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The Basketball Terms

In case you were wondering about some of the basketball terms and their meaning, this page can clarify some things for *YOU*.

Basketball Terms – A

Air ball– When a shot is taken and it hits neither the backboard nor the rim.

Assist – A pass that immediately precedes and sets up a scoredbasket.

Basketball Terms – B

Backboard – The rectangular or fan-shaped board behind the basket.

Backcourt – The half of the court that is opposite a team’s offensive basket; the court a team is attempting to defend.

Bonus free throw – When a team gets seven

Bounce pass – A pass that strikes the floor before it reaches the receiver.

Basketball Terms – C

Carrying the ball – Also called “palming” a violation committed by a dribbler that involves placing the dribbling hand under the ball and momentarily holding or carrying it while dribbling.

Center – Also called the “pivot player” an offensive position typically played by a tall player who plays mainly in the key areas (at the post).

Charging – A personal foul committed when an offensive player illegally contacts a defensive player who has established position or is stationary.

Chest pass – A two-handed pass thrown from the passer’s chest in a straight line to the chest area of the receiver.

Controlling the boards – Securing a majority of the rebounds.

Conversion – A made basket or free throw.

Crossover dribble – A dribble in which the ball is moved from one hand to the other while the dribbler changes directions.

Cut – A quick movement by an offensive player to elude an opponent or to receive the ball.

Basketball Terms – D

Dead ball – Occurs whenever the whistle blows to stop play and after a field goal, but before the opponent gains possession of the ball.

Defense – The team not in possession of the ball whose objective is to keep the opponent from scoring; also a specific pattern of play used by a defending team.

Double dribble – A violation that occurs when a player dribbles the ball with two hands simultaneously or stops dribbling and then dribbles again.

Double team – A defensive play where two defenders guard one player.

Dribble – Process by which a player repeatedly bounces the ball off the floor so that it returns to his/her possession. It’s the only legal means by which a player may move the ball across the court.

Drive – A quick dribble directly to the basket in an effort to score.

Basketball Terms – E

Elbow – Also called the “junction” a term often used to indicate the area of the court where the free-throw line and side of the key meet.

Basketball Terms – F

Fast break – An offensive strategy in which a team attempts to move the ball up court and into scoring position as quickly as possible so that the defense is outnumbered and does not have time to set up.

Field goal – A basket scored on a shot, except for a free throw, worth two or three points depending on the distance of the attempt from the basket.

Forward – An offensive position played to the sides of the basket near the key area and out toward the sideline along the baseline.

Foul – A violation resulting from illegal contact with an opposing player.

Foul line – It’s the same at the ‘Free-throw line”.

Free throw – An unguarded shot taken from behind the free throw line after a foul. If successful, the shot counts one point.

Free-throw lane – Also called the “key” or “lane;” a 12-foot wide area extending from the baseline to the free-throw line. Players may not be in this area during a free-throw attempt.

Free-throw line – A 12-foot-long line that is parallel to and 15 feet from the backboard.

Front court – The half of the court (divided by the center line) that contains the offensive team’s basket; the offensive half of the court.

Full–court press – A defensive tactic in which a team guards the opponents closely the full length of the court.

Basketball Terms – G

Guard – An offensive position played primarily at the perimeter, or away from the basket.

Basketball Terms – H

Held ball – Formerly called a “jump ball”. When two players on opposite teams are in joint control of the ball.

Basketball Terms – I

Intentional foul – A personal foul that the official judges to be premeditated.

In the paint – In the “key” area, so named because this area of the floor is painted.

Basketball Terms – J

Jump ball – The procedure for starting play at the beginning of a game or an overtime period. The official tosses the ball into the air between the two opponents positioned at the center-court circle; the two players jump up and try to tap the ball to a teammate.

Jump shot – A shot that is released after the shooter has jumped into the air.

Basketball Terms – K

Key – Also called the “free-throw lane” or “lane” the area measuring 12 feet in width and extending from the free-throw line to the end line. Also referred to as “the paint”.

Basketball Terms – L

Lay up – A shot taken close to the basket that is usually banked off the backboard towards the basket.

Basketball Terms – M

Man-to-man defense – When a defender is assigned to a specific player and defends only against that player.

Basketball Terms – O

Offence – The team that has possession of the basketball. Also, a designed play that a team uses to attempt to score.

One-and-one – The “bonus” free-throw situation awarded for non-shooting fouls after the opposing team exceeds a certain number of team fouls in a half. The person fouled shoots one free throw; if successful, the shooter takes a second shot.

Over-and-back violation – A violation that occurs when the offensive team returns the ball into the backcourt once it has positioned itself in the front court.

Overhead pass – A two-handed pass thrown from above the forehead.

Overtime – An extra period played to break a tie score at the end of a regulation game.

Basketball Terms – P

Palming – See “Carrying the ball”.

Pass – An intentional throw to a teammate.

Pivot – A footwork technique in which a player keeps one foot in contact with a “spot” on the floor while moving the other foot to adjust the position of the body or to evade a defensive player.

Player-to-player defense – Also “man-to-man defense” a team defense in which each player is assigned to guard a particular opponent.

Point guard – An offensive position played by a guard who usually brings the ball up the court and initiates the offence.

Post – An offensive position played close to the basket along the key.

Press – An aggressive defense that attempts to force the opponents to make errors by guarding them closely from either half court, three-quarter court or full court.

Basketball Terms – R

Rebound – The act of gaining possession of the ball after a missed shot.

Basketball Terms – S

Scrimmage – An unofficial game between two teams, or five-on-five play between team members in a practice situation.

Basketball Terms – T

Technical foul – A foul that does not involve contact with an opponent; a foul that involves unsportsmanlike conduct by a player, coach or non-player; or a contact foul committed by a player while the ball is dead.

Ten-second line – The mid-court line over which the offensive team must advance the ball from the backcourt within 10 seconds to avoid a violation.

Three-point field goal – A made basket from more than 19 feet and nine inches during a high school or college game.

Three-on-two – A common fast-break situation in which three offensive players attempt to score on two defenders.

Three seconds – A violation in which an offensive player remains within the key for more than three seconds at a time.

Traveling – A violation occurring when a player with the ball takes a step without dribbling (moving the established pivot foot).

Turnover – A loss of possession of the ball by means of an error or violation.

Basketball Terms – V

Violation – An infringement of the rules that’s not a foul. The penalty for a violation is the awarding of the ball to the opponent.

Basketball Terms – Z

Zone defense – A team defense in which each player is responsible for defending an area of the court and the opponents within that area.

Zone offence – An offensive pattern of play designed to beat a particular zone defense.


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