Basketball has a language all to itself, and understanding the terminology of the game is the first step to appreciating the game. The following is a guide to the most commonly used hoops terms:

ASSIST: Any pass that leads directly to a basket by a teammate.

BACK COURT: The half of the court that includes the basket a team is defending.

BALL HANDLING: Refers to dribbling, passing, or receiving the ball.

BASELINE: The end line running from sideline to sideline.

BLOCK OUT: A technique used to gain and maintain position between the basket and the opponent in order to rebound the ball.

BOUNCE PASS: A pass that strikes the floor once before reaching the receiver.

CHARGE: A personal foul in which an offensive player illegally runs into an opponent who is stationary, having established position.

CHEST PASS: A two-handed pass initiated from in front of the chest toward a receiver.

CONTROL DRIBBLE: A low dribble used when the dribbler is closely guarded. The ball is protected by the dribbler's body, which is between the defensive player and the ball.

DEFENSE: Refers to the team without the ball, whose objective is to keep the opposition from scoring.

DEFENSIVE REBOUND: Gaining possession of an opponent's unsuccessful shot attempt.

DOUBLE DRIBBLE: A violation in which a player dribbles the ball with two hands simultaneously, or continues to dribble after allowing the ball to come to rest in one or both hands.

DRIBBLING: The act of bouncing the ball.

DRIVE: A quick, accelerated movement executed by an offensive player toward the basket by means of a dribble.

FAKING: A technique designed to cause an opponent to move in a particular direction, or to temporarily freeze.

FAST BREAK: An offensive strategy in which a team attempts to bring the ball into scoring position before the defense can set up.

FOLLOW THROUGH: The act of finishing one's shooting motion after the release of the ball.

FOUL SHOT: An unobstructed shot from behind the foul shot line, awarded as a result of a foul by an opponent and valued at one point if scored. Also called a free throw.

FOUL: An infraction or infringement of the rules involving contact, which may result in the awarding of free throws or possession of the ball.

FRONT COURT: The half of the playing court that contains a team's offensive basket.

GIVE AND GO: A play in which the ballhandler passes to a teammate, then breaks to the basket to receive a return pass.

HALFCOURT: One of the two halves of the court on either side of the centre line.

HALFTIME: The rest period between the two halves of the game.

JUMP BALL: A method of putting the ball into play by tossing it into the air between two opponents who jump and attempt to tap the ball to a teammate outside the circle.

JUMP SHOT: A shot in which the ball is released near or at the peak of the jump.

JUMP STOP: A method of stopping in which both feet hit the floor at the same time.


(Norm Hall/NBAE Photos)
KEY: The area bounded by the free throw line, end line, and sides of the free throw area. Also called free throw lane.

LAY-UP: A shot made from close to the basket off the dribble.

OFFENSE: Refers to the team with the ball that is trying to score.

OFFENSIVE READY POSITION: Balanced position by a player ready to receive the ball or initiate movement in any direction.

PASS: A ball thrown from one player to a teammate.

PIVOT FOOT: The foot on which the player pivots, and which must remain in contact with the floor in one place while the player pivots without dribbling.

REBOUND: A missed shot that caroms off the rim or the backboard.

SHOOTING: The act of projecting the ball toward the basket in an attempt to score.

SPEED DRIBBLE: This dribble is used when a player is running near top speed in an uncongested area with little defensive pressure (i.e. fast break).

TRAVELING: A violation in which the player with the ball lifts or drags the pivot foot without dribbling.

V - CUT: A quick change in direction, usually by wing players, who take their defenders in one direction, and cut back to the ball in a V - shaped pattern to receive a pass.

WARM UP: Exercises before a game and during half time to prepare players for action.