Basketball Phrases
A Dictionary of Basketball

Basketball Sub-Site
Basketball Phrases

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Sometimes a team-mate, coach or NBA commentator may say words you don't understand. With Basketball Lingo and Basketball Terms, Don't worry or be embarrassed to look the words up as basketball phrases are plentiful and the sport has a huge vocabulary of its own that has been developed by players. Particularly in street basketball to add the extra individuality to the sport.

If you need to find a word. Hit Ctrl+F on your Keyboard and search for a term.


Air ball -A SHOT attempt that didn't even hit the rim of the BASKET. Usually used as a ditch last minute buzzer beating Shot.

Alley-oops -When a player catches a basketball from a team mate in the air and DUNKS or LAYS IN the ball before he lands. A more commonly used basketball phrase.

Anticipation -An ability to quickly reason ahead what or when the next shot, move, or action of an opponent player will be.

Assist -A PASS that leads directly to a successful BASKET. Usually the key focus of a point guard. A more commonly used basketball phrase.


Backcourt -The Backcourt is the half-court where a team defends


The Backcourt could refer to the point guard and the shooting guard combined. For example the two players starting in the back court for a certain team.

Back door -Right after a player PASSES to a team-mate in the HIGH POST and draws defenders, an open team-mate on the wing comes to the open side (the back door) to catch the PASS and attempt a SHOT.

Ball control -Skillful ball handlng, DRIBBLING, and PASSING until in the best position to shoot. A skill that can always be practised.

Bank shot -A SHOT that is aimed at the backboard so it "banks" into the BASKET. This shot is used when close to the basket and usually face on and not to the sides of the court.

Baseline -The line that is at each end of the basketball court. Commentators often use this Basketball Phrase.

Baseline drive -A move where an offensive player DRIBBLES along the BASELINE to get along side of the BASKET and shoots usually with a LAY-UP or REVERSE LAY-UP.

Basket -The net and rim attached to the backboard where the ball is aimed atOR

a successful goal.A more commonly used basketball phrase.

Bench players -Non-starters for a team also known as subs. When Basketball Phrases such as "Bench points" are mentioned, it means the amount of points scored from players on the Bench.

Big man-The "big man" usually refers to the team's center or centre. A rather confusing Basketball Phrase as most players are quite big but usually refers to players over 6'10 For example Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett.

Block -When a player hits or blocks the ball on it's way towards the basket. A GOAL TENDING violation is called if the ball was already on it's way down towards the basket for example from a 3 pointer shot, the tall defenders cannot interfere with the ball until and unless it hits the rim and bounces off. A more commonly used basketball phrase.

Bomb -A shot made from a long distance, usually a 3-POINTER made in a last ditch effort to beat the buzzer usually.

Bonus (shot) -An extra FREE-THROW penalty, given in certain situations.

Box out -When a defender gets into a better position by using his body to stay between an opponent and the BASKET. Usually leads to a DUNK or LAY-UP.

Breakaway -When an unguarded offensive player runs down court to catch a PASS with no defenders in the way usually resulting in a Dunk to safely put the ball away.

Break the ice -When a Player Finally scores after not scoring on many possessionsOR

to make the first BASKET of the game or quarter.OR

to shoot a tie-breaker and beat the buzzer.

Brick -If a player "bricks" the shot, it means he shoots it too hard and bounces it off the rim or backboard wildly, missing the BASKET. Usually done when rushed or pressured.

Bucket -A BASKET or a SHOT that went in. Not Commonly used as much.

Bunny -An open shot which isn't challenged by a defender, usually a LAYUP or DUNK when the offensive player has a BREAK-AWAY.

Bury -A "swoosh" (a successful SHOT that only touches the net after it leaves the hands of a player). Otherwise known as a perfect shot.You will hear people use the Basketball Phrase "Nothin' but Net!" which is the same as a bury!C

Center -The STARTER for a team that starts the game (with the other team's center) by doing the opening TIP-OFF, usually the tallest player of the team with the largest vertical jump height.

Charging -When an offensive player with the ball runs into a stable defensive player leading to a foul.

Cherry picking -If a player is "cherry picking", it means he is grabbing a REBOUND above the rim. This can happen if an ALLY-OOP is not initiated quickly enough.OR

is staying back at the far end of the court in order to to be in a better position to score easily.

Coast-to-coast -Going from one side of the court to the other. This can sometimes be the case in a BREAKAWAY. A more commonly used basketball phrase.

Cold -If a player is "cold", it means that he has attempted many SHOTS, but has failed to put them in the BASKET.

Crash the boards -When a player aggressively REBOUNDs the ball.

Cross over -When an offensive player dives one direction and stops and goes another in quick secession to fool and confuse a defender.

Cut -An quick offensive move, usually towards the BASKET, to get into a position to shoot. This can usually be seen in combination with a CROSS OVER.


