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Basketball Action Terms For Players, Parents & Coaches

Everyone loves great Basketball Action! But not everyone knows all the terms for that great action.

This list of basketball action terms will help…

  • Players get a thorough understanding of the terms that are used during practices and games.
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  • Parents understand the game better. They will be able to talk to their child about basketball and actually know what they’re talking about!
  • Coaches communicate better with their players. They will have a thorough listing of terms to share with their players.


Basketball Action Terms

Basketball Action Terms – A

Air Ball – A shot that completely misses the rim and the backboard.

Alley-Oop Pass – A pass thrown with a high arc near the basket so a teammate can make a leaping catch and score in a single motion.

Arc – The trajectory of the ball as it is shot toward the basket.

Assist – A pass to a teammate that results in an immediate score. The scorer must move immediately toward the basket for the passer to be credited with an assist.

Basketball Action Terms – B

Back-Door Cut – A cut behind the defender and toward the basket.

Back Screen – A move by an offensive player away from the basket to set a screen for a teammate.

Ball Control – An offensive strategy which prolongs possession of the ball by delaying the shot until the best possible situation develops. Also referred to as stall ball or the delay game.

Ball Fake – A fake pass or shot.

Bank Shot – A shot in which hits off the backboard and then rebounds into the basket.

Baseball Pass – A one-handed pass used to advance the ball to a cutter going toward the basket.

Beat the Defender – When an offensive player, with or without the ball, is able to get past the player who is guarding them.

Behind-the-Back-Dribble – A dribble behind the body from one hand to another.

Behind-the-Back-Pass – A pass thrown behind the back.

Between-the-Legs-Dribble – A dribble through the legs from one to another.

Blind Pass – A pass from a ball handler who does not see the receiver, but estimates where they should be.

Blocked Shot – Deflection of a shot by touching part of the ball on its way to the basket.

Bounce Pass – A pass that hits the floor between the passer and the receiver.

Box Out – Establish and maintain a rebounding position between the basket and your opponent.

Brick – A shot that bounces hard off the rim or backboard.

Basketball Action Terms – C

Catch & Face – Technique for receiving a pass and squaring up to the basket; similar to the triple-threat position.

Change-of-Pace Dribble – Alternately slowing down and speeding up in order to penetrate past a defender.

Chest Pass – A two-handed pass thrown from the chest.

Chin It – The position of the ball after a rebound: directly under the chin with the elbows and fingers up.

Clear Out – When an offensive player leaves an area so the ball handler has more room to maneuver.

Control Dribble – A low dribble used when closely guarded.

Court Sense – A player’s ability to be aware of everything that is happening on the court at all times.

Court Vision – A player’s ability to see everything that is happening on the court during play. This enables them to make better decisions when playing.

Cross Screen – A lateral move by an offensive player to set a screen for a teammate.

Crossover Dribble – A dribble from one hand to the other in front of the body.

Crossover Step – An offensive move consisting of a jab step followed with a step in the opposite direction.

Curl Cut – A cut off a screen toward the basket; is used when the defender is trailing the cutter.

Cut – An offensive move to elude a defender or drive to the basket.

Basketball Action Terms – D

Defense – The team without the ball; also the act of trying to stop the opponent from scoring.

Defensive Rebound – A rebound by a player on defense.

Double Team – When two defenders move to guard one offensive player.

Down Screen – A move by an offensive player toward the baseline to set a screen for a teammate.

Dribble – The act of bouncing the ball up and down. The offensive player with the ball uses the dribble to move around the court.

Drive – Dribbling toward the basket; also called a dribble drive.

Dunk – Scoring a basket by stuffing the ball into the basket from above the rim.

Basketball Action Terms – E

Early Offense – The period just after a team has crossed over the midcourt line and set up its half-court offensive.

English – A special spin that is put on the basketball to help soften the shot.

Basketball Action Terms – F

Fade Cut – A cut used by an offensive player coming off a screen when the defender is a sagging position.

Fake – A technique used to get a defensive player off balance or out of position.

Fast Break – The act of moving the ball quickly downcourt by an offensive team in hopes of getting ahead of the defense to score.

Fish-Hook Cut – A change-of-direction cut that takes the shape of a fish hook and is used as a pressure release.

Front Pivot – Moving forward while turning on the pivot foot.

Full-court Press – When defenders guard the offense in the backcourt.

Fumble – Losing control of the basketball by dropping it or having it slip out of your hands.

Basketball Action Terms – G

Give & Go – An offensive maneuver, sometimes called an inside cut, whereby a player passes to a teammate and cuts for the basket.

Guarding – Following an opponent around the court to prevent him from getting the ball, taking an open shot or making a pass.

Basketball Action Terms – H

Half-Court Offense – When a team takes the time to run a play in it frontcourt.

Half-Court Press – Defensive pressure applied as soon as the opposing team takes the ball into the frontcourt.

High Percentage Shot – A shot that is likely to go in the basket. These are usually shots close to the basket such as a lay-up.

Hook Shot – A one-handed shot on which the player is sideways to the basket and the ball is released above the head from the hand farthest from the basket.

Basketball Action Terms – I

Inbounds Pass – Pass thrown-in from out-of-bounds.

Inside Cut – When the offensive player passes the ball to a teammate and cuts to the basket looking for a return pass.

Inside shot – Shot taken from near or under the basket.

