Basketball lingo could be a slam dunk for new fans


“Foul! Foul! There is no way that was a block!” To spectators at a basketball game, this is common terminology, but it might confuse a new fan.

Every sport has its own terminology and basketball is no different. Words like foul, walk and turnover seem so common and easy to figure out, but they take on a whole new meaning when they are used during a basketball game.


One of the first things a new fan needs to learn are the five positions of the players on the court: point guard, shooting guard, forward, power forward and center.

The point guard is responsible for the majority of the ball handling, or dribbling. It is his or her responsibility to “call the play” and let the teammates know where they should be moving on the court. The point guard is generally shorter, but fast.

Shooting guards are relied on for their scoring abilities and ball handling skills. They can also play the point guard position if necessary.

A forward is one of the tallest players on the court. He or she plays closer to the basket and is responsible for working in the lane and rebounding.

Power forwards drive and shoot. They are powerhouses who can break through defenders and score. Rebounding is also one of their responsibilities.

Centers are the tallest players on the team and are responsible for defense, especially rebounding. Their stature can be intimidating to other teams. They can also block shots from the other team and usually slam-dunk.

Graphic by MELISSA LOR


There are many moves that can be done on the court, both offensively and defensively, and when executed correctly, can help a team win the game.

Assist – When one player passes the ball to another who scores
Drive – A player makes an aggressive move towards the basket with the intent to score

Block – A defender knocks the ball out of the offensive player’s hands while he or she tries to shoot
Box out – A player puts himself or herself between the basket and the opponent in an attempt to rebound the ball
Foul – Illegal contact between two players
Zone defense – Each defensive player is given an area to guard
Man to Man – A defensive strategy where every defensive player guards a particular offensive player


2 Pointer – A shot that scores 2 points for the team
3 Pointer – A shot that scores 3 points for the team
Jump shot – A player releases the ball and shoots mid-air
Foul shot – A shot from the free-throw line after a player has been fouled; counts as 1 point
Slam dunk – A player leaps to the rim and puts the ball through the hoop directly at the rim


Air ball – An attempted shot that doesn’t hit the rim of the basket
Crash the boards – Aggressive rebounding
Double dribble – When a player stops dribbling and then dribbles again
Dribble – A player bounces the ball
Free throw – A unopposed attempt at a basket following a foul or other infringement
Pass – Players give the ball to one another
Rebound – Players grab the ball after an attempted shot
Shot clock – Keeps track of the amount of time players have on each play to score
Steal – A player takes the ball away from the opposite team
Tip off – Starts the game; a player from each team jumps to tip the ball to one of the teammates.
Travel – A player in possession of the ball moves without dribbling the ball

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