Basketball Terms Every Player Should Know

Like any sport, basketball has its own lingo. Multiple basketball terms that players should know exist. If you're not sure about the difference between "ball side" and "weak side," this quick glance at round ball sayings will keep you in the game.

Basketball Courts
Each area of the court has its own defined name:

  • Paint. The area inside the lane lines from the free throw line to the baseline is known as the paint. Offensive players can only stay in the paint for three seconds; otherwise, a lane violation will be charged. Defensive players don't have to worry about standing in the paint.
  • Charity Stripe or Free Throw Line. A player shooting a free throw must stand behind the line when shooting.
  • Low Post. Also known as the "block," the low post is an area on either side of the lane that extends approximately halfway toward the free throw line.
  • High Post. This area extends along the free throw line and both elbows, or areas positioned just outside the free throw line.
  • Key. Before the lane was widened, the lane and free-throw circle resembled a keyhole. The top of the key is a position above (toward the half court line) the free throw circle.
  • Point. The point is a position at the top of the key. -Wings' are positioned on either side of the point.
  • Ball-side vs. Weak-side. Ball-side explains where the ball is located on the floor. Weak-side is the side away from the ball.
  • Back-door. A player who cuts on the weak-side toward the hoop is driving the back-door.
  • Half-court line or 10-second line. This line divides the court into two equal halves. A team that inbounds the ball in the back court has ten seconds to get the ball into the forecourt, or the half with your basket. Once across this line, if the player having possession crosses into the backcourt, a violation occurs. This is known as "over and back."


On the Offensive

When your team has possession of the ball, several terms may be used to describe the action.

  • Pick and Roll. An offensive player sets a screen or pick on a teammate's defender. This allows the teammate to move away from the defender. Then, the screener rolls to the basket or passes to an open area.
  • Give and Go. One of the most basic plays, the give and go works quickly. After passing to a teammate, the passer cuts toward the hoop and receives a pass for the layup.
  • Reverse. Quickly moving the ball by passing to the opposite side of the forecourt is a reverse.
  • Skip Pass. This style of pass goes across the court, skipping other players on offense.
  • Over Shift. Often used against a zone defense, the over shift works when a team moves three or four players to one side of the floor.
  • Post Up. With this offensive move, the low post positions himself to block the defender. Now, he has a decision to make: either shoot the ball or pass outside to an open team member for a three-point shot.

Defensive Strategies
Defensive strategy terminology includes types of defense schemes and player responsibilities.

  • Man-to-man defense. Each defensive player is assigned to a specific opposing team member.
  • Zone defense. Each defender is assigned a certain area of the floor. Variations include a 2-1-2, 1-3-1, or 1-2-2. Coaches set up a zone defense based on the play of the other team's offense. The zone structure may be switched throughout a game. Zones are illegal in the NBA.
  • Trap. Two defenders double-team the ball handler in an attempt to force a turnover or jump ball.
  • Box Out. A defensive player boxes out opposing team members to keep him away from the rebound or inside position.
  • Front the Low. This term explains how one defends the low post player. Either the defender stays between the low post and the basket or he positions himself between the low post and the passer.
  • Transition. Simply enough, this is the process of changing from defense to offense or vice versa.

By learning these terms, players will have an easier time understanding what the coach expects from him.

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