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A Glossary of Basketball Terms


Arm Bar- Action of using forearm to body check offensive player.

Balanced Floor- Offensive formation displaying optimum spacing.

Ball- Term used to call alert defenders of a loose or tipped ball.

Ballhandler- The player who dribbles and runs the offense.

Ball Side- The side of the court where the ball is located.

Baseline- The line at either end of the court that runs parallel to the backboard.

Baseline Cut- Corner player has the option to cut toward the baseline if it is open. A basic cut out of a sideline triangle.

Basic Working Distance- A 15 to 18 inch spacing between offensive players. This working space should be kept on offense as it creates operating room for the player with the ball.

Basic Working Position- Player assumes triple-threat position. Ball under chin, knees flexed, head and eyes up.

Baseball Pass- Pass thrown like a catcher, overhead, for distance over 20 inches to key the fast break or hit a player on the fly.

Basket Cut- A player who cuts to the basket.

Block- The portion of the free-throw lane nearest the baseline.

Center- Usually the tallest player on a team.

Chase- Get on the opposing player's hip and tailgate through picks.

Cleared Side- Area on the court left open by a clearing action of players in that area.

Close Out- Controlled defensive slide to cover an offensive player.

Corner Spot- Corner area, strong side or weak side, that is filled in the formation of the sideline triangle.

Cutter- Player who moves off a screen toward the basket or to receive a pass.

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Defensive Balance- Concept of protecting basket, preventing the opponents from cheap baskets and eliminating errors on offense or fast breaks.

Deny- Defensive play that prevents an offensive player from receiving the ball.

Diagonal Cut- After the strong side guard passes to wing a cut made on an oblique angle toward the weak side.

Direct Line Principle- No defense between the ball and the basket, a penetration action to the hoop.

Double Down- Defensive double team on the post.

Dribble Weave- A dribble action that takes the ball to a teammate and affords the option to pass as you cross with that player-an interchanging action off the dribble.

Drop Pass- Pass delivered from low protective position that is dropped to the floor so the ball bounces knee-high to the speed cutter-not a bounce pass.

Entry Pass- An inbounds pass or a pass made to initiate the offense.

Fast Break- An offensive strategy in which a team advances the ball quickly up the court to score an easy basket.

Field Goal- A successful attempt at a shot.

Fly- When designated or overplayed, an outlet player reverses the field and runs downcourt for pass.

Forward- A player who is usually tall and can shoot from the perimeter and rebound.

Free Throw- A 15-foot shot taken from the foul line.

Free-Throw Line- A line 15 feet from the basket behind which players shoot free throws.

Free-Throw Line Extended- A parallel position extended to the right or left of the free-throw line by a few feet.

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"Help"- Calling out a defensive SOS.

Help Side- Opposite the ball.

High Post- The area around and near the free-throw line.

Hook Shot- Offensive set shot during which the player turns his or her body sideways and arcs a ball in the air toward the basket. Usually done by a forward or center.

Inbounds Pass- Throwing the ball in play from out of bounds.

Inside Cut- On wing pass, guard cuts inside the wing to corner.

Interchange- Exchanging offensive positions on the floor with a teammate.

Invert- In stacks, defenders use principle of big players in and small players out.

"Iso"- Call to alert team of isolated offensive player.

Isolation- Term used to identify area outside three-point line where offensive player or players align themselves.

Jump Shot- An attempt from the floor to make a basket, usually from more than 5 feet from the basket.

Jump Switch- On switch, a move into the path of dribbler to influence either to baseline or stop advance of the ball.

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Lag Principle- The guard opposite the ball stays in position slightly behind the ball. This provides a safety valve passing opportunity for the strong side guard. It also provides a good defensive balance.

Lane Line- The lines at the side of the lane extending down from the free-throw line.

Lay Up- A shot from very close range, usually as a player dribbles directly to the basket.

Line Of Deployment- Post player on the direct line between the ball and the basket about 15 inches from the ball.

Low Post- Area along the free-throw line.

Man-To-Man- Each player is assigned the responsibility of playing against one specific player from the other team.

One Player Removed- Term used to signify sliding behind screener.

Open Up- Defensive drop slide to an angle including the ball and offensive player.

Outlet Pass- A pass thrown by a rebounder that initiates the fast break.

Out Of Bounds- Outside the playing area. The area from which a pass can be made to bring the ball in the area of play.

Outside Cut- After wing, pass cuts to the outside of wing. Don't make this cut unless there is room outside.

Overload- Occurs when area is cleared either to the strong side or the weak side, or when coach is stressed.

Over The Top Cut- A player cuts over the top of a post player or a screener in anticipation of the ball.

Over The Top Pass- A high-arched pass, over the top of the defensive player attempting to front or deny a pass to a teammate.

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Paint - The area inside the lane or the 3-second area.

Passing Halo- The area around the head from the top of the head to the edge of the shoulders. An area where the defender can't block a pass with his or her arm.

