Though Canada has two official languages in French and English, basketball has a language distinctly its own. To become fluent in basketball, read the following guide to hoops language.
Active Around the Rim
When a player is constantly jumping and hustling for rebounds.
Often said by the defensive player who appears to have blocked the shot but instead is called for a foul.
If a player can consistently make a shot, it's said that he can make it "all day".
This is when a player gets fouled while in the act of shooting but still scores the basket. He then gets the opportunity to make it a three-point play by getting one free throw attempt.
Players who, when they shoot, anticipate that the ball is going in. The Seattle SuperSonics' Ray Allen is automatic from the foul line, making more than 85 per cent of his free throws in his career.
A one-handed, high-arching shot that is difficult to block. It is primarily used by big men who are close to the basket.
Bail Him Out Defensively
When an offensive player jumps, he must shoot or pass. When a player is in the air and attempts an off-balance shot, and is fouled, the defensive player has "bailed him out" because he had no shot or pass to make.
To make a sharp turn or cut to free an offensive player so he can receive a pass.
A basketball player.
Battle for Position
When players bump and push one another to gain position close to the basket.
Beat the Defender
When an offensive player is able to drive past the defender guarding him.
A tall player, often the centre or power forward, who plays close to the basket.
If the ball is passed inside to the post and never passed back out to the perimeter player, the post player is a "black hole". Once the ball goes in, it never comes back out!
Square area painted or taped above the rim on the backboard.
When a player makes a move that causes the defender to stumble or fall, the defender has had his "ankles broken".
Bringing the House Down
If a player is on a shooting streak, he is "bringing the house down".
The rim or a made basket. A player who is having trouble scoring "can't buy a bucket".
A last second shot that is made as the final buzzer sounds.
Camping in the Key
Refers to a player guilty of a three-second violation in the key.
The foul line.
Clean the Glass
When a rebounder swipes the ball off of the glass backboard, he is a "Windex man" who is "cleaning the glass".
A halfcourt play designed to isolate an offensive player to go one-on-one against his defender.
Creating His Own Shot
This is when a player has to open up space for himself, thus giving him the opportunity to take a shot at the basket.
Reggie Miller has built a reputation for making the big shot at crunch time.
The end of a game when the score is close. In Indiana, Reggie Miller has built a reputation for making the big shot at crunch time; Pacers fans call this "Miller Time".
To play defence. This is also known as "checking your man".
A basket late in the game that seals a victory.
A player who has the ability to make long perimeter shots and three-pointers.
The offensive player a defender is assigned to guard.
When an offensive player drives to the basket, a teammate of the defender leaves his man to help cover the player with the ball.
Deliver in the Clutch
To make a big play at the end of a game, ensuring the win.
Describes a shot that is blocked.
To pass for a layup. A "3-D" man is a player that can drive (to the basket), draw (the defender to him) and dish (to a teammate for a layup). Toni Kukoc of the Milwaukee Bucks is known as "The Waiter" because he delivers "dishes" to his teammates.
Distribute the Basketball
To pass the ball.
Doing the Dirty Work
Hustling, rebounding and getting back on defence on a fast break are all elements of "doing the dirty work".
Down to the Wire
A game that is decided on the final shot or possession.
Draw a Foul
When an offensive player makes a move to the basket in an effort to initiate contact with the defender.
Draw the Defence
When the player with the ball attracts an additional defender, drawing the defender away from an offensive player. This player is now open for a shot.
To go to the basket.
Drive and Dish
This is to penetrate into the key and pass to an open teammate for a layup. "Drive and deal" or "drive and deliver" are often heard during NBA games and mean the same thing.
Drive and Kick
To drive to the basket and pass the ball to an open perimeter shooter.
To score. For example, "Shaq routinely drops 30 (points) on opposing players."
Passing the ball to teammates for assists.
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The intersection of the free-throw line and middle of the circle.
Empty the Bench
At the end of a game when the coach takes out his starters and puts in all bench players.
This is the toughest player on the team, usually a centre or power forward, who tries to set the physical tone of the game with an aggressive rebound or hard foul. The Miami Heat's Shaqulle O'Neal is an enforcer.
When a defensive player has his feet planted outside the restricted area. An offensive player who runs into this defender will be called for charging.