Basketball Action Terms – J

Jab Step – A small step toward the defensive player with the non-pivot foot.

Jump Ball – A jump ball starts every game and occurs when a referee tosses the ball into the air between two players from opposite teams. During games a jump ball is called when two players from opposite teams gain possession of the ball at the same time. Players involved in a jump ball must tap the ball to a teammate to gain possession.

Jump Shot – An offensive shot in which the offensive player’s feet leave the floor.

Jump Stop – Coming to a full stop by jumping off one foot and landing in a parallel or staggered stance with both feet hitting the floor at the same.

Basketball Action Terms – K

Keepaway Game – When the leading team keeps the ball away from its opponent to take time off the clock and prevent them from scoring. This occurs at the end of the game.

Basketball Action Terms – L

“L” Cut – A cut in the shape of the letter “L” that is used when the defender is in the passing lane but is playing very loosely.

Lay-up Shot – A close-in shot made when moving to the basket.

Leading the Receiver – When the passer throws the ball where he thinks the receiver will be.

Lower Percentage Shot – A shot that is less likely to go in. These are usually shots taken further from the basket or out of the shooter’s range.

Basketball Action Terms – M

Man-to-Man Defense – Defensive style where each defensive player is responsible for guarding one opponent.

Basketball Action Terms – O

Offense – The team with the ball.

Offensive Rebound – A rebound by a player on offense.

Off the Dribble – A shot taken while driving to the basket.

Open – When a player is unguarded by a defender.

Outside Shooting – Shots taken from the perimeter.

Outlet Pass – A pass made from a rebounder to an offensive teammate.

Overhand Lay-up Shot – A lay-up shot with the shooting hand positioned on the back of the ball with the palm facing the basket.

Overhead Pass – A pass made while the ball is held above the head with both hands.

Basketball Action Terms – P

Pass – When a player throws the ball to a teammate.

Passing Lane – The area between two offensive players where a pass can be made.

Penetration – When the ball is dribbled or passed inside the defensive area toward the basket.

Pick – A screen set by an offensive player.

Picked Off – When a defender is prevented from reaching the ball handler by an offensive screen.

Pivot – The rotation of the body around one foot that is kept in a stationary position.

Post Up – Take a position close to, and facing away from, the basket in preparation to receive a pass.

Power Lay-up Shot – A lay-up used when closely guarded.

Pull-Back Dribble – A dribble used to avoid defensive pressure or traps.

Push Pass – Used to pass through or past a defender who is guarding closely.

Basketball Action Terms – R

Rebound – Securing the ball off the backboard or the rim after a missed field goal or free-throw attempt.

Receiver – The player who receives a pass from a teammate.

Release – The moment the ball leaves the shooter’s hand.

Reverse Dribble – A dribble move used to change directions. Also called a spin dribble.

Reverse Pivot – Stepping backward while turning on the pivot foot.

Rocker Step – An offensive move consisting of a jab step followed by a step backward; the player can either shoot or drive, depending on the movement of the defender.

Basketball Action Terms – S

Scoring Opportunity – When a player gets open for a shot they are likely to make.

Screen – An offensive technique used to block or delay an opponent from reaching a desired floor position.

Screen & Roll – When an offensive player screens for the ball handler and then rolls toward the basket.

Shallow Cut – A change-of-direction cut; also called a fish-hook cut.

Shape Up – A term used to describe the movement of the screener toward the ball after the screen has been set.

Shooter’s Roll – When the shot takes a favorable bounce off the rim and into the basket.

Shooting Range – The distance from the basket where a player is comfortable shooting and is likely to make the shot.

Spacing – Refers to the positioning of the offensive players, who should be approximately 15-18 feet from one another.

Speed Dribble – A high, quick dribble used to advance the ball up the court when there are no defenders blocking your path.

Spin Dribble – A change-of-direction move in which the dribbler’s body is always kept between the ball and the defender.

Squaring Up – When a player´s shoulders are facing the basket as he releases the ball for a shot.

Stride Stop – Coming to a full stop by landing on one foot first and then the other foot.

Strong Side – The side where the ball is located on the offensive end of the court.

Basketball Action Terms – T

Three-Point Shot – A field-goal attempt from outside the three-point line. The shooter must have both feet behind the three-point line when the ball is released.

Throw-in – Inbounding the ball.

Tip-Off – The initial jump ball that starts the game.

Transition – When a team goes from offense to defense or defense to offense as the ball moves quickly upcourt.

Trap – A defensive tactic in which two players double-team the ball handler.

Triple-Threat Position – An offensive position from which the ball handler can either shoot, pass or dribble.

Basketball Action Terms – U

Underhand Lay-up Shot – A lay-up shot with the shooting hand in front and under the ball.

Basketball Action Terms – V

“V” Cut – A fake in one direction and movement in the opposite direction in order to get open for a pass.

Basketball Action Terms – W

Weak Side – The side away from the ball on the offensive end of the court.

Basketball Action Terms – Z

Zone Defense – A defense where each defender is responsible for an area of the court and must guard any player who enters that area.


I hope you found this list of Basketball Action Terms to be helpful and informative. Remember, to thoroughly understand the game of basketball, it is important to understand the terms of the game.

If you need more great information on these basketball terms or other basketball topics, I would suggest you purchase some good basketball books and videos. These will provide you with a wealth of knowledge about the game of basketball.

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