Just like any other sport, basketball has its own language. Someone with no prior knowledge of basketball could listen to two players talking to each other and not have any idea of what they are talking about! This is the case in almost any subject. Studying to become anything, you first have to know the names of the most common things before you can understand what people are talking about in regards to the subject.
Basketball terms change all the time it is an evolutionary process over the years. A coach uses some new term at a basketball camp, and it becomes part of the vernacular. A TV commentator comes up with very colorful expressions, and it becomes part of the game. This page is like a basketball dictionary to define the most common basketball terms. You should understand that sometimes people don't completely agree on what something means, and sometimes we have more than one name for the same thing... e.g. a "screen" and a "pick" (same thing).
3-Second Violation - An offensive player will be called for a 3-second violation when they spend more than three seconds in the key while the basketball is in live play.
5-Second Violation (inbound) - Once a player inbounding the basketball has taken possession from the referee, they then have 5 seconds to inbound the basketball to a teammate or they'll be whistled for a 5-second violation.
5-Second Violation (closely guarded) - An offensive player in the front court with possession of the basketball can be called for a 5-second violation if they’re being guarded within an arms distance and fail to pass, shoot, or dribble within 5 seconds.
8-Second Backcourt Violation - After a team gains possession in the backcourt, they then have 8 seconds to advance the basketball over the half-way line. If they fail to do so, a violation will be called.
Airball - A shot attempt that doesn't hit the rim or the backboard.
Alley-oop - A play involving a player catching a pass in the air and finishing with a layup or dunk before landing back on the court.
And One - A phrase used when a player gets fouled on a made shot attempt. The player then gets to go to the free-throw line and shoot one bonus free-throw.
Assist - A player is awarded an assist when they make a pass that leads directly to a score by one of their teammates.
Backboard - A rectangular board generally made of tempered glass that the rim is attached to. The backboard provides a wall the players can shoot the basketball off and into the basket.
Backcourt Violation - When the offensive team establishes possession of the basketball in the frontcourt, they are then not allowed to return to the backcourt while still in possession of the basketball. If they do, a backcourt violation will be called.
Backdoor Cut - An offensive play involving a player cutting behind their defender towards the rim looking to receive a pass and finish with a score. This play is often encouraged by coaches when a player's opponent is overplaying the passing lane.
Bank Shot - A shot that bounces off the backboard before falling through the basket.
Baseball Pass - A one-handed pass commonly used to throw a full-court pass to a teammate sprinting down the court.
Baseline - The line separating the playing area from out-of-bounds four feet behind the backboard.
Behind-the-Back Dribble - An advanced dribbling move involving a player moving the basketball from one hand to the other by bouncing it behind their back. Often used when a close on-ball defender would steal a basic crossover.
Bench - The sitting area for the coaches and players who aren't currently on the court. Both team's benches are located on the sideline at opposite ends of the court.
Between-the-Legs Dribble - An advanced dribbling move involving a player moving the basketball from one hand to the other by bouncing it between their legs. This is a great way to keep the basketball protected from your opponent while changing directions.
Box Out - After a shot has been taken, coaches will encourage their players to box out. This means making contact with the player they're guarding and establishing position between them and the basket to put themselves in the best position to secure a rebound.
Brick - A poor shot attempt that bounces hard off the rim or the backboard.
Carry - A carry is a dribbling violation that occurs when a player continues their dribble after placing their hand underneath the basketball.
Center Court - The circle in the middle of the court where the jump ball takes place at the start of every basketball game.
Charge - An offensive foul that's called when an offensive player runs into a defender who has established position.
Chest Pass - This is the most common type of pass and involves one offensive player making a two-hand pass from their chest to the chest of another offensive player without the basketball touching the ground.
Crossover - A dribbling move involving a player passing the basketball from in front of their body from one hand to the other. This is the most common dribbling move and is great for quickly changing directions.
Free Ebook 21 Drills To Build A Solid Foundation
Subscribe to take your game Beyond Your Limits with these 21 Drills To Build A Solid Basketball Foundation.
Double Dribble - This is a dribbling violation that occurs when a player dribbles the basketball with two hands simultaneously or terminates their dribble and then begins to dribble again.
Double Team - A double team occurs when two defensive players trap the player in possession of the basketball. The goal is to get the basketball out of a great player's hands or force the offensive player to make a poor pass that results in a steal.
