A Glossary of NBA Terms
Posted Oct 22 2001 6:56PM
A-D | E-H | I-P | Q-S | T-Z
Air ball: Sarcastic term to describe a shot that doesn't touch the rim.
Alley-oop pass: A pass thrown to a player who is running toward the basket. The second player leaps, catches the ball in midair, and dunks it or lays it in before he lands.
Assist: A pass that leads directly to a basket.
Backcourt: A team's defensive half of the court. As it refers to players, a team's guards.
Backdoor play: A fundamental basketball play in which one player passes to a teammate in the high post, and when the defenders follow the ball, another player cuts to the basket from the opposite side of the court to take a pass for an open shot.
Bank shot: A shot that is aimed at a spot on the backboard so that it caroms, or "banks," into the basket.
Baseline: The line at each end of the court, under each basket. Also: endline.
Bounce pass: A pass thrown by a player to a teammate that bounces on the floor.
Box out: Use your body to stay between an opponent and the basket and thus get into better position for a rebound.
Brick: A hard, errant shot that caroms wildly off the basket or backboard.
Bunny: An open, uncontested shot, usually a layup or dunk. Also: snowbird.
Bury: Sink (a shot), as in "bury a jumper."
Charging: A violation in which an offensive player runs into a stationary opponent.
Chucker: A player who never met a shot he didn't like.
Coast-to-coast: From one end of the court to the other.
Collective Bargaining Agreement: The agreement between the NBA and the Players Association that governs all terms and conditions of employment of NBA players by NBA teams.
Cut: A quick move by an offensive player, usually toward the basket, to get in position for a shot.
Dead-ball foul: A foul committed while the clock is stopped and the ball is not in play.
Deny the ball: Prevent an opponent from getting the ball by guarding him closely and staying between him and the player in possession of the ball.
Double dribble: A violation in which a player dribbles the ball, stops, then begins to dribble again.
Double-team: The defensive tactic of two players guarding one.
Downtown: Far from the basket, often synonymous with beyond the three-point arc.
Draft: The annual selection process by which NBA teams select players from the colleges and elsewhere.
Dribble: Bounce the ball.
Dunk: A shot thrown downward through the basket, with one or two hands. Also: slam, slam-dunk, jam
Field goal: A basket, worth either two or three points, depending on whether it was taken from inside or outside the three-point line (set at 22 feet from the basket).
Flagrant foul: Unnecessary and/or excessive contact committed against an opponent.
Foul: A violation. Usually, illegal contact between two players.
Foul trouble: When a player is nearing the limit for personal fouls before he is ejected from the game, or a team is nearing the limit in each period after which all fouls become shooting fouls.
Free agent: A player not under contract to any NBA team because his contract has expired or was terminated by his team in accordance with NBA waiver procedures, or because he was eligible for an NBA Draft and was never signed to an NBA contract.
Free throw: An uncontested shot from 15 feet, worth one point. A player who is fouled while in the act of shooting receives two free throws. Also: foul shot.
Frontcourt: A team's offensive half of the court. As it refers to players, a team's center and forwards.
Give-and-go: A fundamental play in which one player passes to a teammate, then cuts to the basket to receive a return pass for an open layup or dunk.
Goaltending: A violation in which a player interferes with a shot while the ball is on its downward arc, pins it against the backboard or touches it while it is in an imaginary cylinder above the basket; may be committed by either an offensive or defensive player.
Gunner: A frequent shooter.
Hand-checking: A violation in which a defender uses his hand to impede a player's progress.
Hang time: The amount of time a player can stay in the air while attempting a shot.
High post: The area around the free throw circle.
Hook shot: A shot taken with a sweeping, hooking motion. May be taken stationary or while running.
Hoop: Basket or rim. Also slang for playing basketball.
Jump ball: When players from opposing teams gain simultaneous possession of the ball, the referee stops play. After the teams are realigned, he tosses the ball up between those two players, who attempt to tap it to a teammate.
Jump hook: A hook shot taken while jumping, popular among big men because it is difficult to block.
Jump shot: A shot taken after a player jumps in the air.
Lane: The painted area between the end line and the free-throw line near each basket, outside which players line up for free throws. Also known as the key, because in the early years it was key-shaped. It was twice widened to its present rectangular shape.
Loose-ball foul: A foul committed while neither team has possession of the ball, as while going for a rebound.