Penetrating Dribble- A dribbling action that penetrates the defense by movement toward the basket. An entry action by the guards to initiate the offense.

Penetrating Pass- A pass that goes through the defense as an entry action by the guards to initiate the offense.

Perimeter- Outside the free-throw line.

"Pick"- Call to alert teammates to an oncoming screen.

Pivot Foot- Offensive player with the ball must keep this foot in contact with the floor at all times when not dribbling.

Point Guard- Primary ballhandler in the offense.

Point Your Pistols- Assuming a stance with one hand pointing toward the ball and the other toward the player being covered.

Post- Area along the free-throw lane and halfway up the lane toward the free-throw line.

Press- When the defense extends pressure to the half-court line (half-court press), to the free-throw line (three-quarters press) or to the baseline (full-court press).

Pursuit And Cut-Off- Defender runs, chases and slides to control player when beat or to activate a trap.

Reversing The Ball- Moving the ball from one side of the floor to the other.

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Screen- An offensive player intentionally blocks the path of a defensive player.

Screener- An offensive player who blocks the path of a teammate's defensive player.

"See The Ball"- Call to alert team or player to get ball vision.

Short Pass- Short pass to a cutter at close distance. Pass must be a slight-of-hand action and stay on the same plane-not a hand-off.

Show And Recover- Defensive action of simulating a switch on a pick and then retreating with offensive player.

Showing To The Ball- A defensive position when the person you are guarding is away from the ball. Show position is between the person you are guarding and the ball.

Sideline Triangle- Overload to strong side or weak side when three players form a triangle on the sideline.

Smother- On the ball defensive overplay to force traps, jump balls, etc.

Solo Cut- Wing and post players work together on ball side in a pass-and-cut two player game.

Speed Cut- A full speed cut, under control, in an attempt to out run the opponent to the basket or down court.

Split Cut Action- Two offensive players crisscross or scissor cut the post player either at high post or low post.

Square Up- Defensive stance that includes bent knees, feet that are shoulder width apart, etc.

Strong Side- Side of the court where the ball is located.

"Switch"- Call alerting teammate on exchange of assigned players.

System- A basketball philosophy that includes what we do offensively, what we do defensively and everything in between.

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Tandem Partners- Each of two pairs of two offensive players away from the ball who work together to get each other open.

Telegraph- Motion of winding up on the delivery of a pass, thus alerting the defense to the direction of the pass.

3-Point Line- Semicircle that runs around the perimeter of the basket and from beyond which a basket worth three points is attempted.

3-Point Shot- Shot from beyond the three-point line.

Time Delay- Defensive body check used to hold up offensive player.

Top Of The Key- Area slightly beyond the top of the free-throw lane.

Trailer- Post player or bounder who trails the fast break. Triple Threat PositionóPosition a player assumes with the ball where he or she can shoot, pass and cut or dribble/drive.

Transition- Moving down the floor going from offense to defense or going from defense to offense.

Turning The Ball- Moving the ball from one side of the floor to the other,

Two Hand Overhead Pass- Pass made two handed with the arms extended with the wrist and finger snap only.

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Unbalanced Floor- Created when a player clears an area of the court or a player is put in isolation.

Under Control- Optimum speed at which a player can operate.

Weak Side- Area of the court opposite the ball.

Wing- Area to the side of the offensive setup, usually the free-throw line toward the sideline.

Z-ing The Floor- Positioning players in 45-degree angles from the ball or at 45-degree angles from a teammate up from the ball to attack defensive pressure.

Zone- When players are assigned a certain area to play instead of a certain player to defend.

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Basketball definitions
Posted from: Kayla cabatbat, 3/11/15 at 2:47 AM CDT
This is helping me with my homework for basketball
Posted from: Coach B., 4/30/14 at 8:45 AM CDT
Basic Working Distance- A 15 to 18 inch spacing between offensive players. This working space should be kept on offense as it creates operating room for the player with the ball.
Small typo, means FEET instead of inches. Good post.
Could be so Much More
Posted from: Ryan Schachter , 4/30/14 at 8:32 AM CDT
I would like it if there was a definitive list that was contributed by many more... There is so much more that can be added: press-break, ball screen, pick n roll, split line, zipper cut, iverson cut, elevator screen, flair screen, hedge, floppy, single double, etc.. There are so many more but I have to run at the moment.
Maybe you can ask your subscribed coaches to add their favorites?
Basketball words .
Posted from: Tychell Chalk, 4/29/14 at 10:16 AM CDT
This really helped me a lot .
Posted from: Rickie, 12/11/10 at 11:28 AM CST
Thanks. I have not fully understood all of basketball terminology. This is great help and I will use this info to test or quiz my high school Physical Education class. Thanks again.
Posted from: eduardo , 11/15/09 at 1:54 AM CST
congratulations for this page.has important tools for each coach who wants grow.

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