Basketball Terms Every Hooper Must Know

Basketball terms

Written by Aliesha

June 25, 2021


There’s no denying the fact that basketball has garnered widespread popularity throughout the world due to the trend of leagues that showcase their talents in various local, national, and international competitions. However, this factor also paved the way for a long list of basketball terms and phrases used during the game that not everyone knows about. 

While it is important for you to understand these terms as well to enjoy your favorite sport, it can also be a daunting task to find a single source where you can gather all of them in one go. Thus, we’ve put together the most frequently used basketball jargon and terminology so you can easily have them all in one place.

Basketball Terms: Top Jargons to Keep In Mind 

Much like every other sporting field out there, the hoop realm has several specific basketball terms or jargon that only players, coaches, and enthusiasts could understand. So, it goes without saying that if you want to thrive on the court, you must also be capable to comprehend and speak about the game’s lingo.

Alley Oop

In order to make an alley-oop, two things must occur: (1) The passing player must have space to catch the ball; (2) The shooting player must have enough space to release the pass without being compromised by an opponent. 

The first requirement is easy: you have to have enough space so that your body does not obstruct the other player’s path to the hoop (legs stretched out to make a catch or shot attempt illegal). The second requirement is what makes players run down on the floor when an alley-oop is attempted. If there is a separation between the two players (for example, if one of them has to pull up for a loose ball), that player will generally take longer to make the pass.

Air Ball

Airball is a basketball term commonly used in the court. A player that shoots an airball means to miss the basket and shoot the ball but not touch anything. When someone shoots an airball, they miss the basket and the ball falls down.

An airball is a type of shot in basketball where the player attempts to score or complete a shot and it misses the hoop or scores but does not go through the basket. The opposing team is awarded one point for the airball because they are considered to have scored off of a rebound. Usually, an airball will occur when players are attempting shots at or near the end of the game and are unable to make good quality shots.

And One

The and one play in basketball gets its name because there really is no other way to describe it. It is a chance for a team to recover from a deficit and take a big lead or tie game. Given the choice between recovering from a deficit and creating a chance for a comeback, most players will opt for the latter. 

The play, as we all know, is played by one player on each team who takes the ball around the court and attempts to drive into the basket as quickly as possible, even if it means stepping into traffic or getting fouled. In other words, the and one play is exactly what it sounds like: A player takes one shot on offense and one shot on defense, regardless of whether he got fouled or not.

And one is one of the most exciting plays in basketball. This is one of those plays where it looks easy at first, but then you realize how difficult it is to pull off. You see the defender backing up, waiting for the mid-range shot to come, but then you step back and release the shot… and it’s gone. You missed your chance at an incredible opportunity and it cost you nothing. This play is so exciting because it has so much uncertainty and involved action. Not many plays have this much skill involved in them, which makes it even more fun to watch. 

Ankle Breaker

In basketball, an ankle-breaker is a dribbling move that causes the defender to lose balance or fall to the floor. The crossover is probably the best-known ankle breaker in basketball, and also probably the most difficult to perform.

The most common ankle breaker in basketball is the crossover dribble. The offensive player dribbles towards the defender, stops hard, and suddenly changes direction, causing the defender to ‘break’ his ankle, or to fall flat on the floor to avoid a collision.


“A bucket” is a slang term used in basketball when a player makes a field goal. To make a “bucket” or to “make baskets,” also known as to “score,” is to successfully throw the ball through the basket. A rifle shot made from beyond the three-point line of the foul line is called a “three-pointer.” If a player in the offense makes “a bucket” or makes an incredible basket, it means that he or she has scored two points.

There are different ways to make a bucket or score a point in basketball. Some methods play right into your strengths (like shooting from three-point range), but may not work out as well if the defense is prepared (in which case you could end up missing). Other shot selections can hurt your chances of making the shot but can work if the defense is off-balance. It is not always easy to determine when it makes sense to ‘take the shot’ or ‘pass on a good shot. 

Buzzer Beater

The buzzer beater is a shot that is taken before the game clock of a quarter, a half, or an overtime period expires, and does not go in the basket until after the clock has rung in the specified number of seconds. The buzzer beater is generally considered a turnover in basketball. Takers of buzzer beaters get a good feeling about themselves and can confidently take their chance in a game situation where others might hesitate. A good buzzer beater usually comes naturally. Once developed, though, it can be learned and mastered by anyone who is willing to put in the hours necessary to perfect it.

This basketball term is one of the most exciting plays in basketball. When a team is trailing with only a small number of seconds remaining, it can often win the game with a long shot just before time expires and the buzzers go off. It’s always unpredictable, which makes it a thrilling way to win. The buzzer beater is such an exciting play because it often happens at the end of games that are already being won by one team. 


