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Basketball Terminology Explained

Sebastian Langer 0

Thanks to the NBA, basketball is one of the biggest, most popular and most watched sports in the world.

But just like any sport it has its own language, and much like when you play any game, from those available at, to those played on a court or field, you need to know the basic terminology.

Airball: When a shot makes it into the basket but doesn’t touch anything. It simply glides straight through, missing the backboard and actual net.

Assist: When a player passes the ball to another player who then goes on to score. The player that passed the ball to the scoring player gets an assist noted on the score sheet.

Backdoor: When a player that doesn’t have the ball cuts behind the defender, heading towards the basket.

Bank Shot: When a ball bounces off the backboard into the net.

Carry:  A penalty that leads to a turnover and is enforced when a player holds the ball at an apex for too long, all while dribbling.

Charge:  A penalty that is enforced when a player with the ball runs into a player that is standing still and they get knocked over.

Double Dribble: Another penalty that is enforced when a player dribbles the ball but uses both hands, or stops dribbling then starts again.

Elbow: The area on the basketball court where the free throw line meets the side of the key.

Free Throw: A free shot awarded after a penalty or foul. The player must shoot from the 15-ft line, with the rest of the players lined up along the key.

Key:  The painted area on the court that denotes the free throw line (may also be called the paint)

Lay-Up: Any shot that is made close to the basket, often when the player is moving forward at the same time.

Man-to-Man: A common defence strategy that sees each player guarding a player on the offensive team and shadowing them closely.

Outlet: This is an offensive strategy that sees the player that has grabbed the defensive rebound pass the ball off to a teammate to speed up the next possession.

One and One: If a team reaches their first offence limit the next player that is fouled gets 1 free throw. If the free throw is successful, another is awarded. This isn’t an NBA rule, but you’ll see it in college Basketball.

Post: The area outside the key may also be referred to as the block.

Rebound:  When a player from an opposing team gets the ball after a missed shot.

Swish: The sound the ball makes when it only touches the net.

Turnover: When a team loses the ball due to a penalty or out of bounds infraction.

Travel: A penalty that leads to a turnover where a player moves their foot in an illegal manner without dribbling.

Three in a key:  A penalty that ends in a turnover due to a player having stood inside the key for longer than the allowed 3 seconds

Zone Defence:  Defence strategy in which players guard a zone instead of a player.

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