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3 Seconds

Violation in which an offensive player remains within the key for more than 3 seconds at one time.

Violation in which an offensive player remains within the key for more than 3 seconds at one time.

When a player is fouled but completes the basket and is then given the opportunity to shoot one free throw to convert the 3-point play.

Alley-Oop Pass

A pass thrown to a player who is running toward the basket. The second player leaps, catches the ball in midair and dunks it or lays it in before the player lands.


An assist is a pass that leads directly to a made basket for a teammate, therefore assisting in the completion of the scoring play. An assist can be awarded for a pass to an open teammate on the perimeter for a jumpshot, a fast break pass to a teammate for a layup, a pass to a teammate in the low post that leads to a score and plenty of other game situations.


The board that the basket is attached to. Usually made of fiberglass or wood. In the NBA, the backboard is 6 feet wide and 3 1/2 feet high.

Bank Shot

A shot aimed at the backboard, so the ball will bounce into the basket.


The line at each end of the court, under each basket.

Baseline Out-of-Bounds Play

A play used to return the ball to court from the baseline. The team with the ball has 5 seconds to pass the ball inbounds to a teammate.


Rim and net attached to backboard. Also means a successful shot.

Block/Blocked Shot

A block occurs when a defensive player deflects a shot attempt of an offensive player resulting in a missed shot. The defender must block the shot while the ball is traveling upward towards the basket. After the ball reaches its peak and begins to move downward toward the basket, if a defender touches the ball, then goaltending is called and the basket counts.

Bounce Pass

A pass thrown by a player to a teammate that bounces on the floor.

Box Out

Use your body to stay between an opponent and the basket and thus get into better position for a rebound.


A successful shot.

Carrying or Palming the Ball

A violation committed by dribbler by placing the hand under the ball and carrying/holding it while dribbling.


The center is the tallest player on each team. He plays near the basket. On offense, he tries to score on close shots and rebound his teammates’ missed shots. On defense, he tries to block opponents’ shots and rebound their missed shots.

Chest Pass

A two-handed pass thrown from passer’s chest in a straight line to the chest area of the receiver.

Crossover Dribble

Dribbling the ball from one side of body to the other.


When the team without the ball tries to prevent the offense from scoring.

Defensive Rebound

A rebound by a defensive player.

Double Dribble

A violation in which a player dribbles the ball, stops, then begins to dribble again.

Double-Double and Triple-Double

When a player reaches double figures (10 or more) in two of the five main statistical categories - points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks - they have achieved a double-double. The most common double-doubles combinations are points and rebounds for big men and points and assists for guards. Reaching double figures in steals or blocks is extremely rare. When a player reaches double figures in three of the five categories, they have achieved a triple-double. Nearly all triple-doubles consists of points, rebounds and assists.


Bouncing the ball to the floor with one hand. A player who is dribbling cannot use 2 hands at the same time and cannot put any part of their hand under the ball. Both result in a violation.


A shot thrown downward through the basket, with one or two hands.


Using a deceptive move to get the defense out of position.

Fast Break

A play in which a team gains possession and then pushes the ball downcourt quickly, hoping to get a good shot off before the other team has a chance to get back and set up on defense.

Field Goal

A shot that goes through the basket from above. Most field goals are worth 2 points. Field goals from long distance are often worth 3 points.

Field Goal Percentage (FG%)

Field goal percentage is used to measure how well a player or team shoots the ball during a game. To calculate field goal percentage, divide the number of made shots by the total number of shot attempts. Field goal percentage counts all shots taken during live game action. It does not include free throws, which are measured separately as free throw percentage.


Basketball’s mid-sized players. Responsible for scoring and rebounding. There are small forwards and power forwards on most teams.


A violation. Usually, illegal contact between two players.

Free Throw

Shot taken from free throw line. No defense is allowed. A free throw is worth 1 point.


A fundamental play in which one player passes to a teammate, then cuts to the basket to receive a return pass for an open layup or dunk.


A violation in which a player interferes with a shot while the ball is on its downward arc, pins it against the backboard or touches it while it is in an imaginary cylinder above the basket; may be committed by either an offensive or defensive player.


Basketball position on the perimeter away from the basket. There are point guards and shooting guards on most teams.

Half-Court/Mid-Court Line

Divides the court in half. Offensively, once the ball crosses the mid-court line it becomes a boundary line reducing the offensive playing area in half.


Midpoint of game, generally the longest break in the game.

Held Ball

When a player from each team has a hold of the ball. A jump ball will determine which team gets the ball.

High-Percentage Shot

Shot that is likely to score, usually taken from a spot close to the basket.


Basket or rim.

Inbound Pass

Pass to happen after a stoppage in play. Offensive player stands out of bounds and has 5 seconds to pass the ball inbounds to his/her teammates.


Junior National Basketball Association

Jump Ball

Referee throws the ball into the air and a player from each team tries to tap the ball to a teammate

Jump Shot

A shot taken after a player jumps in the air.


The painted area between the end line and the free-throw line near each basket. Players line up outside of this area for free throws. Also known as: the key, 3-second area, or paint.


Shot taken close to the basket, generally off the backboard.

Loose Ball

Shot taken close to the basket, generally off the backboard.

Low Post

Area near the block and basket on either side of the lane.


National Basketball Association


The cord, 15 to 18 inches long, that hangs from the rim of the basket.


Team in possession of the ball.


Term used when offensive player is unguarded by defense and free for a shot.

Out-of-Bounds Play

Play used in attempt to get the ball in play or create a scoring opportunity on an inbound pass either on the baseline under the basket or along the sideline.


Extra period; only played if teams are tied at end of regulation time.


When a player throws the ball to a teammate on offense. Different types of passes include chest passes, bounce passes, overhead passes, baseball passes, etc.

