Basketball like other sports has its own “jargon” used to describe certain aspects of playing the game. Often a number of different names are given to the same action and of course, many terms have their origin in the rules of the game. Most of the terms originating from the rules have been named and where they are given, the fact that the term comes from the rules has been noted. It is hoped that through the use of a standard terminology, communication and understanding will be improved between teachers, coaches, players and officials.


Alive - attacking player who has the ball, but has not dribbled.

Assist - a pass to an open team-mate that results in an immediate score.



Back Court - that half of the court that contains a team’s defensive basket.

Backdoor - a term used to describe a cut by an attacking player towards the basket to the side of the defensive player away from the ball. It is mainly used when the attacking player is being overplayed or when the defence turns to look at the ball.

Ball Control Game – a type of attacking play that emphasises maintaining possession of the ball until a good shot is possible.

Ball Side – the side of the defensive formation close to the ball. (see also Help Side).

Bank Shot – a shot in which the ball rebounds from the backboard to the basket.

Bat – to use the flat of the hand to knock the ball away from a dribbler or ball handler.

Baseline drive - a drive (see below) made close to the attacking end line of the court.

Blocking - is personal contact which impedes the progress of an opponent who is not in possession of the ball. See Rules.

Blocking Out (boxing out) (cutting out) - the positioning of a player in such a manner as to prevent an opposing player from moving to the basket to gain a rebound.

Box and One – a term used to describe a combination defence (q.v.) with four defenders playing a zone defence (q.v.) in a square formation (i.e. 2.2) with the fifth defender out chasing the ball or marking a particular opponent.

Break - the rapid movement of a player to a space where they hope to receive a pass.

Brush –Off (Brush off screen) – to cause one’s opponent to run into a third player thus losing them momentarily.

Buttonhook – to move in one direction, turn sharply and double back.



Center – (Post or Pivot Player) the name of one of the positions on the team, usually the tallest player, whose attacking role involves playing close to the opposition basket.

Charging - a personal foul caused by a player making bodily contact by running into an opponent. Usually committed by an attacking player.

Chaser – a defender, whose duty is to harass the attacking players. Usually the front player or players in a zone defence. See below.

Circulation – a player’s movements about the court on attack.

Clear Out – an attacking manoeuvre versus a man-to-man defence, in which players vacate an area of court so as to isolate one attacking player and one defensive player. The attacking player may then attempt to score against this opponent who has no defensive teammates close enough to provide help.

Combination Defence – a team defence where some of the team members play to zone defence (see below) principles and other man-to-man defence. See below.

Continuity Play – a team attacking system in which players move to one position and then another in a regular order, executing pre-planned play options in an endeavour to create a scoring opportunity. The attacking players’ movements on court are so planned that they are used as the staring position for the next option.

Control Basketball (Possession Basketball) – a style of play in which a team deliberately makes sure of every pass and only shoots when there is a very high percentage chance of scoring.

Controlling the Boards – gaining the majority of the rebounds.

Cut - a quick movement by an attacking player without the ball to gain an advantage over the defence, usually directed towards the basket.

Cutter – a player who cuts (see above.) or breaks (see above).

Cutaway – a player’s move in cutting for basket after setting a screen (see below) situation.



“D” (i) an abbreviation of Defence

(ii) that part of the circle of the key outside the restricted area.

Dead - attacking players who have used their dribble.

Diamond and One – a term used to describe a combination defence (see above.) with four defenders playing a zone defence (see below) in a diamond formation (i.e. 1.2.1) with the fifth defender out chasing the ball or marking a particular opponent.

Drill - a repetitive practice.

Drive - the movement of an attacking player dribbling towards the basket in an attempt to score.

Drop Step (i) a step backwards.

(ii) a defensive movement in which a player executes a pivot backwards to stay with the opponent.

Double Team - when two defensive players mark one opponent with the ball, usually a temporary measure. (See Trap.)

Dunk - a shot in which a jumping player puts the ball down into the opponent’s basket from above.



Fake - a movement made with the aim of deceiving an opponent.

Fall Away – a method of performing certain shots and passes in which the player with the ball moves in one direction as the ball moves in another.

Fast Break - a fast attack that attempts to advance the ball to the front court before the defence is organised, with the object of achieving numerical superiority or position to give a good shot.

Feed – to pass the ball to a teammate.

Floor Play - used to describe the movements on the court of players of either team.

Fouled Out -being required to leave the game after committing five fouls.

Foul Line - free throw line.

Forward - the name of one of the positions in the team. Forwards play on the sides of the court when their team is attacking either on the right or left hand side, between the restricted area (see below) and the sidelines.

Free Ball (Loose Ball) – a ball that although in play is not in the possession of either team.

Freelance – an unstructured type of attack where players take advantage of whatever attacking opportunities arise.

Freezing the Ball – the action of the team in possession of the ball who try to retain possession without attempting to score. Limited to 24 seconds and often used late in the game in an effort to protect a slight lead.

Front Court - that half of the court which contains the basket that a team is attacking.

Fronting the Post - guarding the post player (see below) in front, between the player and the ball, rather than between the player and the basket.

