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Basketball terms and their meanings

Here's a guide to what the television commentators are saying about basketball.


Air ball A shot that misses the backboard, the basket and the rim.

Backcourt The half-court that is being defended; the defense's backcourt is the offence's forecourt.

Draw a foul To provoke a foul.

Dribble To bounce the ball on the floor; a player who stops dribbling and starts again has committed a double dribble.

Double-team To guard an offensive player with two defenders.

Dunk To put the ball into the basket with your hands above the rim.

Foul out To commit more than the allotted number of fouls (six in professional games, five in amateur basketball) and be forced to leave the game.

Free throw The reward for being fouled: an undefended shot at the basket from the foul line, worth 1 point if made.

Full-court press A defense in which the entire court is guarded.

Goaltending Interfering with the ball as it arcs downwards over the rim of the basket.

Hook A one-handed shot by a player who pivots to face the basket, lifting his arm over his head.

Lay-up A shot delivered by jumping up and tossing the ball lightly off the backboard or over the rim.

Loose-ball foul A personal foul committed while trying to gain control of the ball.

Pick An offensive maneuver in which a player, by standing still, blocks a defender.

Point guard A guard who directs his team's offence, usually from behind the offensive foul line.

Rebound To gain possession of a ball after a missed shot.

Slam dunk A dunk that is jammed hard into the basket.

Swish A shot that goes into the basket touching only the net.

Three-point play The result when a player is fouled while making a basket and therefore gains the right to a free throw. Also, a basket scored from outside the 3-point line; worth 3 points.

Trap A defensive maneuver in which the ball handler is quickly double-teamed in order to steal the ball or force a passing error.

Traveling Taking two or more steps without dribbling the ball.






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