Dead ball -When there's a dead ball, the ball is not in play. There is a dead ball right after the referee makes a whistle, a TIMEOUT or FOUL is called, or if a SHOT is made. Basically when the clock is stopped the ball is dead.

Death Valley -A place on the basketball court where the chances of a BASKET being scored are very small which can be anywhere from beyond the 3 point line all the way back to the opposite BASELINE.

Deny the ball -A defensive stratagy where a player guards an opponent closely and stays between him and the player with the ball to keep him from getting the ball.

Dipsy-doo -Fancy ball handling. Usually associated with street ball.

Dishing it off -To PASS the basketball to someone else is to "dish it off".

Disqualification -When a player gets a disqualification, he must leave the game because he has committed his 6th PERSONAL FOUL or his 2nd TECHNICAL FOUL/FLAGRANT FOUL. This is the same as getting a Red Card in Football/Soccer.

Double dribble -A violation called if a player with the ball DRIBBLES, then stops, and dribbles again. Although it happens very rarely, double dribble can also be called when a player has dribbled with both hands.

Double figures -When a player reaches double digits in one category such as the amount of points scored in one game or assists in one game.

Double pump -To go up in a shooting motion but quickly coming back down and up again and finally shooting. This is also known as a PUMP FAKE, which is used to fool the other team. When the offensive player goes up the first time, the player guarding him might jump up. If he does, he won't have time to block the actual shot.

Double team -Two defensive players guarding one offensive player. Can be a bad idea if all 5 offensive players are in the opposite teams half as there will be an open player somewhere.

Double violation -When both teams commit a violation at the same time, there is a double violation.

Down the lane -Getting the ball from the FREE-THROW LINE to the area in front of the BASKET.

Downtown -The area far from the basket, usually referring to beyond the 3-POINT line. A Favourite basketball phrase with NBA commentators

Draft -An annual NBA event where NBA teams select players to play on their team. These players are picked from college, universities, other basketball leagues, other teams, and elsewhere. A Basketball Phrase commonly found on

Draw the foul -A move that causes a FOUL on the opponent. Great to combine this with a LAY-UP or DUNK as you get a free throw as well and can score up to 3-4 points

Dribble -When a player bounces the ball.

Drive -A Quick Energetic move towards the BASKET with the ball.

Dunk -To score by taking the ball and pushing down the net by two or one hands(s). (Also known as a FLUSH, JAM, SLAM, SLAM-DUNK, STUFF) Probably one of the most well known basketball phrases.


Ejected -When a player or coach is ejected, the referee(s) sends him to the locker room and out for the rest of the game. Someone gets ejected if he has two technicals or has tried to hurt another person.

End line -See BASELINE.


Fadeaway jumper -A JUMP SHOT taken while the shooter is moving away from the BASKET.

Fake -An action made to fool the opponent.

Fast break -When the team in possesion takes the ball quickly up the court and attemps a shot before the other team can get there and set up on defense, it's called a fast break. A fast break often happens after a REBOUND or STEAL.

Fast break points -Points scored on a FAST BREAK. Usually a 2 pointer.

Feed -A PASS.

Field goal -A shot that happens during play. FREE THROWS don't count as field goals. Each field goal can be worth 2 or 3 points, depending on where it was shot. Usually just called baskets.

Flagrant Foul -A foul with excessive or unnecessary contact. Two FOUL shots are awarded to the player fouled. If an offensive player is pushed away while Dunking a 2 pointer they have the chance to score up to 4 points.

Flashing -Quick movements of an offensive player from one side of the PAINT to the other.

Flush -See DUNK.

Forward -A player that covers the corners of the court and around the BASKET. There are usually 2 forwards on the court at a time.

Foul -There is (usually) a foul called right after illegal contact happens between two players of opposing teams.

Foul line -See FREE-THROW LINE.

Foul out -When a player has committed his sixth personal foul, he has been taken out of the game, in other words, has "fouled out".

Foul shot -A basket shot from the FREE-THROW LINE, rewarded to a player if he was fouled on a SHOT attempt or if the other team is in the penalty. Each foul shot that goes in is worth 1 point. One or two foul shots are rewarded for each foul unless the player was fouled on a 3-POINT attemt.

Foul trouble -When a player is in foul trouble, he has close to 6 personal FOULS.

Free-throw -A Basketball Phrase used often instead of FOUL SHOT. See FOUL SHOT.

Free-throw line -The line where FOUL SHOTS are taken from.

Front court -The half court where the team's on offence and is closest to the BASKET they need to SCORE onOR

Two guards and the centre create the front court.

Full court press -Right when the offensive team gets the basketball in their BACKCOURT, the other team aggressively goes after them to try and force a TURNOVER instead of waiting at the other end.


Give & go -An offensive play where a player with the ball PASSES to a teammate and cuts to the BASKET to receive the ball again for a GOOD LOOK.