Front Screen - a screen set up by an attacking player between a team-mate and this team-mate’s opponent.

Full Court Press – a pressing defence, which is operated throughout the whole court and not merely in the defender’s backcourt. See above.

Fundamentals - the basic skills of the game, necessary as a background for all individual and team play.



Gap – in a zone defence refers to the area of the court where the zones of responsibility of two individual defenders meet. Also called a seam.

Give and Go - an attacking manoeuvre in which a player passes the ball to a team-mate and cuts (q.v.) towards basket for a return pass.

Guard (Playmaker / Quarterback) - the name of one of the positions on the team, usually played by the shorter players, who on attack will normally play in the area of court between the centre line and the free throw line extended to the side-lines.



Half Court Press – a pressing defence, which operates in the team’s backcourt.

Held Ball - is “declared when two players of opposing teams have one or both hands firmly on the ball”. See Rules.

Help Side – the side of the defensive formation away from the ball, the weak side (see below). A defender on the help side will move to the ball to give depth to the defence and in particular be prepared to help the teammate marking the ball handler.

High - a position played by an attacking player near to the free throw line.

Hustle – a characteristic of a player who plays hard at all time, especially when on defence. A player who pressures the opponent.



In-Line - the basic man-to-man defensive position “in line” between the opponent and the basket being defended.

Inside - (i) in and close to the restricted area.

(ii) between the perimeter of the defence and the basket they are defending.



Jump Stop - a stop with the ball when the player takes and lands on both feet simultaneously.



Key (Keyhole) – the restricted area (see below) including the circle, derived from the original keyhole shape.



“L” Cut - a change of direction by an attacking player to evade a defender usually made at right angles to the original direction.

Lane - see Restricted Area.

Lead Pass - a pass thrown ahead of the intended receiver so that they can catch the ball on the move and maintain their speed.

Low - a position held by an attacking player near to the end line.



Man-to-Man Defense (One to One Defense) - a style of defense where each player is assigned to guard a specific opponent regardless of where they go in the attack.

Motion Offense – a style of attacking play with no predetermined order of movement of players or the ball. The attack is based upon constant movement of all five players. Players look to use basic individual and team plays to take advantage of defensive errors. Some order may be given to the movements by the Coach introducing rules of action, for example every time a pass is made the passer looks to cut to the basket or set a screen away from the ball.



Out- of Bounds - the area outside the legal playing court, i.e. on or outside the boundary lines of the court.

Offense - attack.

Off Guard – the Guard (see above) who is a good passer and one of the best scorers on the team with longer range shots.

Off Line - a variation of “in line” defence (see above) in which the defender takes up a position slightly to one side of their opponents, but still between the opponent and the basket. The aim is to reduce the opponent’s attacking options.

Off Side (Guard, Forward, Post) – the player on the opposite side of the court to the side on which the ball is being played. See also Weak side.

One on One (1 versus 1) - the situation where one attacking player attacks one defensive player.

One to One Defense - a style of defense where each player is assigned to guard a specific opponent regardless of where they go In their attacking manoeuvres.

Options – alternative attacking manoeuvres that can occur in a game situation.

Outlet Pass - the first pass made after a defensive rebound (see below) usually made to initiate a fast break (see above).

Outside - (i) outside the restricted area.

(ii) between the sideline and perimeter of the defence.

Overload – outnumbering the defence.

Overtime – the extra period (s) played after the expiration of the second half of a game in which the score has been tied. Play is continued for an extra period of 5 minutes for as many such periods of 5 minutes as may be necessary to break the tie.



Pass and Cut – see Give and Go.

Pattern – the predetermined positional formation adopted by an attacking team prior to initiating attacking manoeuvres. Common patterns are 1.3.1, 2.1.2 and 2.3.

Pattern Play – attacking plays initiated from fixed and predetermined court positions

Pick (Side screen) a screen (see below) set at the side of a team-mate’s opponent.

Passing Game – a motion offence (see above) with the emphasis on passing the ball with little or no use of the dribble.

Pick and Roll – a side screen followed by a pivot towards the basket by the player who has set the screen, useful against a switching man-to-man defence.

Pivot - (i) “a pivot takes place when a player who I. holding the ball steps once or more than once in any direction with the same foot, the other foot called the pivot foot being kept at its point of contact with the floor”. See Rules.

(ii) another name for a Post Player (see below.).

Play Maker – a player who is adept at setting up situations that enable team-mates to have scoring opportunities. See also Guard.

Play – a term used to describe a series of movements of players and/or the ball on court, mainly used for attacking manoeuvres.

Point Guard - the guard (see above) who takes main responsibility for bringing the ball up court and controlling the attack.

Post - (i) see Post Player.
(ii) attacking play in which a player takes up a position usually with their back to the basket they are attacking, thus providing a target to receive a pass.

Post Player - usually the tallest player in the team who operates on attack in an area near the sides of, and occasionally in, the free throw lane and close to the basket. They are stationed there for scoring purposes and to feed cutters (see above) and are players around whom the attacking team pivot. This player is therefore sometimes called a pivot player.