To shoot or dunk directly in an opponent's face.
A jump shot taken while the player's body is moving away from the basket.
Feed the Post
To pass to the low-post player on offence.
Fill the Lanes
Players who run on the "wings" close to the sidelines on the fast break are "filling the lanes". By spreading out widely, it is harder for the opposing team to defend.
Find the Open Man
To pass to an unguarded teammate.
A player who excels in the skill elements of the game, such as passing, shooting and ball-handling.
A layup where the shooter rolls the ball off his finger tips into the basket. This is also known as a "lay-in".
Finish Around the Basket
To be able to score in the key. This can be on a turnaround jump shot, baby hook, drop step, offensive rebound and/or layup.
A player who is good at scoring on fast breaks, finishing the play.
Floater in the Key
A high arcing shot taken on a drive in the paint. This is also known as a "teardrop".
To dunk the basketball with authority.
To purposely foul weak free-throw shooters in order to have them miss and the fouling team regain possession to score.
When a player scores a three-point basket and is fouled. He then has an opportunity to shoot one foul shot to complete the four-point play.
The star player around whom a team franchise is built.
When the defensive team defends the offensive team in the backcourt. Full-court presses often have the defensive team double-teaming the ball in an attempt to force a turnover.
Gamble on Defence
To try for steals, though this often leaves the player out of place defensively.
A player that does the "dirty work". Bo Outlaw of the Memphis Grizzlies is one of the NBA's best "garbage men".
Get the Roll
Kobe Bryant is the Lakers go-to guy.
This is when a player shoots the ball and it rolls around the rim, but eventually falls in for a score. This is also known as a "shooter's roll".
Get to the Line
To shoot foul shots.
Go Either Way
The ability of a player to handle the ball with both hands.
This is the team's best offensive player who is relied upon to score or create his own shot when his team needs a basket.
Go to the Bank/Bank Shot
A shot off the backboard.
Go to the Hole
To drive to the basket.
Good Look at the Basket
To get open for a shot that a player should be able to make.
When a player is given the approval by his coach to shoot at any time regardless of the distance of the shot or time on the clock. A player given the "green light" to shoot has "no conscience", meaning he has no regrets about any shot taken at any time.
In hockey, an assist is awarded to the last two offensive players to pass to the goal scorer. In basketball, often the most important pass is the one that leads to the pass for the assist. Canadian coaches have coined this "the Gretzky pass".
A player who has spent a lot of time in the gym perfecting his basketball skills.
To foul a player. Also known as "hammer".
If a player has a good "handle", he is a good ball-handler.
If a team is "hanging around", though they are losing, they are keeping the score close enough that they still have a chance to win.
He Got Game
A complete player who can shoot, pass, dribble, rebound and play defence. When discussing Ray Allen of the Seattle SuperSonics, most observers would agree, "He got game!"
"He's feeling it!"
When a player has made consecutive shots in a row. This player may be a streaky shooter capable of making many shots consecutively.
A player with the ability to leap high.
A shot a player is comfortable taking and consistently makes. This is a high-percentage shot. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers was one of the few NBA players capable of consistently making his hook shot, known as the "sky hook".
The belief that a team playing with the support of its fans and in the familiar surroundings of its home court gives the team a competitive edge.
Refers to a made basket or the rim.
A basketball player.
The ability to leap high.
The key area. Dikembe Mutombo is famous for waving his index finger after blocking a shot and saying, "Don't come into the house of Mutombo!"
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In the Zone
A player who is on a shooting streak, making a high percentage of his shots despite the level of difficulty, is "in the zone".
When a player performs a play that is reminiscent of Michael Jordan.
Keeping the Ball Alive
Tapping and rebounding the ball to oneself or a teammate in order to retain an offensive possession.
Keeping the Defence Honest
Defensive teams will often leave the perimeter player feeding the post in order to double-team the player closer to the basket. Perimeter players must be able to make outside shots in order for their defenders to have to guard them or "keep them honest".
The paint or lane. Kevin McHale, formerly of the Boston Celtics, was known as a "Picasso in the paint" for his ability to use his footwork and variety of post moves to score in the key.
Sneakers or running shoes.
Kill the Clock
This is when an offence controls the ball for as much of the 24-second clock or game clock as possible before releasing a shot.
