Here is a glossary of basketball terms, from A to Z, each letter with up to 5 terms

basketball glossary

A

  1. Assist: A pass that leads directly to a basket by a teammate.
  2. Air Ball: A shot that completely misses the basket and backboard.
  3. And One: When a player is fouled while making a shot and gets one free throw.
  4. Alley-Oop: A pass high above the basketball rim that allows a player to catch and score in one motion.
  5. Arc: The trajectory of the ball in flight.

B

  1. Backboard: The rectangular board behind the rim.
  2. Block: A defensive play in which a player stops an opponent’s shot.
  3. Bounce Pass: A pass that bounces once before reaching the receiver.
  4. Box Out: A term used to position oneself between an opponent and the basket to get a rebound.
  5. Brick: A badly missed shot that bounces hard off the backboard or rim.

C

  1. Crossover: A dribbling move where the ball is moved from one hand to the other.
  2. Center: One of the positions in basketball, usually the tallest player on the team.
  3. Charge: An offensive foul where the player with the ball runs into a stationary defender.
  4. Cut: A quick offensive move by a player trying to get free for a pass.
  5. Clutch: A term used to describe a player who can make important plays under pressure.

D

  1. Dribble: The action of bouncing the ball on the floor.
  2. Double-Double: A player’s achievement of double figures in two of five statistical categories in a game.
  3. Dunk: When a player jumps high and scores by putting the ball directly through the basket.
  4. Defense: The team trying to prevent the offense from scoring.
  5. Downtown: Slang for a long-distance shot, typically beyond the three-point line.

E

  1. Elbow: The corner where the free throw line meets the lane line.
  2. Eurostep: A move where a player takes a step in one direction, then quickly steps in another direction.
  3. Ejection: When a player, coach, or other team member is removed from a game due to penalties.
  4. End Line: Another term for the baseline.
  5. Entry Pass: A pass from outside the key to a player who is inside the key.

F

  1. Fast Break: An offensive strategy in which a team attempts to move the ball up the court and into the scoring position as quickly as possible.
  2. Foul: A violation of the rules.
  3. Free Throw: A shot taken from the free-throw line as a result of a foul.
  4. Field Goal: A shot made from anywhere on the court during play.
  5. Fadeaway: A jump shot taken while jumping backward.

G

  1. Guard: A player position traditionally responsible for setting up plays and scoring.
  2. Give-and-Go: An offensive play in which a player passes to a teammate and then cuts to the basket for a return pass.
  3. Goaltending: A violation in which a player interferes with a shot while it’s on the way down toward the basket or while it’s on the way up after having touched the backboard.
  4. Grasp: Holding the ball with both hands without dribbling.
  5. Game Clock: The clock that keeps track of the time left in each period of a basketball game.

H

  1. Half-Court Shot: A shot taken from the midcourt line.
  2. Hook Shot: A one-hand shot made with a sweeping motion.
  3. Hand Check: A defensive technique where a player uses their hand to control the direction of an opponent.
  4. Hardwood: The court or floor where basketball is played.
  5. High Post: The area around the free throw line and the key.

I

  1. Inbound: The action of passing the ball from out of bounds into the playing court.
  2. Isolation: An offensive play in which one player goes one-on-one against a defender.
  3. Illegal Screen: A screen that impedes the path of a defender where the screener is still moving.
  4. Inside Shot: A shot taken close to the basket.
  5. Intentional Foul: A strategy where a player commits a foul to stop the clock or prevent an easy basket.

J

  1. Jump Ball: A method used to begin or resume play.
  2. Jumper: A jump shot.
  3. Juke: A fake move to deceive an opponent.
  4. Jam: Another term for a dunk.
  5. Jump Stop: A move where a player lands on both feet simultaneously after a jump.

K

  1. Key: Also known as the “paint”, it’s the area enclosed by the free throw line and the lane lines.
  2. Kick Ball: A violation caused by striking the ball with the foot or leg.
  3. Killer Crossover: A particularly effective crossover dribbling technique.
  4. Keep Away: Keeping the ball from the opponents, especially near the end of the game to maintain a lead.
  5. Knockout: A game played by shooting from predetermined spots on the court. If the player in front misses, the player behind can “knock them out” by making their shot.