Press - a defensive attempt to force the opposing team into making some kind of error and thus lose possession of the ball. It is accomplished usually by aggressive defence, double teaming (see above) or harassing the ball handler with attempts to tie-up (see below) the ball. The press can be applied full court, half court or any other fractional part of the playing area and can be based on either man-to-man or zone (see below) principles.



Quarterback – see playmaker or guard



Rebound - a term used to describe the actual retrieving of the ball as it rebounds from the backboard or the ring after an unsuccessful shot.

Rebound Triangle - a term used to describe the positioning of a group of three defenders who form a triangle around the basket after a shot has been attempted. The aim is to cover the probable positions of the ball should a rebound occur and prevent an opponent from gaining a good position from which to collect the rebound.

Restraining Circle - the circles with 3.60 metres (12 feet) diameter located in the centre of the court and at the free throw lines.

Restricted Areas - “the restricted areas shall be spaces marked in the court which are limited by the end lines, the free throw lines and by lines, which originate at the end lines, their outer edges being 3 metres from the midpoint of the end lines and terminate at the end of the free throw lines” See Rules

Reverse - (i) a change of direction in the flow of attacking movement, for example a change from passing down the right hand side of the court to a quick movement of the ball to the left side.

(ii) a change of direction in which the attacking players endeavour to free themselves from a close marking defender. The change of direction is executed after a move towards the defender and a pivot so that the attacking player turns their back on their opponent and then moves off In the new direction. Also called a Roll or Spin move.



Safety Man - an attacking player who plays in the guard position with the aim of defending against possible fast breaks or loss of possession and to receive a pass when an attacking play breaks down.

Sag - when a defender moves away from their opponent towards the basket they are defending.

Sagging Defense - a team defensive tactic in which the defenders away from the ball sag off their opponents towards the basket to help their team-mates and cover the high percentage scoring area.

Screen - a screen occurs when an attacking player attempts to prevent a defender from reaching a desired position or maintain their defensive position. The screen is intended to impede the progress of the defender so that the attacking player they are marking has an unimpeded shot or a clear path to basket.

Screen and Roll – a side screen followed by a pivot towards the basket by the player who has set the screen, used against a switching man-to-man defence.

Scrimmage - a practice game.

Seam - see “Gap”.

Set Play - (i) a repetitive, pre-arranged form of attack.

(ii) a play (see above) executed to predetermined and rehearsed moves which, when applied at certain set situations in the game, is intended to result in a favourable scoring chance. The set situations are usually out-of-bounds, jump ball or the free-throw situation.

Set-Up - the action of establishing an attacking pattern (see above) or the defensive organisation.

Series - a name given to a number of plays used by an attacking team in particular situations, for example High Post Plays.

Side screen - a screen (see above) set at the side of a team-mate’s opponent.

Skip Pass - a pass made in an attack that misses out one or two players in the attacking formation.

Slow Break - a deliberate attack against a defence that is set-up (see above).

Splitting the Post - occurs when two attacking players cross in front of a post player, cutting on opposite sides of the post player to basket, in an attempt to lose their defenders on the post player.

Square Up – face the basket, normally after receiving the ball.

Stack - a situation where two or more attacking players stand close together very near to the restricted area (see above) usually in a low (see above) position.

Stall - see Freezing the Ball.

Steal - to take the ball from an opponent or intercept a pass.

Stride Stop - a stop with the ball performed using a “one” “two” rhythm. The ball is received with both feet off the floor, one foot touches the floor, and then the trailing foot strides forward and lands to execute the stop.

Strong Side - refers to the side of the court on which the attacking team has the ball. Can also refer to the side of the court on which the attacking team has the largest number of players.

Switch - a defensive manoeuvre in which two defenders exchange defensive responsibilities by changing the player they are guarding. It occurs usually during a screen situation in which one of the defenders can no longer guard their opponent because of the screen.

System - a team’s basic attacking and defensive play.



Tie-Up - a defensive situation in which the defenders through their defensive tactics gain a held ball (see above) situation.

Tip - the momentary catching and pushing of the ball whilst the player is in the air.

Tip-Off - the centre jump ball at the start of play.

Trailer - an attacking player who follows behind the ball-handler.

Transition - occurs after the change of possession as a team moves from an attack to defense and vice versa.

Trap - a double team” (see above) in which two defenders attempt to stop a dribbler and prevent that player making a successful pass. If successful, this could lead to an interception or 5 seconds violation by the ball handler.

Triple Threat – a position in which, with the ball at chest height, a player can shoot, pass or dribble.

Turnover - the loss of ball possession without a shot being taken.



“V” Cut - Is a manoeuvre used by an attacking player to get free to receive a pass. The player without the ball makes a movement towards the basket and then cuts sharply at a “V” angle towards the passer.



Weak-Side - the opposite side of the court to the strong side (see above), that is, away from the ball.

Wing - a term used to denote a position on court where the player is stationed between the end of the free throw line and the sideline.



Zone Defense - a team’s defensive tactic in which the five defensive players protect an area surrounding their basket within normal shooting range.