Personal Fouls

A personal foul is any violation of the rules of the game that involves personal contact with an opposing player. This includes hitting a player while they are shooting the ball, impeding the path of a player while they are dribbling the ball, hitting the arms or body of an opponent in an attempt to steal the ball, and many other violations. In the NBA, once a player commits his sixth personal foul in a single game, they have fouled out and are not allowed to play for the remainder of the game. When a defender fouls a player that is shooting the ball, that is called a shooting foul and free throws are given to the player that was fouled. If the shooter makes the shot while being fouled, they receive one free throw in addition to the basket counting. If the shooter misses the shot while being fouled, they receive either two or three free throws depending on whether the shot attempt was a two-point shot or three-point shot.


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 Foot

Offensive player’s foot that must remain stationary and touching the floor while he/she is in possession of the ball until he/she passes, shoots, or dribbles. Moving the pivot foot while holding the ball is a traveling violation.


When an offensive player moves just one foot while leaving the other foot in the same place in an effort to create an advantage or become more comfortable. This is all done without dribbling the ball.


A stat that measures a player’s impact on the game by calculating the change in the score (plus or minus) while each player is on the court. Plus/Minus is useful in showing how players that may not put up big individual numbers still have a positive impact on the game. If a player is on the court when his team is outscoring its opponents, then he must be doing something to help his team succeed.

Point Guard

The point guard is the fastest player. His job is to run the offense. The point guard is the team’s best dribbler and passer. He defends the opponent’s point guard and tries to steal the ball.


Points are used to keep track of the score during a game and determine the winner at the game’s conclusion. Points are scored when a player puts the ball through the basket. The number of points awarded (one, two or three) is determined by the type of shot and the distance from which the shot was attempted. One point is given for every free throw made. Two points are given for every shot made from the field inside the 3-point line. Three points are given for every shot made outside the three-point line, which is an arc 23-feet, 9-inches away from the basket (22 feet in the corners).

Points in the Paint

These are point scored from inside the key, an area on the court near the basket that is usually painted a different color than the rest of the court. The key measures from the baseline below the basket all the way to the free throw line, which is 15 feet away. In the NBA the key is 16 feet wide, but that measurement changes with different levels of play. Points scored inside the paint are usually high percentage shots like layups, dunks and post-ups and outscoring your opponent in the paint is usually an indicator of team success.

Post Up

Offensive move where the player has his back to the ball. Takes place usually by the block near the basket.

Pump Fake

A fake in which a player motions as if about to shoot the ball but holds back, hoping the defender will jump out of position.


Gather in and gain control of a missed shot; a missed shot that is retrieved. Whenever a shot is missed, the player that retrieves the ball is credited with a rebound. Rebounds are divided into two categories - offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds. An offensive rebound happens when the player that recovers the missed shot is on the same team as the player that shot the ball. This keeps the possession alive for the team to attempt another shot. A defensive rebound happens with the player that recovers the missed shot is on the opposing team as the player that shot the ball.


Responsible for calling violations and fouls, levying penalties, signaling goals.


Player sitting on the team bench ready to enter the game.


Metal circle that holds the net. To score, the ball must go through the circle from above. The rim is exactly 10 feet above the floor.


Offensive player stands between teammate and defender to give teammate an opening for a shot or a cut. Also called a pick.


Unofficial game between two teams, often used as practice for teams.


The act of throwing the ball with the purpose of it going through the basket.

Shooting Guard

The shooting guard is the team’s best shooter. She can make shots from long distance. The shooting guard also is a good dribbler, and very fast.

Shot Clock

Time limit for offensive team to take a shot. The NBA uses a 24-second shot clock. If the offensive team does not take a shot before the clock expires, the referee gives the ball to the opposing team.

Sixth Man

Refers to team’s first player off the bench after the starting five.

Small Forward

The small forward plays against smaller and larger players. They roam all over on the court. Small forwards can score from long shots and close ones.

Starting Lineup

Five players whom begin the game on the court for a team.


A steal occurs when a defensive player forces an offensive player to turn the ball over, resulting in a change of possession. To put is simply, a steal is taking the ball away from your opponent. To do this the defensive player can swipe the ball away from the offensive player while he/she is dribbling, deflect and control a pass intended for another offensive player, or intercept a pass intended for an offensive player.


Player who comes from the bench into the game to replace a player on the court, also known as a sub.


Sound the ball makes when it goes through the hoop and net without touching backboard or rim.

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.

Three-Point Shot

The NBA introduced the 3-point shot in the 1979-80 season as a way to reward players for making shots from long distance. Before that, all shots counted for two points regardless of how far away from the basket they were taken. Since the long-distance shots are more difficult and are made less often, an extra point is given for making shots from beyond the designated 3-point line. In the NBA, the 3-point line is 23-feet, 9-inches away from the basket, with the exception of the corners, where the line is 22 feet away from the basket.


Initial jump ball at center court that starts the game.


The movement from offense to defense, or vice versa, when the ball changes possession.


A violation in which a player takes too many steps without dribbling the ball. Also: walking.

Triple Threat

Offensive player in a position ready to pass, dribble, or shoot.


A player is charged with a turnover if they lose possession of the ball to the opposing team before a shot is attempted. There are many actions that can result in a turnover, including: ball stolen by opposing team, throwing a bad pass, throwing the ball out of bounds, stepping out of bounds, committing a double-dribble, palming or traveling violation, committing a backcourt violation, shot clock violation, three-second violation, five-second violation or an offensive foul (charge or illegal screen).


Infringement of the rules that is not a foul. The penalty for a violation is the awarding of ball to the opponent.


A defensive tactic in which players guard areas of the court, rather than specific players.

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