L

  1. Layup: A shot taken close to the hoop, usually by banking the ball off the backboard.
  2. Low Post: The area near the basket in the key.
  3. Loose Ball: A ball that isn’t in the possession of any player.
  4. Lane: The painted area bounded by the end line and the free-throw line, extending out 12 feet.
  5. Lead Pass: A pass that leads the receiver toward the basket for a potential shot.

M

  1. Man-to-Man: A defensive strategy where each player guards a specific opponent.
  2. Midrange: The area of the court between the key and the three-point line.
  3. MVP: Most Valuable Player.
  4. Misdirection: An offensive strategy used to deceive the defense.
  5. Motion Offense: An offense that involves continuous passing and player movement.

N

  1. No-Look Pass: A pass thrown without looking toward the receiver.
  2. Nothing But Net: A shot that goes through the basket without hitting the rim or backboard.
  3. Nudge: A light push or touch, often resulting in a foul.
  4. Non-shooting Foul: A foul committed against a player who is not in the act of shooting.
  5. Nylon: Slang for the net beneath the rim.

O

  1. Outlet Pass: A pass thrown by a player after getting a rebound to start a fast break.
  2. Over-and-Back: A violation that occurs when the offensive team brings the ball to the frontcourt, and then the ball goes back to the backcourt.
  3. Overtime: Extra periods beyond the fourth quarter.
  4. Off-Ball: Actions taken by players not currently in possession of the ball.
  5. Open Shot: A shot taken when no defender is close enough to contest it.

P

  1. Paint: The area inside the key or free-throw lane.
  2. Pick (or Screen): When an offensive player stands still to block or “screen” a defender.
  3. Pivot: A footwork skill where a player keeps one foot in contact with a specific spot on the floor while moving the other foot.
  4. Pass: To throw the ball to a teammate.
  5. Press: A defensive strategy where the defense guards the offensive team closely, often used to create turnovers.

Q

  1. Quickness: A player’s ability to react or change direction quickly.
  2. Quadruple-Double: A rare feat where a player reaches double figures in four statistical categories in a game.
  3. Quarter: A period of play in basketball. There are four quarters in a regulation game.
  4. Quality Shot: A shot taken in favorable conditions, with a high percentage of making it into the basket.
  5. Quicken: To speed up the pace of the game.

R

  1. Rebound: When a player retrieves the ball after a missed shot.
  2. Rim: The hoop is attached to the backboard.
  3. Rookie: A player in their first season.
  4. Run-and-Gun: A fast-paced offensive style that seeks to score quickly.
  5. Rotation: The movement of players to help a teammate who has been beaten by an opponent.

S

  1. Screen: An offensive strategy where a player blocks a defender’s path.
  2. Shot Clock: A timer designed to increase the speed of the game.
  3. Slam Dunk: A type of shot where a player thrusts the ball forcefully down through the basket.
  4. Steal: When a defensive player takes the ball away from an offensive player.
  5. Swingman: A player who can play both the guard and forward positions.

T

  1. Traveling: A violation that occurs when a player with the ball takes too many steps without dribbling.
  2. Triple-Double: When a player reaches double figures in three of five statistical categories in a game.
  3. Turnover: When an offensive player loses possession of the ball due to a mistake or defensive play.
  4. Timeout: A break in play, called by a coach to strategize or rest players.
  5. Three-Pointer: A shot made from beyond the three-point line.

U

  1. Up-and-Under: An offensive move where a player fakes a shot, then steps through and under the defender.
  2. Uncontested: A shot or play where no defender is close enough to challenge.
  3. Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Actions that are contrary to the principles of fair play and good sportsmanship.
  4. Underhand: A method of shooting the ball from below waist level.
  5. Uniform: The clothes worn by basketball players during a game.

V

  1. Vertical Leap: The height a player can jump from a standstill.
  2. Violation: An infraction of the rules.
  3. V-Cut: A move where a player cuts towards the basket, then quickly changes direction and moves out to receive the ball.
  4. Volume Shooter: A player who takes a large number of shots in a game.
  5. Versatile: A player who can play multiple positions or roles on the team.

W

  1. Wing: The area of the court just outside the key, between the baseline and the free-throw line extended.
  2. Weak Side: The side of the court away from where the ball is currently located.
  3. Walk-On: A player who joins a team without being recruited or given an athletic scholarship.
  4. Wraparound Pass: A pass made behind the back to a teammate.
  5. Winning Streak: Consecutive games won.