Dribbling - The process of using one hand to repeatedly bounce the basketball off the floor. This is the only legal way a player can move around the court while in possession of the basketball.
Drop Step - An offensive low post move involving the player with the basketball and their back to the basket taking a large step back and to the side of their defender as they turn towards the basket to create room for a shot.
Dunk - A dunk is an exciting play involving an offensive player slamming the basketball forcefully through the hoop.
Elbow - The 'elbow' is the area on the court where the lane line and the free-throw line meet. There are four elbows on a full basketball court.
Euro Step - The euro step is an advanced move used when attacking the basket. It involves a player taking a step in one direction and then taking a step in another direction for their second step.
Fast Break - After a change of possession, a team advances the basketball as quickly as possible to attack the defense before they have been able to establish good defensive position.
Field Goal - A field goal is a shot made from anywhere on the court except for free-throws. This includes both two-point shots and three-point shots.
Finger Roll - The finger roll is an advanced variation of a layup that involves a player turning their palm up and rolling the basketball of the tips of their fingers. This can create a 'soft' layup and also allow the shooter to finish with arc that negates a shot block attempt.
Flagrant Foul - A foul involving contact that the referee deems to be intentional, excessive, or unnecessary. The team who draws the flagrant foul will receive two free-throws and possession of the basketball.
Floater - A type of shot often utilized by smaller guards to score at the rim against tall defenders. The basketball is shot with a high arc to prevent a blocked shot.
Foul - A violation of the rules usually involving illegal contact with a player of the opposition.
Free-Throw - An uncontested shot 15 feet from the basket directly in front. Most free-throws are awarded to players who have been fouled while shooting. Each free-throw is worth one point.
Goal Tending - A goal tending violation is called when a player on defense touches the basketball when it's on the downward flight after a shot. When this happens, the basket is counted. A goal tending violation is also called if a player touches the basketball while it's above or on the rim.
Hack - The term 'hack' is another word for fouling an opponent.
Half-Court Line - The line through the middle of the basketball court and the center court that divides the basketball court into two halves.
Hedge - A 'hedge' is a common pick-and-roll defense. It involves the screener's defender stepping out to meet the ball-handler and force them to dribble wide while the on-ball defender recovers.
Hesitation Dribble - An advanced dribbling move involving the ball-handler quickly slowing down and then exploding past their defender.
In-and-Out Dribble - A dribbling move involving a player pretending to perform a crossover dribble but only starting the inward motion before bringing the basketball back out to the original side.
Intentional Foul - A foul involving a defensive player making deliberate contact with a player of the opposition team.
Jab Step - From triple threat position, a player takes a quick step towards the basket while keeping their pivot foot planted. The jab step is used to see how the defense will react and possibly create an advantage for the offensive player.
Jump Ball - Used to start every basketball game. Involves the referee throwing the basketball up in the center of the court between two players who jump and attempt to tap the basketball to a teammate.
Jump Shot - A shot taken by jumping up in the air and releasing the basketball at the peak of the jump.
Jump Stop - A jump stop is used to come to a complete stop after dribbling or after receiving a pass. It involves both feet hitting the floor simultaneously.
Midrange - A midrange is a jump-shot that's taken anywhere between the three-point line and the key area. This shot is worth two points.
No-Look Pass - This is an advanced pass that involves the player with the basketball looking one direction and pass another direction. This highlight play is designed to trick the defense.
3 Proven Steps to Scoring More Points, Easy to implement steps that will help instantly
These are the exact steps that I used to increased my scoring average by 11 points per game.
Outlet Pass - After a defensive rebound, the immediate pass to a teammate to start a fast break is called an outlet pass.
Overhead Pass - An overhead pass is a two-handed pass made from above the head of an offensive player. This pass is effective for passing over the top of the defense.
Overtime - If a game is tied after the end of regulation, teams will often play a 5-minute overtime period to determine a winner.
Pick-And-Roll A common and effective two-person offensive action involving an offensive player setting a screen for the player in possession of the basketball. The screener will then roll towards the basket looking to receive a pass from the ball-handler.
Pivot - When a stationary player has possession of the basketball, they're allowed to move one foot around as long as their other foot stays in contact with the floor at all times. This is called pivoting.
Point Guard - Also known as the '1'. One of the five positions on the court. The point guard is usually tasked with dribbling the basketball up the court, initiating the offense, and controlling the tempo of the game.
