Basketball Terms and Definitions

Are you just starting to learn about basketball, trying to brush up on your game, or do you want to know more about it for watching? Or maybe you want to show a friend how knowledgeable on the sport you are. Whatever the case may be, you might be wanting to learn some terminology of the sport of basketball. Like many other sports, there is a lot to know and there are several phrases used amongst players, coaches, and referees. Here are popular basketball definitions, terms, and phrases that are commonly used within basketball amongst players that are of importance. Here what you should know: 

Assist
An assist in basketball is when a player passes the ball to their teammate which ends in a basket/point for their team. This is the same term used in other sports, such as hockey, soccer, volleyball, etc.

Alley-oop
This is when a person throws the ball high towards the basketball hoop and another teammate jumps up, catches the ball mid-air, and slams it into the hoop.

Double Dribble
This term is when a player either dribbles the ball with two hands at the same time or completely stops dribbling all together and then starts to dribble again. This would result in a loss of possession of the ball.

Jump Ball
A jump ball is when two players from opposite teams jump for a basketball that was tossed into the air by a referee. A jump ball is also a way to give possession after two opposing players try to gain possession of the ball at the same time. 

Screen
A screen in basketball is when a player on the offense stands in the way or up against a defender that is guarding someone else on the offense to help them get an open shot.

Swish
A swish is a shot that is made that goes straight through the net without touching any part of the rim or backboard of the basketball hoop. You might also hear people say, “nothing but net,” when this happens.

Airball
Quite the opposite of a "swish," an airball is a shot attempt that does not touch the basket or the backboard at all and missed the mark to count as a shot attempt.

Traveling
Traveling in basketball is when a player moves their feet without dribbling the ball. This normally happens if a player takes more than two steps in between dribbles. This would then result in a loss of possession for the team that traveled.

Box out
When you box someone out, you are positioning yourself between the basket and the opponent on the other team as a way to not let them get the ball to rebound.

Free Throw
Players shoot a free throw from the free throw line when they have been fouled by an opposite opponent. They cannot be guarded while shooting from the free throw line and each basketball is worth one point. 

Foul
A foul, which is when you would most likely be shooting a free throw, is known as illegal contact of another player or unsportsmanlike conduct on the court or the sidelines of the game. A referee will call a foul and decide what will happen. There are a few different options that can happen: the team who had the player that committed the foul loses their possession of the ball to the other team, the player that is fouled is given one or more free throws, that was mentioned prior to this term. Also, the player that was the one that fouled, can “foul out” of the game, normally if they commit over five fouls individually. Lastly, the player that committed the foul can be suspended from a certain number of games by the ref or division's discretion.

Three-Point Line
The three-point line, sometimes called the three-point arc as well, is the strip along the outside of the offensive zone and any shot this is shot and made behind it is worth three points for the team.

basketball terms - basketball definitions