Lottery: The process that determines the order of selection, among the non-playoff teams, in the first round of the draft.
Low post: The area at the base of the foul lane to either side of the basket.
Net: The cord, 15 to 18 inches long, that hangs from the rim of the basket.
Outlet pass: A pass thrown by a player after getting a rebound to a teammate, generally near midcourt, to start a fast break.
Over the limit: Beyond a given number of fouls. Each team is allowed four fouls per quarter for which no free throws are assessed (unless they are committed against players in the act of shooting ); after four fouls a team is said to be "over the limit" and free throws are assessed on all subsequent fouls.
Overtime: A five-minute extra period that is played when the game is tied after four quarters. If a game remains tied following an overtime period, another is played and another until there is a winner.
Palming: A violation in which a player moves his hand under the ball and scoops it while dribbling. Also: carrying the ball.
Penalty situation: When a team has committed more than its allotted four fouls per quarter and thus each subsequent foul becomes a shooting foul. Also: Over the limit.
Personal foul: see Foul.
Pick: When an offensive player frees a teammate for a shot by establishing a stationary position that prevents a defensive player from guarding the shooter. If the player who is "setting a pick" is not stationary and contact is made with a defender, it is an offensive foul and his team loses possession of the ball. Also: screen.
Pick-and-roll: A play in which an offensive player sets a pick, then "rolls" toward the basket and takes a pass from a teammate for an open shot.
Pivot: The area near the basket, generally where the center operates, or the act of changing directions, by keeping one foot planted on the ground while stepping in one or more directions with the other foot.
Post: see Low Post.
Player-control foul: An offensive foul that is committed not when a player is shooting, but just when his team is in control of the ball.
Point guard: Usually a team's primary ballhandler and the man who sets up the team's offense.
Power forward: The larger of a team's two forwards, whose duties generally involve rebounding as much as scoring.
Press: Guard very closely.
Pump fake: A fake in which a player motions as if he is going to shoot the ball but holds back, hoping his defender will jump out of position.
Quadruple-double: An extremely rare (it's only happened four times in NBA history) achievement in which a player accumulates doubles figures in four of the following categories in the same game: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.
Rebound: Gather in and gain control of a missed shot; a missed shot that is retrieved.
Rejection: A blocked shot.
Sag: A defensive tactic in which a player drops off his man to help double-team a player in the pivot.
Salary Cap: Common term for Maximum Team Salary, the maximum amount each team may pay in salaries during an NBA season, as per teams of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Set shot: A shot taken while a player has both feet on the floor in a set position. Common in basketball's early years, it is now all but extinct, having given way to the harder-to-block jump shot.
Shot clock: The 24-second clock used to time possessions. A team must attempt a shot that hits the rim within 24 seconds or else it loses possession of the ball.
Sixth man:A team's primary reserve, the first substitute to enter a game.
Sky-hook: A hook shot in which the ball is released while the shooter's hand is at the top of the arc; used most effectively by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time career scoring leader.
Skywalk: The ability to move laterally while in the air.
Slam dunk: see Dunk.
Steal: To take the ball away from the opposing team, either off the dribble or by picking off a pass.
Switch: When teammates exchange defensive assignments during play.
Technical foul: The penalty for a violation of conduct, such as abusive language or fighting. Each technical foul awards a free throw to the opposing team and also means an automatic fine for the player who commits the violation.
Three-point shot: A field goal worth three points, taken from beyond an arc that is 22 feet from the basket.
Three-second violation: An offensive player may not stand in the lane for three seconds.
360: To elude a defender by doing a complete spin, making a 360-degree turn.
Tip-in: To tip a missed shot into the basket.
Trailer: An offensive player who trails on a fast break but often is in good position to score after the first wave of defenders goes by.
Transition: The movement from offense to defense, or vice versa, when the ball changes hands.
Traveling: A violation in which a player takes too many steps without dribbling the ball. Also: walking.
Triple-double: A relatively rare achievement in which a player accumulates double figures in three of the following categories in the same game: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.
Turnover: Loss of ball, either through an errant pass or dribble or an offensive foul.
Veteran free agent: A player who completes his contractual obligation to his team and becomes free to sign with any NBA team, as per terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Weak side: The side of the court away from the ball.
Zone: A defensive tactic in which players guard areas of the court, rather than specific men. Illegal in the NBA.