Post Up - A player posts up by establishing position close to the ring (usually on the low block) with their back to the basket and their chest facing the perimeter ready to receive a pass.
Power Forward - Also known as the '4'. One of the 5 positions on the court. Traditionally, the power forward plays very similar to the center by playing in the post and rebounding the basketball. In today's game, we're seeing less post play and more outside shooting from this position.
Press - A basketball defense in which the team on defense pressures the opponent full-court.
Rebound - A 'rebound' is a stat that's awarded to the player who gains possession the basketball after a missed field goal attempt. A rebound can be either offensive (rebound by a player on offense) or defensive (rebound by a player on defense).
Screen - A screen involves a player setting a stationary block on their teammate's defender. The goal of a screen is to give their teammate space that may lead to an open shot or simply to receive a pass that puts them at an advantage.
Shooting Guard - Also known as the '2'. One of the 5 positions on the court. This player is usually the team's best shooter from the perimeter.
Shot Fake - An advanced move where the player in possession of the basketball pretends to shoot. This move is designed to trick the defense and get them to raise out of their stance or jump which will then put the offensive player at an advantage to dribble past them.
Sideline - The boundary lines that separate the playing area from out-of-bounds on the side of the court.
Sixth Man - A player who starts the game on the bench but is the first player to substitute on court and replace a starter.
Small Forward - Also known as the '3'. One of the five positions on the court. Small forwards are known for their versatility as they're able to contribute in multiple areas. They're able to rebound the basketball while also capable of dribbling the basketball up the court if necessary.
Steal - The basketball term steal is used when a player forces a turnover from an opponent by taking the basketball from them or deflecting a pass.
Technical Foul - A technical foul is called when a coach or player brings the game of basketball into disrepute and is not made in relation to contact. This could be actions like yelling at a referee, flopping, kicking a basketball, using inappropriate language, holding onto the rim after a dunk, etc.
Three-Pointer - As the name suggests, a three-pointer is worth three points and is a field goal from behind the three-point line.
Timeout - Coaches have a certain number of timeouts per quarter or half depending on the league their coaching in. Timeouts are used to rest players, motivate the team, make substitutions, change strategy, etc.
Top of the Key - The area above the three-point line in the middle of the court and closest to the half-way line. This is an important spot to keep filled in most offenses.
Transition - The term 'transition' is used to describe the movement from offense to defense or defense to offense after a change of possession.
Travel - A traveling violation is difficult to describe in writing, but is in place to prevent players from taking more than one step while holding the basketball. This rule also prevents players from moving or changing their pivot foot once it’s been established.
Turnover - A turnover occurs when a players loses possession of the basketball before a shot attempt. This most often occurs due to a poor pass or a violation.
Up-and-Under - An offensive low post move involving a post player with their back to the basket faking a turnaround jump shot and then stepping in for the layup when the defender leaves their feet.
Zone - A defensive strategy coaches will use that require defenders to guard specific areas of the court instead of opposition players.
Now YOU Are READY TO understand basketball lingo?
No matter where you are in the world, if you have desire and access to a ball and a hoop there are ways you can become a great player.
This website has some great articles that you can go to and be confident you will get great info. So practice and work on your moves when you play pick up basketball, modify them and make them your own. Develop a solid low post game and add other tools to your tool belt that you can go to. The more tools you have to turn to the lest chance someone has of slowing you down on the offensive end.
There is no time like the present to start taking action.
Let me know in the comments if you need more help.
FITDECK CARDS- These cards are great for creating your own workout and for the price it cant be beat.
DRIBBLEUP SMART BASKETBALL - the best smart basketball on the market for improving your ball handling.
COMPLETE CONDITIONING FOR BASKETBALL- This is a very comprehensive book on basketball specific training schedules and methods. The author keeps it simple and does not try to overload the reader with too much. He gets straight to the point.
How To Be Better At Basketball In 21 Days- This book has basketball drills that can help you develop basic skills, tips on how to increase your basketball shooting accuracy, and how to toughen your mental state so that you play with confidence, courage, and control.
Audible- You can listen to them if you don't like to read
QUESTION — Have a question about Basketball? Post a comment on one of our social media pages !
DISCLAIMER: This blog contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you. This helps support BYL and allows us to continue to make content like this. Thank you for the support!