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Basketball: Terms to Know

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Alley-oop

When one player throws a pass to a player who is in mid-air and dunks the ball into the basket without first landing on the court.

And-one

Slang term used when a player scores a basket and is fouled on the play, earning two points "and one" free throw attempt.

Assist

A pass that leads directly to a basket by a teammate.

Backcourt violation

Once a team has possession on its offensive end of the court, it cannot touch the ball on the other half of the court unless the opposing team touches the ball first.

Bank shot

A shot aimed at the backboard so that it caroms, or "banks," into the basket.

Bench

Slang for a team's reserve players.

Blocked shot

When a defensive player legally deflects an opponent's field goal attempt.

Brick

Slang for a hard, errant shot that bounces wildly off the basket or backboard.

Center

Usually the tallest player on a team, the center plays near the basket and is primarily responsible for rebounding, scoring and blocking shots.

Charging

When an offensive player runs into an opponent who has established a stationary defensive position. The offending player is charged with a personal foul.

Charity stripe

A slant term for the free throw line

Cut

A quick move by an offensive player, used to create separation from a defender.

Cylinder

The rim and the area directly above it.

Dime

Slang term for an assist.

Double dribble

A violation that occurs when a player discontinues his or her dribble and then begins it again. The result is loss of possession.

Double-team

A defensive tactic in which two players guard one.

Dunk

Slang term for forcibly putting the basketball through the hoop. Also known as a slam dunk.

Fast break

An offensive tactic in which the team that gains possession of the ball pushes it quickly into the opponent's end of the court, hoping to get a good shot off before the other team has a chance to set up on defense.

FIBA

Federation Internationale de Basketball, or the International Basketball Federation, is international basketball's governing body.

Field goal

A basket scored on a shot taken during the normal course of play.

Free throw

An uncontested shot from a designated mark on the floor (the free throw line) 15 feet from the basket. A free-throw attempt is awarded after personal fouls that occur during a shot attempt, all technical fouls and when the foul limit is reached in a quarter. A free throw is worth one point. Also known as a "foul shot."

Fouling out

According to FIBA rules, a player who accumulates five personal fouls is disqualified from the remainder of the game.

Full-court press

A tactic in which a team defends the entire length of the court. A full-court press is intended to pressure an opponent into turning the ball over.

Give-and-go

An offensive tactic in which a player passes to a teammate, then makes an abrupt cut and receives a return pass.

Goaltending

Defensive goaltending occurs when a player blocks an opposing player's shot as it descends toward the basket; in this case, the shot is considered good. An offensive goaltending violation occurs when an offensive player touches the ball while it is on the rim of his team's basket or above the cylinder; there is no offensive goaltending in international play.

High post

Generally considered the upper third of the key. A player stationed in this area offensively is said to operate "in the high post."

Hook shot

A one-handed shot taken with a high, sweeping motion. Hook shots are especially difficult to block because the shooter's body shields the defender.

Hoops

Slang term for basketball

Hops

Slang term for jumping

Jump ball

When players from opposing teams gain possession of the ball at the same time, also described as a tie-up. Because the Olympics now uses alternating possession to determine who gets the ball after a tie-up, there will only be jump balls to start each half.

Lane

The outlined or painted area near the basket. During play, offensive players are not allowed to remain in this area for more than three consecutive seconds.

Layup

A shot taken very close to the basket.

Low post

Generally considered the bottom third of the key. Players closest to the basket are said to be stationed "in the low post."

Man-to-man defense

A tactic in which each player is solely responsible for guarding one player from the opposing team.

Paint

Slang for the area also described as the lane. A player stationed in this area is said to be "in the paint."

Pick

Also known as a "screen," a pick is an offensive tactic in which one player becomes a stationary obstacle for a teammate to use to create space between himself or herself and a defender.

Pick-and-roll

An offensive tactic that involves one player picking the defender who is guarding the player with the ball. The player that sets the pick will then "rolls" to the basket, sealing off the man he picked in hopes of receiving a pass.

Point guard

The point guard is primarily responsible for bringing the ball up the floor on offense and distributing it to teammates. Typically, point guards are among the smallest and fastest players on the team and adept at ball handling and passing. The point guard can also be referred to as a "one guard"

Power forward

Like a center, a power forward typically is one of the tallest -- and often strongest -- players on the team. The power forward can also be referred to as a "four."

Rebound

To gain control of a missed shot. Rebounds can also be referred to as just "boards."

Shot clock

In international basketball, each team has 24 seconds to attempt a field goal. The shot clock displays the time remaining, and failure to shoot within 24 seconds results in loss of possession.

Shooting guard

Also known as an "off-guard" or "two guard," the shooting guard typically is a skilled offensive player and spends most of an offensive possession closer to the three-point line than the basket.

Sixth man

The first substitute to enter the game is referred to as the sixth man, typically a team's best player who is not among the five starters.

Small forward

Often the most versatile player on the court, a good small forward is able to shoot, pass, defend and rebound. It can also be referred to as a "three."

Steal

To take the ball away from the offensive team, either off the dribble or by intercepting a pass.

Technical foul

The penalty for a violation of conduct such as fighting, abusive language or excessive delay of game. Technical fouls result in free throws for the other team and possession changes.

Three-point play

When a player converts the free throw awarded after being fouled on a play in which he or she still scored a basket.

Three-point shot

A field goal attempt from behind a designated line that forms a semicircle 20 feet, 6 inches from the basket in international play. When made, it counts for three points. Slang terms include, long-range shot, triple and trey.

Transition

When a team segues from defense to offense or vice versa.

Traveling

A violation that occurs when a player moves with the basketball without dribbling. The result is loss of possession.

Turnover

Any play or violation that results in loss of possession.

Zone defense

A tactic in which players are responsible for defending areas of the floor instead of individuals. Zones are allowed in Olympic basketball.

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