X

  1. X-Out: A defensive rotation strategy in basketball where players move to cover different areas or opponents.
  2. X-Factor: A player who has a significant impact on the game, often in an unexpected way.
  3. X’s and O’s: Slang for strategy and tactics used in basketball.
  4. X-Cut: A cut made in the shape of an “X” by two offensive players.
  5. (e)Xtra Pass: An additional pass made to find an open player for a higher percentage shot.

Y

  1. Yield: To back off defensively, often in the case of an obvious foul to prevent injury or an ‘And-One’ situation.
  2. Youth League: Basketball leagues for children and young people.
  3. Yearling: A player in their second year with a team.
  4. Yoyo Dribble: A style of dribbling where the ball seems to bounce like a yo-yo, up and down.
  5. Yellow/Red/Blue/Green (Light): Terms used to indicate the tempo or speed of the game as determined by the coach.

Z

  1. Zone Defense: A defensive strategy where each defender is responsible for an area of the court and defends any player who enters that area.
  2. Zigzag: A dribbling or defensive maneuver where the direction is repeatedly changed.
  3. Zero Step: A term related to gathering step rule in the NBA, referring to the steps a player takes after gathering the ball.
  4. Zipper Cut: A cut made by a player from the baseline to the top of the key using a screen.
  5. Z-Formation: Refers to the way a player’s eyes should scan the court, in a ‘Z’ pattern, checking all options.

More Than 20+ Terms A Basketball Player Should Beware Of Before entering The Court

Basketball players should familiarize themselves with over 20 court-specific terms before stepping onto the court.

here are some additional important basketball terms that weren’t covered in the previous glossary:

Bank Shot: A shot that is aimed at the backboard with the intention of bouncing it into the basket.

Blind Pass: Also known as a no-look pass, a blind pass is passed without looking in the direction of the pass.

Clear Path Foul: A personal foul that deprives the offensive team of an opportunity for an easy score.

Dead Ball: The ball is dead at any time the clock is stopped. This usually occurs after a whistle has been blown by an official.

Double Dribble: A violation that occurs when a player dribbles the ball with both hands at the same time, or when the player stops dribbling, holds the basketball and then starts dribbling again.

Elevator Doors Screen: A basketball play where two offensive players close together like “elevator doors” to block a defender.

Flagrant Foul: A serious personal foul that involves excessive or violent contact that could injure the fouled player.

Heat Check: When a player who has made several shots in a row takes a particularly difficult shot to test (or ‘check’) how ‘hot’ they are.

Held Ball: A situation in which two opponents have one or both hands firmly on the ball or anytime a defensive player touches the ball causing the offensive player to return to the floor with the ball.

Jab Step: A quick movement where an offensive player with the ball steps toward the defender and then quickly back to the original position.

On-Ball Defense: When a defender is guarding the player who currently has the ball.

Pick and Roll: An offensive play in which a player sets a screen (pick) for a teammate handling the ball and then slips behind the defender (roll) to accept a pass.

Power Forward: Traditionally, the basketball position is responsible for scoring close to the basket while also playing defense against their counterpart. They are typically stronger and bigger than most players on the court.

Shot Fake: A move where the player with the ball pretends to shoot by mimicking the motion and then doesn’t release the ball. It is used to trick a defender into jumping or lunging out of position.

Sixth Man: The top substitute, or the first player to come off the bench for a team. The sixth man often could start for the team and is often the first substitute off the bench.

Technical Foul: A foul called for unsportsmanlike conduct or violations by team members on the floor or seated on the bench.

Upcourt/Downcourt: “Upcourt” refers to the direction a team on offense is going, towards the opponent’s basket. “Downcourt” is the direction a team on defense is going, towards its own basket.

Weak Side/Strong Side: In basketball, the strong side of the court is the side of the court that the ball is on. The weak side is the side of the court opposite the ball.

2-for-1: A strategy used within the last minute of a clock period where the team on offense organizes its plays so it has an opportunity to score twice before the clock expires, once before the shot clock expires, and once after getting the ball back.

3-Seconds Rule: Also known as “lane violation”, this rule requires that no offensive player can be in the free-throw lane for longer than three seconds at a time.