This is when a ball-handler dribbles the ball across his body changing from right hand to left hand, or left hand to right hand. If done quickly enough, it may leave the defender off-balance, allowing the ball-handler to pass, shoot or drive. Tim Hardaway is famous for his Killer Crossover, also known in his college days at the University of Texas-El Paso as the UTEP Two-Step.
Knock it Down
To make a shot.
A shot a player takes leaning into his defender as he shoots the ball.
Lock Him Up
To defend a player so that he cannot shoot, pass or dribble.
To pass the ball to a player on the run closer to the basket.
Lose Your Man
When an offensive player uses a ball cut or screen to get open for a pass.
The area near the basket outside of the key where low-post players create space to receive a pass.
A type of defence where each defensive player is responsible for the offensive player he is guarding.
This is when an offensive player has an advantage in size and/or speed versus his defender. In the NBA, teams try to exploit mismatches of size and speed.
A player that makes clutch, game-saving plays at the end of a game.
A powerful dunk.
Monster on the Boards
An aggressive rebounder.
Often heard by a player to his teammates after a bad pass or turnover.
A close game.
Nailed to the Bench
Players who seldom play are said to be "nailed to the bench".
On a Roll
A player on a shooting streak. "Butter me up 'cause I'm on a roll!"
On the Line
When a player is shooting foul shots, he is "on the line". When the game is "on the line", the outcome of the game is to be decided on the final play.
A player who is very good at one particular skill, often shooting. Teams will bring in a shooter for a last-second play for a chance at a three-point shot.
When a player has an unguarded shot he should take and make.
An abbreviation for "overtime". In basketball, games do not end in a tie; they keep going until one team has won. During the 2000-01 season, the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors played in a triple-overtime game, with the Kings emerging triumphant behind 39 points from Peja Stojakovic.
Over the Limit
When a team commits more than five team fouls per quarter they are over the limit and the fouled team shoots two free throws. When a player is over the limit, he has committed his sixth personal foul and cannot return to the game.
This area in front of the basket is also known as the "key" or the "lane".
A player that sets up offensively on the perimeter, rather than in the low post. This is usually the team's guards or small forward. Perimeter players are usually strong ball-handlers and outside shooters.
Pick Up Your Man
To begin defending an offensive player.
To block a shot by holding or "pinning" the shot against the backboard.
Time spent on the bench. This is also known as "riding the pine" or "getting splinters".
The centre who plays in the post uses pivot-foot moves to score. Because of this, the centre position is often known as the "pivot".
Play Off Your Man
When a defender gives the player with the ball the room to shoot because he is cautious of the player's ability to drive. This is also known as "playing him for the drive".
A team's point guard who runs the offence and creates plays for his teammates to score. Also known as the "floor general".
Polished Offensive Player
A player who is strong in the offensive skills of passing, shooting and ball-handling. A polished offensive player, like Antawn Jamison of the Dallas Mavericks, has the ability to make the open shot, post up, drive to the basket or pass out of the double team.
A player who positions himself near the free-throw lane for a pass with his back to the basket and a defender behind him.
To dunk over another player. This word came about because photos for posters are made from these types of plays.
Pound the Ball Inside
To make a concerted effort to pass the ball to low-post players playing inside.
Pound the Boards
To fight for rebounds under the basket.
This is short for "playing time". This is also known as "getting some run".
To come to a two-foot stop to pop a jump shot. Also known as a "stop and pop".
A player who has the ability to consistently make long-range shots.
Put a Body on Him
To box out the player one is guarding when rebounding. Offensive rebounds lead to second-chance points.
To score under the basket off an offensive rebound.
Put the Ball on the Floor
A player who can "put the ball on the floor" is able to take the ball to the basket on a drive.
Putting Up Numbers
When a player's statistical production is impressive in a number of different categories, including points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.
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A team's point guard who sets up the offence and passes the ball, like a quarterback in football.
Quick First Step
The ability of a player to beat his defender off the dribble. If a player has a quick first step, it is difficult for the defender to recover defensively once he has been beaten to the basket.
The distance from which a player can consistently make shots. Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks has shown the ability to consistently make three-point shots, therefore he has "three-point range".