Glass cleaner -An excellent rebounder who can swipe the ball off the backboard.

Get inside -To position between the opponent and the BASKET.

Goaltending -Goaltending is a violation where a defender tries to BLOCK the ball from going into the BASKET, but the ball was on it's way down. It can also mean interferring with the ball when it's on the rim of the BASKET. If goal tending is called against the defensive team, then the offensive team automatically gets the points for the SHOT, regardless if it would go in or not. But when goaltending is called on the offensive team, the shot doesn't count and the other team gets to inbound the ball.

Good look -A good look means good SHOT attempt.

Guard -Guard is a position that some players play. The guard's job is to inbound and bring the ball upcourt, direct play, and "guard" the opponent closely to try and force a TURNOVER. There are two different guard positions on each team, the point guard (also known as the "Number 1" position on the floor) and the shooting guard (also known as the "Number 2" position).


Hang time -The amount of time a player stays in the air to shoot the ball is called "hang time". A Basketball Phrase used often with players such as Michael Jordan who were said to have long Dunk hang time.

High postThe area around the free throw line.

3-in the key -When a player on offence has 1 or 2 of his feet in KEY (or paint) for 3 seconds or more.


J -"J" is short for a JUMPER.

Jumper -A SHOT taken while the player is in the air.

Jam-See DUNK.


Kiss of the window-If a player kissed the ball of the window (or backboard), then it means that he got a basket by bouncing it off the backboard.


Long bomb-A shot taken from outside the 3-point line or just a little inside it.

Low postThe area close to the hoop, on both sides of the basket.



On the bench-If a player is "on the bench", it means the coach is currently not using him or that he was taken out of the game.

Out of bounds-When the ball touches the ground outside of the sideline and baseline during play or when the player with the ball steps on or over the baseline or sideline.


Pass-An action when a player throws or bounces the ball to a teammate.

Pick-An action where a stationary offensive player stops a defensive player from defending a player with the ball.

PivotWhen a player is standing with the ball and has dribbled, he has to keep a foot on the floor until he passes or shoots the ball. He can't lift the foot, but he can turn. This is called pivoting.

Pivot FootThe foot a player uses to PIVOT with.

3-Pointer -A field goal from beyond the 22-feet line. A Basketball Phrase used a lot in NBA Commentary.

3-Point play -When a player is fouled on a successful shot attempt, he is rewarded a foul shot. If the foul shot is also successful, then is called a 3-point play.

Possession-When a team has the ball.


Rainbow shot-A shot that has a high arc is sometimes called a "rainbow shot".

Rain maker-A rain maker is a 3-POINTER.

Rebound-An action where a player catches or picks up the ball from an unseccessful shot attempt. A Basketball Phrase commonly shouted by players on a team.

Rejected-If a shot attempt was rejected, it means that a defender blocked the shot.


Screen-The same thing as a PICK. A Basketball Phrase usually shouted out along with "left" or "right" by the defence to make the defender in question aware of someone screening them.

Second chance points-The points scored when a team gets and offensive rebound are fast break points.

3-Second violation -See 3-IN THE KEY.

STEAL-A steal is an action where a defensive team takes the ball away from the defensive team. A steal can also lead to a fast break.

Stripped-To have the ball taken away from by an apponent.

Strong side-The area on the court where the ball is.


The key-Usually the painted area, from the free throw line to the basket.

The paintThe KEY is a more commonly used basketball phrase than the paint. See THE KEY.

Ticky-tacky foul -A ticky-tacky foul is a foul called by the referees against a player if he made very little contact or no contact at all. If a foul is considered "ticky-tacky", then it means it shouldn't have been called.

Time out-A time out lasts one minute (unless it's a 20-second time out), and can be called by a coach or a player. Time outs are usually called to make plays, if the coach is unhappy with how his team is playing, if a player has the ball and is being guarded very closely by another player, or if a player just got hurt. A basketball phrase usually shouted out by coaches to make the referee aware they want a time out as well as making a T shape with their hands.

Top of the mountain-When a player is on/at the top of the mountain, he is at the top of the 3-point line.

Travel-To take more than one step without dribbling or to lift the PIVOT FOOT off the ground. A player can take 2 steps while running and catching the ball from a pass.

Triple-double -When a player reaches double digits in three categories. Such as 10+ BASKETS, ASSISTS, and BLOCKS.

Turnover-A team has a turnover when the ball is stolen from them, if there is a 3-IN THE KEY violation on them, or if they knock the ball OUT OF BOUNDS.


Walk-See TRAVEL.

Weak side-The area away from the ball.

Don't Worry if you cant remember all the basketball phrases listed here. If you are in a team, Just learn the ones that are most important to recognize such as screen, pick and all the other Basketball phrases that a team mate or coach have been shouting at you at practises.
Think you know all the Basketball Phrases? Take them too your practise sessions or to your local game hot spot! Click here to find your nearest court.