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Basketball Terms Explained

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Your child will have a tough time getting the hang of basketball if he doesn't understand the game's lingo. Communication between players, coaches, and referees is crucial to the game. Here are a few terms you and your child will come across on the basketball court.

Airball

A shot attempt that was off the mark and didn't touch the basket or the backboard

Alley-oop

A play where a teammate throws the ball high towards the basket and their teammate jumps up, catches the ball, and then slams it into the hoop.

Assist

When a player passes the ball to their teammate, which leads to a made basket.

Backboard

The rectangular piece of wood or fiberglass attached to the back of the basket.

Box Out

Positioning yourself between the basket and your opponent as a way to obtain a rebound.

Brick

A shot that bounces off the rim or backboard without going in.

Double-Double

A phrase meaning a player recorded two statistical figures in double digits (i.e. 10 points and 12 assists).

Double Dribble

When a player either dribbles the ball with two hands or stops dribbling all together and then begins again, this results in a loss of possession.

Fast Break

A play that starts with a defensive rebound that is quickly passed up towards mid court to an awaiting teammate. These plays often end with an easy basket as the opposing team isn't able to catch up to the scoring player.

Field Goal

A basket made during the game.

Free-Throw Line

The line that players shoot from after being fouled. They cannot be guarded while shooting from there, and each basket made is worth one point.

Jump Ball

Two opposing players jump for a basketball that was tossed into the air by a ref. Also away to award possession after two opposing players simultaneously gain possession of a ball. 

The Paint

This is the area on a court that extends from the baseline under the basketball to the free-throw line. Referred to as the paint because it is often a different color from the rest of the court.

Screen

When an offensive player stands in the way of a defender to try and give his teammate an open shot.

Slam Dunk

Also known as a dunk, this is when a player close to the basket jumps up and throws the ball down into the hoop.

Swish

A shot that goes straight through the net without touching the rim or backboard, also known as nothing-but-net.

Three-Point Line

Also known as the 3-point arc. This is the strip along the outside of the offensive zone and any shot made from behind it is worth three points.

Traveling

When a player moves their feet without dribbling the basketball. This results in a loss of possession for their team.

Triple-Double

A phrase meaning a player recorded three statistical figures in double digits, often thought of as a great accomplishment (i.e. 10 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds).

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