The fadeaway can be a difficult shot to defend because it travels in the direction away from the basket rather than directly at it. The trajectory requires three-point shooters to jump backward and battle the force of gravity, but if made correctly, it enables the shooter to shoot over his defender. It is widely regarded as one of the most effective midrange jump shots and is a useful weapon for post players who can turn their back on the basket. It is also called the “back shot” or “turnaround”.

A fadeaway in basketball is a perfect play for a player who finds himself struggling to create space for himself above the three-point line. Because defenders have much more to focus on during a fadeaway, they are forced to give up their position on defense and help their man contest the shot. A skilled fadeaway shooter has a knack for finding the soft spots in the defense, allowing him to get into the lane and convert easy layups.

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A flop in basketball has many sub-positions. Sometimes it is simply an accidental stepping or staggering followed by a non-directional jump that is a consequence of the illegal move. Other times it can be an intentional leaning or falling after receiving a rubber bullet injury to the knee or other hard parts of the body as the result of a collision with an opponent during play. 

Regardless of its intent, a flop in basketball is an infraction that draws a personal foul calling for an instant technical foul and the subsequent dive for the ball at the free throw line with the returned ball going to the opposite corner from where it originally came. 

This act is often performed by big men who are much larger than their opponents and who often use their size and strength to drive into the much smaller ones and make contact with their shoulders or upper body. If the big man staggers toward his opponent with as much force as if he were jumping straight into a punch, there will be no doubt that this is a deliberate over-the-top act intended to draw a personal foul.


The floater is a play that comes after a prior cut or hesitation dribble by the player moving towards the basket area. The result of the move comes as a curl or a shake in the air behind the ball handler before it rises into the sky, this is all done in an attempt to get a trailing defender to commit either to a foul or to force the miss. 

The floater is often difficult for defenses to evaluate because of its abrupt and unexpected nature. Making this play requires great motion and timing by the player initiating the move as well as a great deal of awareness of their body’s position relative to the floor as they move towards their shot.

Often times the floater will be taken in a low percentage situation as this is known as a ‘weak’ shot. This is because typically defenses will stand still and not challenge as much as they would in a strong situation where the defender is forced to honor the weak shot attempt.

Sixth man

The sixth man in basketball has many responsibilities. He is often the first point guard off the bench and is required to carry out a large number of duties throughout the game including scoring, passing, and protecting the rim. He is often a non-factor in games he doesn’t start but is required to play heavy minutes nonetheless because there is no other viable option at that position available for the team to employ.


Traveling in basketball is one of the most common violations in the game. It’s called traveling when a player who has the ball in their hands, takes more than two steps without dribbling the ball or passing the ball.

Pick and roll

The pick-and-roll is perhaps the most fundamental play in all of basketball. It is the starting point for almost every offensive possession and it usually results in a made shot. When done properly by both teams, the pick-and-roll leads to lots of opportunities for both teams. It is important to understand how to screen for a score on the pick-and-roll so that you can get easy buckets and put points on the board for your teammates.

When your team is playing pick-and-roll, it is crucial that everyone on the team knows where the ball is going. This is why many times a player will take the shot before showing any sign of knowing where the ball is going. It is a common mistake made by coaches and players alike. If a player does not place the ball in the corner or behind the three-point line before taking his shot it is because he does not know where the ball is going or whether or not there is an open teammate available for the pass.

Boxing out

Boxing out in basketball is not a new concept. It has been around since the early 1800s when professional boxers would rough up their opponents in order to keep them from scoring. 

Boxers would often attack an opponent without stepping away from their original location. This would give them an unfair advantage because if an opponent moved while you were attacking them, you would have to stop your original movement in order to get near them. Since then, boxing out has become a staple of the sporting world and is often integrated into the strategies of both offense and defense.

Boxing out in basketball has two parts. The first part is knowing where the ball is going to go and then communicating that to your teammates. The second part is doing everything you can to block any chance of your teammate taking a rebound that might otherwise go to their opponent or teammate. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes a lot easier since both teams are running the same plays and there aren’t many differences in height or weight so blocking shots becomes a lot easier as well.


In basketball, the term downtown is used to refer to the area behind the three-point line. Whenever a player shoots a basket that is scored beyond this three-point line, it’s considered a “downtown” basket or shot. It’s important to remember that any basket that made three points past this three-point line is worth three points.

Remember these Basketball Terms

Basketball is particularly known for the presence of specific basketball terms or jargon that are, by and large, characteristic of its own sporting field. Much like every other sporting field out there, even the hoop realm denotes a set of specific basketball terms or jargon that only players, coaches, and enthusiasts could comprehend and speak about. 

After all, being able to know about the sport you’re playing is a prerequisite if you intend to thrive on the court.


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