umpire – One of the two officials in most international and high school basketball competition.


Underhand Lay-up Shot – A lay-up shot with the shooting hand in front and under the ball.


Upcourt – Same as the basketball glossary term “downcourt”.


Basketball Glossary – V


“V” Cut – A fake in one direction and movement in the opposite direction in order to get open for a pass.


Violation – An infraction of the rules that doesn’t result in a free throw; however, the ball is turned over to the opposing team for a throw-in. Also known as a floor violation.


Basketball Glossary – W


Walking – See the basketball glossary term “traveling”.


Weak Side – The side of the court without the ball.


Basketball Glossary – Z


Zone Defense – A defense where each defender is responsible for an area of the court and must guard any player who enters that area. Can’t use this defense in NBA.


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