The language of basketball

Various basketball terms defined by the Hub’s resident sports writer


Kelsey Tepen (12) races past Parkway South defense, ready to set a play in motion.

Terms in sports can be confusing at times for the average fan. This list attempts to explain typical terms that could be heard or written about around the game of basketball.

And one: A player makes a shot, but is fouled during the shot and is awarded a free throw on top of the made shot.

Assist: A pass to a teammate that scores immediately or after one dribble

Backcourt: Either the half of the court to the back of the offensive team or a team’s guards

Ball screen: A screen set on a player defending the offensive player with the ball

Baseball pass: An overhand pass that tends to be a long pass

Baseline: The line behind the basket that marks the end of the court

Board: A rebound

Bonus: After seven fouls, regardless of where the foul occurs, any  foul results in a one-and-one.After ten fouls, any foul results in two free throws

Charge: An offensive foul when the offensive player hits a defender that was not moving

Double-double: When a player records tens of multiple statistics. Describes a player’s performance after a game. (Ex: 10 points and 10 rebounds. If there are 10 in three or four categories it would be a triple-double or a quadruple-double.)

Fast break: The offensive team runs the floor and gets behind the defense. Typically occurs after a rebound or a made shot by the opposition.

Flagrant foul: A foul in which no attempt is made at the ball by a defensive player. Flagrants can be classified as a Flagrant 1 or a Flagrant 2 depending on severity. A Flagrant 1 results in a technical foul while a Flagrant 2 results in a technical foul and an ejection.

Flop: An exaggerated fall by a player usually trying to draw a foul

Half-court defense: Defense that takes place with all positions set past half-court

Half-court offense: Offense that takes place with all positions set past half-court

Paint: Tends to be painted, space between free throw line and basket

Perimeter: Area outside the three-point line

Screen: When an offensive player attempts to restrict a defensive player from defending another offensive player.

Sixth man: A player who doesn’t start but tends to get a lot of playing time

Technical foul: A foul for unsportsmanlike conduct that results in two free throws for the other team and possession following the free throws.

Transition: Play that occurs before the teams are in set positions. Similar to a fast break. 

Zone defense: Each player has their own “zone” to defend on the court (i.e. a 3-2 zone consists of three players defending the perimeter and two player defending the paint.)

If a reader gets lost in a basketball story, reference this article to better his/her understanding.