This is the dotted area close to the basket inside the key where a charging violation cannot be called on the offensive player. This is also known as the "no charge zone".
Ride Him While He's Hot
To continue to pass the ball to a player who is on a scoring streak.
The basketball. To "protect the rock" is to be careful when handling the basketball.
An unanswered string of points scored.
Run the Floor
The ability of a player to run and handle the ball on the fast break.
Running the Point
To play the point guard position.
A team's non-starters or bench players.
Set the Table
When a point guard begins the halfcourt offence, he is "setting the table". From here, the point guard can "drive and dish" or "feed the post".
Shake Your Man
To "shake your man" is to fake out a defender for an open shot or layup.
Show and Go
A shot fake used before driving to the basket.
The first substitute off the bench, replacing a starter in a game. Though the sixth man may not start, he often plays the fourth quarter and finishes a game.
Small on Big Screen
When a guard (who is usually smaller) sets a pick for a forward (who is usually bigger).
Soft on D
When a player is considered a weak defender, he is known to be "soft on D".
Square Up for the Jumper
To have your shoulders facing the basket when you shoot.
Squeeze the Ball
When rebounding, to "squeeze the ball" is to gain control of the basketball.
The first five players on each team to begin a game. The "starters" are usually comprised of two guards, two forwards and a centre.
Steal a Win
When a team that has played poorly plays well enough in the end to pull out a win.
Step Out and Face the Basket
For big men, the ability to shoot on the perimeter. Big men who can step out and face the basket, like Keith Van Horn of the New York Knicks, are tough for opposing players to guard because they are used to playing inside, close to the basket.
A player known for his ability to "stop" players defensively. "Stoppers" are known for their ability to "shut down" their man.
Stretch the D with the Three
To make three-point shots, forcing the defence to come out (or "stretch") to defend the shooter. Teams that are not fearful of an offence's three-point shooters are known to "pack it in", meaning their defenders play close to the basket in the key.
A player's shooting motion.
To block a shot.
A versatile mid-sized player who can play more than one position. Tracy McGrady of the Orlando Magic is a swingman.
When defensive players trade the players they are guarding on a pick-and-roll.
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Taking Him to School
When a player is consistently beating his defender, he is "teaching him a lesson" or "taking him to school".
Test the Free Agent Waters
Players at the end of their contracts often discuss "testing the free agent waters". This means a player will consider contract offers from other teams when his current contract is complete.
Thread the Needle
When a pinpoint pass is thrown in traffic, like a needle being threaded.
Tickle the Twine
When a player "swishes" a shot, he is said to have "tickled the twine" or shot "nothing but net".
When the lane is crowded with more than one defender. To "drive in traffic" is to penetrate the key with two or three defenders in the way.
An offensive player bringing up the rear on a fast break who may get into position for a better shooting opportunity on a pass from the leader.
The fast break that results from a rebound, turnover or change in possession.
Also known as the "triple-post offence", used by Michael Jordan's championship Chicago Bulls teams under coach Phil Jackson. See the Basketball U tutorial on Halfcourt Offence.
A three-point shot. Terms for taking a three-point shot include "launching a trifecta" and "dialing long distance".
This word is derived from the word "between", as in a player is between the height of a guard and a forward. "Tweeners" often have the skills of a big man, but the height of a guard. Though only six foot five, Charles Barkley was one of the NBA's greatest rebounding power forwards.
When an offensive player fakes going up with the basketball, waits for the defender to jump, then ducks under him before going up with another shot.
A draft term for a player with long-term potential. Players with "upside" are generally good athletes with great "tools", such as size, leaping ability, long arms and quick feet. These players need some seasoning and experience before they can become effective NBA players. Jermaine O'Neal of the Indiana Pacers was drafted out of high school with raw athletic talent but needed five years in the league before becoming a solid NBA starter.
Use the Glass
To make a shot off the backboard.
This is an abbreviated form of "vertical leap", indicating how high a player can jump vertically from a stationary position. Players with large "verticals" are able to use their hops or jumping ability to "jump out of the gym". The Los Angeles Clippers have three young players with verticals over 40 inches: Keyon Dooling, Corey Maggette and Quentin Richardson.
A dunk where the player brings the ball to his waist and raises it back up in a circular motion.
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