Our Sports Feel Good Stories Basketball Dictionary: Terms and definitions define common terms and expressions used in basketball. And we try to go one or two steps further by offering more detailed text and videos to explain concepts.
This is the main menu page where we provide a brief definition of basketball terms. However, the term’s link will take you to a more detailed explanation of the term, frequently adding some of the strategies and tactics that surround that definition. We’ll constantly be adding new basketball terms and definitions, so check back frequently.
Dictionary of Basketball Terms
Airball — An unsuccessful shot attempt in basketball that entirely misses the backboard, rim, and net.
And One — “And One” is a colloquial term for a play that involves a player receiving one additional free throw for having been fouled while making a shot. The referees often announce the play as “basket counted and one,” referring to the extra free throw given to the fouled player.
The most points that an offensive player gets in an “and one” play is four points. This happens when he is fouled while attempting and making a three-point shot.
Assists — An assist in basketball is defined as a pass by a player to his teammate that directly leads to a made field goal. No matter how many passes are made before the made shot, the only credited “assist” is the pass that created the basket. The pass that leads to the assist is often called a “hockey assist” in basketball circles.
Basketball Slang and Lingo — Informal words and phrases used by basketball players, commentators, and fans to describe the game. Learn the meaning of terms like heat check, breaking ankles, and dropping dimes.
Block Shots — “Block shots” or blocks are a successful deflection of an attempted shot. This means the ball is thwarted in another direction before it goes to the rim. It is considered one of the most exciting defensive plays and a momentum-changer. When a shot-blocker is present, the offense often thinks twice about attempting shots near the rim.
Boxing Out — Boxing out, also called blocking out, primarily happens in rebounding situations. A box-out is a style of positioning in basketball so one can put himself in a better spot to rebound. To box out, a player moves his body into the body of an opposing player, impeding his progress.
Clear Path Foul — A clear path foul is one of the rarest fouls that may occur in the NBA. It is called when a defender fouls an offensive player who has the ball, and there is no one between that player and the basket.
Crossover Dribble — A crossover dribble, known as the crossover, is a move executed by an offensive player to change direction. To do this, he must swiftly flick the ball from one hand to the other. While any player with the ball can pull off this move, ball-handling guards often use this dribble to free themselves up from the defender.
Double-Double — A double-double is when a player record double-digits in two out of the five main stats. These stats are points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. For example, if Enes Kanter had 18 points and 12 rebounds, he has a double-double. Likewise, if Ja Morant records 21 points and 13 assists, then that is also considered a double-double.
Euro Step or Eurostep — Also called the side step or the two-step, a Euro step is an offensive move that aims to evade a defender. The offensive player picks up the dribble, takes one step in one direction, and follows it with a long step in the other direction. If done properly, the offensive player easily goes around the defender for a finish around the basket.
Know Your Stuff
Fadeaway — One of the most difficult shots to attempt, however, is the fadeaway. It is somewhat derived from a jump shot. Instead of jumping straight up and down, the fadeaway requires a player to lean and jump backward. The purpose of this is to create separation from the defender, so it’s harder to block.
Fast Break — A fast break is an offensive strategy in basketball. The offense looks for a quick way to score before the defense is set by pushing the ball up the floor. The offense also creates an advantage by sending more players on the attack than the other team has for their defense.
Full-court Press — The full-court press is a defensive style that puts pressure on the entire length of the basketball court. In this type of defense, as soon as the inbounds pass puts the ball in play, intense pressure is applied. (Some coaches may also preach denying the inbounds pass in a full-court press.) The full-court press may be enforced using a man-to-man defense or a zone press.
Quarters in Basketball — An NBA quarter is 12 minutes in length. Four quarters, or 48 minutes, make up regulation time.
Hook Shot — The hook shot is a shot attempt primarily taken by taller players in close range to the basket. The player turns sideways and smoothly delivers the ball in a sweeping motion with an upward trajectory to complete a hook shot.
The shooting usually starts from the side and ends up over the head in a follow-through. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook was incredibly effective. It played a major role in him becoming one of the NBA’s all-time scoring leaders.
Motion Offense — The motion offense is a type of offensive scheme in basketball. As the name indicates, it requires player movement to be successful. It follows a set of rules but is generally free-flowing and unrestricted.
NIT Tournament — Typically, a 32-team college basketball tournament. Generally, the NIT is thought of as a consolation prize for those D1 teams not making the NCAA post-season tournament.
Know Your Basketball
Princeton Offense — The Princeton offense is a complex offensive basketball strategy created by Pete Carril of Princeton University. It emphasizes back-door cuts, constant motion, and setting picks on and off the ball.
Pull-back Dribble — A pull-back dribble is a dribble move used to create separation from a defender hellbent on beating you to a spot. If done correctly, it gives you space to shoot or pass. At full speed, the pull-back dribble could result in the complete embarrassment of the defender as he tries to stay in front of an offensive player executing the move.
Quarters in Basketball — 25% of the game length. Four quarters complete a game unless there is an overtime period. In the NBA, a quarter is 12 minutes long.
Shot Clock — In basketball, the term “shot clock” refers to the set time in which a team must attempt a field goal. In the NBA, the shot clock starts at 24 seconds. According to the NBA rule book, the shot clock is displayed in seconds. The exception is when the time reaches five seconds. By then, it will display tenths of a second, such as 4.9 seconds, 4.8 seconds, and so forth.
Shooting Form — This is a term in basketball referring to the shooting mechanics of a player. The mechanics or the manner of shooting the shot is integral to actually making it. You may have noticed that all great shooters have impeccable shooting techniques.
Slam Dunk — A “Slam Dunk” is one of the most electrifying maneuvers in basketball. It is a shot where a player jumps high enough to force the ball through the rim using one or both hands. See 7 Things You May Not Know About Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game.
Three-pointer — Also called a trey or a three, a three-pointer is a shot made anywhere from beyond the designated three-point arc. It is worth three points instead of the standard two points for a bucket. In the modern analytics-driven era of basketball, the three-pointer is encouraged since it is worth 50% more than the regular two-point field goal.
Triple-double — When a player scores ten or more in three of the five statistical categories of points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.
Zone Defense — A zone defense is different from man-to-man coverage. Instead of guarding a particular player, the defense has its individual members guard a designated area or “zone.” A zone defense shifts or moves depending on where the ball is.
Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. Find time to watch a game, or better yet, shoot some hoops.
You are on our Basketball Dictionary: Terms and Definitions page.
You might like: