Alley-oop: This is a collective move. A pass thrown by a player to another player who is running toward the basket. The second player jumps and catches the ball in midair, and dunks it or lays it in before landing.
Assist: A pass to a teammate that leads directly to a basket. The passer is credited with the assist only if the scorer must move immediately toward the basket and scores.
Backcourt: The defensive half of the court for a team.
Ball handler: The player with the ball; usually the point guard at the start of a play.
Baseline: The line under each basket at each end of the court.
Basket: The metal rim attached to the backboard. 18" in diameter and suspended 10′ from the floor. Also used to refer to a successful field goal.
Bench: Reserve players.
Blind pass: A pass from a ball handler who does not look at the receiver while delivering the pass.
Blocked shot: The deflection of a shot by rejecting the ball on its way to the basket in order to prevent from a field goal.
Bounce pass: A pass thrown that bounces on the floor before reaching the receiver.
Brick: A missed shot that hardly hits the backboard.
Charging: An offensive foul violation which occurs when an offensive player runs into a stationary defender opponent.
Court: A 94′ x 50′ area on which a basketball game is played. A court is bounded by 2 sidelines and 2 baselines containing a basket at each end.
Crossover dribble: A dribble fake which consist in dribbling the ball across the body from one hand to the other. There can be different variations of the crossover dribble.
Cylinder: The imaginary area directly above the ring (basket) and where goaltending occur if the ball is removed from.
Coast-to-coast: Dribble from one end of the court to the other.
Cut: A quick offensive move by a player willing to get an open position for an eventual shot.
Defense: The action of preventing the offense from scoring. Also used to call the team without possession of the ball.
Defensive rebound: A rebound by a player on defense.
Deny the ball: Prevent an offensive player from getting the ball by staying between him and the ball handler and guarding him closely.
Double dribble: A violation in which a player dribbles the ball, stops, and begins to dribble again.
Double-team: A defensive tactic, which consist in two players guarding a single opponent.
Downtown: Means far from the basket, often means beyond the three-point line.
Draft: The annual lottery process by which NBA teams annually select newcomers’ players from college or elsewhere.
Dribble: Bounce the ball to progress throughout the court.
Drive to the basket: Move quickly toward the basket while dribbling the ball.
Dunk: When a player jumps and strongly throws the ball down into the basket. A spectacular, athletic play often used to intimidate opponents. Also called slam dunk or jam.
Fast break: A fast offense that begins with a defensive rebound immediately passed to a teammate who sprint to the basket or pass the ball fast before the opponents have time to build their defense and stop them.
Field goal: When the ball enters the basket during a play; A field goal is worth two points or three if shooter was standing behind the 3-point line.
Flagrant foul: Excessive contact committed against an opponent.
Forwards: The 2 players of a team who are usually smaller than the center and bigger than the guards.
Foul: A violation. Often an illegal contact between two players.
Foul line: The line 15′ from the backboard and parallel to the baseline from which players shoot free throws.
Foul trouble: When a player is close to the limit for personal fouls before being ejected from the game, or a team is nearing the limit in each period after which all fouls become shooting fouls.
Free agent: A player not under contract to any NBA team because his contract has expired or was terminated by his team in accordance with NBA waiver procedures, or because he was eligible for an NBA Draft and was never signed to an NBA contract.
Free-throw line: see foul line.
Franchise: a professional NBA team.
Franchise player: a star player around which a franchise is built.
Free-throw: an unguarded shot taken from the foul line by a player whose opponent committed a personal or technical foul; it is worth 1 point.
Free throw: An uncontested shot from 15 feet, worth one point. A player who is fouled while in the act of shooting receives two free throws. Also: foul shot.
Frontcourt: The offensive half of the court for a team.
Full-court press: Defensive tactic which consist in starting guarding the offense in the backcourt.
Give-and-go: A fundamental offensive play in which a player passes to a teammate, then cuts to the basket and receive a quasi-immediate return pass for an open layup or dunk.
Goaltending: A defensive or offensive violation, in which a player slams, touches, blocks, or interfere a shot while the ball is in the imaginary cylinder above the rim.
Guards: The 2 players of a team who are usually the smallest on the court; they usually lead the ball to the frontcourt, setting up offensive plays and delivering passes to their teammates.
Guarding: The defensive act of following an opponent around the court to prevent him from getting and open shot position, driving to the basket or making an easy pass.
Hang time: The amount of time a player can stay in the air while shooting or while executing a move.
High post: The imaginary area at both sides of the free throw line.
Hoop: Name for the basket, the rim. Also used to say "Basketball".
Jump ball: 2 players from opposing teams jump to gain possession of the ball after the official tosses the ball up between them. The players try to tap it to their teammates in order to gain possession.
Jump hook: A kind of shot taken while jumping, and really hard to block.
Jump shot: A shot taken while jumping in the air.
Key or keyhole: Name of the area at end of each half court consisting of the foul circle, foul lane and free-throw line.
Low post: The imaginary area at both sides of the key close to the basket.
Lower percentage shot: A shot that goes in the basket with a low percentage.
Lane: The painted area between the end line and the free-throw line near each basket, outside which players line up for free throws.
Loose-ball foul: A foul committed while neither team has possession of the ball (for example while going for a rebound).
Lottery: The process used in the NBA to determine the teams’ order of selection in the draft.
Match-ups: Two players of opposite teams playing at the same position and guarding each other.
MVP (Most Valuable Player): Award recognizing in the NBA the player who realized the best overall performance of the regular season or of the Finals.
NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association): A voluntary association for all colleges and universities in the U.S. regulating student sports championships.
NCAA Tournament: The annual competition between 64 college teams. This is also called the March Madness because the three-week-long event is held during March; see also Final Four.
Net: The 15 to 18 inches long cord, that hangs from the rim of the basket. Can also be a chain for street basketball.
Offense: The team with possession of the ball.
Offensive rebound: Rebound by a player of the team in possession of the ball.
Officials: The referees who rule the game, stop and start play, and impose penalties for violations and fouls.
Open: Describes a player in an open position, unguarded by a defender and likely to receive a pass for an open shoot.
Out of bound: Describe the ball that goes outside the end lines of the court.
Over the limit: When a team commits more than 5 team fouls per NBA period (4 in each overtime) or more than 7 per half in college. Over this limit, the opposite team gets for every additional subsequent foul committed, the opportunity to shot free throws.
Overtime or OT: The extra period(s) of time played after the regulation time is over and teams are tied. Additional overtimes can be played until there is a winning team.
Passer: The player who passes the ball to a teammate.
Period: Any quarter, half or overtime segment.
Perimeter: The area on each side of the foul circle away from the basket, including 3-point line and from which players take long-range shots.
Personal foul: Penalty against a player who establish contact that may result in injury or provide one team with an unfair advantage; players may not push, hold, trip, hack, elbow, restrain or charge into an opponent; these are also counted as team fouls.
Playmaker: the point guard who generally sets up plays for his teammates.
Possession: to be holding or in control of the ball.
Post position: the position of a player standing in the low post or high post.
Pick: When an offensive player frees a teammate for a shot by establishing a stationary position that prevents a defensive player from guarding the shooter. If the player who is "setting a pick" is not stationary and contact is made with a defender, it is an offensive foul and his team loses possession of the ball. Also: screen.
Pick-and-roll: A play in which an offensive player sets a pick, then "rolls" toward the basket and takes a pass from a teammate for an open shot.
Pivot: The area near the basket, generally where the center operates, or the act of changing directions, by keeping one foot planted on the ground while stepping in one or more directions with the other foot.
Point guard: Usually a team’s primary ballhandler and the man who sets up the team’s offense.
Power forward: The larger of a team’s two forwards, whose duties generally involve rebounding as much as scoring.
Press: Guard very closely.
Quadruple-double: An extremely rare (it’s only happened four times in NBA history) achievement in which a player accumulates doubles figures in four of the following categories in the same game: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.
Receiver: the player who receives a pass from the ball handler.
Rookie: a player in his first NBA season.
Roster: the list of players on a team.
Run: occurs when one team scores several field goals in quick succession while its opponents score few or none.
Rejection: A blocked shot.
Salary cap: A salary cap is a maximum dollar amount teams can spend on player contracts. A salary cap is necessary to maintain competitive balance in the league. Without a salary cap, teams with deeper pockets can simply outspend the remaining teams for the better free agents. The basic idea is that a team can only sign a free agent if the total salaries for the team will be below the salary cap. So a team with deep pockets is playing on a level playing field with every other team.
Scoring opportunity: when a player gets open for a shot that is likely to score.
Screen or screener: the offensive player who stands between a teammate and a defender to gives his teammate the chance to take an open shot.
Shot clock: a clock that limits the time a team with the ball has to shoot it; 24 seconds in the NBA; in college, 35 seconds for men, 30 seconds for women.
Shooter: a player who takes a shot at the basket.
Shooting range: the distance from which a player is likely to make his shots.
Sidelines: 2 boundary lines that run the length of the court.
Sixth man: the best substitute on a team; usually the first player to come off the bench to replace a starter.
Slam dunk: see dunk.
Starting lineup: the 5 starters who begin a game; usually a team’s best players. Substitute: a player who comes into the game to replace a player on the court.
Shot clock: The 24-second clock used to time possessions. A team must attempt a shot that hits the rim within 24 seconds or else it loses possession of the ball.
Sky-hook: A hook shot in which the ball is released while the shooter’s hand is at the top of the arc; used most effectively by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time career scoring leader.
Steal: To take the ball away from the opposing team, either off the dribble or by picking off a pass.
Switch: When teammates exchange defensive assignments during play.
3-on-3: a game played with only 3 players on the court for each team.
3-point play: a 2-point field goal followed by a successful free throw.
Timeout: when play is temporarily suspended by an official or at the request of a team to discuss strategy or respond to an injured player; there are full timeouts (100 seconds in the NBA, 75 seconds in college) and 20-second timeouts.
Tip-off: the initial jump ball that starts the game.
Transition: the shift from offense to defense.
Traveling: a floor violation when the ball handler takes too many steps without dribbling; also called walking.
Triple double: when a player scores double-digits in 3 categories during one game (points, assists and rebounds are most common, but it can also be blocks or steals); a sign of great versatility.
Turnover: when the offense loses possession through its own fault by passing the ball out of bounds or committing a floor violation.
Technical foul: The penalty for a violation of conduct, such as abusive language or fighting. Each technical foul awards a free throw to the opposing team and also means an automatic fine for the player who commits the violation.
Three-point shot: A field goal worth three points, taken from beyond an arc that is 22 feet from the basket.
Three-second violation: An offensive player may not stand in the lane for three seconds.
Throwback: Used to describe the retro jerseys
360: To elude a defender by doing a complete spin, making a 360-degree turn.
Tip-in: To tip a missed shot into the basket.
Transition: The movement from offense to defense, or vice versa, when the ball changes hands.
Traveling: A violation in which a player takes too many steps without dribbling the ball. Also: walking.
Triple-double: A relatively rare achievement in which a player accumulates double figures in three of the following categories in the same game: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.
Turnover: Loss of ball, either through an errant pass or dribble or an offensive foul.