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Basketball Rule Terms For Players, Parents & Coaches

The Basketball Rule Terms listed below will help you understand the fouls, violations and general rules of the game.

Knowing each rule is important to all players, parents and coaches. I cannot emphasize this enough! In order to be successful at basketball – you must understand the rules.

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By learning and understanding these basketball rule terms…

  • Players will have a thorough understanding of what they can and cannot do during their practices and games.
  • Parents will have a better understanding of the game. They will also be in a better position to help their child understand the game.
  • Coaches will be able to teach these rules to their players. This will enable the players to understand the game more thoroughly.


Basketball Terms And Rules

Basketball Rule Terms – A

Alive – A ball is alive when it is released by a shooter or thrower, or a jumper during a jump ball. The game clock only starts after the ball is alive. This is called a live ball.

Basketball Rule Terms – B

Blocking – The use of a defender´s body position to prevent an opponent´s advance.

Basketball Rule Terms – C

Charging – An offensive foul that happens when an offensive player runs into a defender who has an established position.

Basketball Terms – D

Dead Ball – Any ball that is not live; occurs after a successful field goal or free-throw attempt, after the whistle is blown, and if the ball leaves the court.

Basketball Rule Terms – E

Elbowing – It is a violation if a player swings their elbows in an excessive manner.

Established Position – When a defensive player has both feet firmly planted on the floor. If an offensive player runs into the defender, they would be called for charging.

Basketball Rule Terms – F

Field Goal – A basket made while the ball is in play.

Field Goal Percentage – The percentage of converted field goal attempts.

Five-Second Violation – When passing the ball inbounds after gaining possession, players have five seconds to get the ball to a teammate.

Floor Violation – When a player violates the rules but does not commit a foul against his opponent. This is penalized by a change of possession.

Foul – Actions by players which break the rules but are not floor violations.

Foul Trouble – Players who accumulate too many fouls during the course of a game are said to be in foul trouble. Players who commit five fouls in high school and college or six fouls in the NBA are disqualified or eliminated from that particular game. Teams need to avoid the total number of team fouls reaching more than six in each half. Once they reach this number, the other team is “in the one-and-one” and goes to the charity stripe for all subsequent fouls in that half.

Free Throw – An unguarded attempt to score from a line 15 feet from the basket.

Free Throw Percentage – The percentage of converted free throw attempts.

Basketball Rule Terms – G

Goaltending – When a defensive player interferes with a shot while it is on the way down toward the basket, after it has touched the backboard, or while it is in the cylinder above the rim, the shot counts. For offensive goaltending, the ball is awarded to the opposing team for a throw-in.

Basketball Terms – H

Hand Check – A personal foul where a defender intermittently or continuously uses one or both hands on an opposing player, usually the ball handler.

Held Ball – When two opposing players both possess the basketball but neither one can gain sole possession.

Holding – Using the hands to interfere with or limit an opponent’s freedom of movement.

Basketball Rule Terms – I

Incidental Contact – Minor contact that is usually ignored by officials.

Intentional Foul – A foul committed on purpose by a defensive player to stop the clock. In college basketball, the team that was fouled gets two free throws and possession of the ball.

Basketball Terms – L

Lane Violation – During a free throw situation, if you enter the lane too soon, it’s called a lane violation and results in a turnover or the other team gets another free throw attempt.

Live Ball – As soon as a ball is given to a free-throw shooter or a thrower on a throw-in, it’s live.

Loose Ball – A live ball that neither team has possession of.

Basketball Rule Terms – O

Offensive Foul – A personal foul committed by an offensive player. Usually not resulting in a free throw as the penalty.

Officials – Also called referees, they’re in charge of controlling the game.

One & One – A free-throw attempt awarded for certain violations that earns the shooter a 2nd attempt only if the first is successful.

Over the Limit – When a team commits more fouls then they are allowed per quarter or half. They are then in the penalty.

Overtime – The extra period(s) played after a regulation game ends tied; also called OT.

Basketball Rule Terms – P

Period – Any quarter, half or overtime segment.

Personal Foul – Contact between players that gives one team an unfair advantage. Players cannot push, trip, hack, elbow, hold, restrain or charge an opponent. These are also counted as team fouls.

Basketball Terms – Q

Quadruple Double – When a player gets double-digit figures in four of five offensive categories (scoring, assists, blocked shots, steals or rebounds) during the course of a game.

Basketball Rule Terms – T

Team Fouls – Each personal foul committed against a player is also counted against the team. When a team goes over the limit, their opponent is awarded free-throw opportunities.

Technical Fouls – Violations and misconduct that are detrimental to the game. These are penalized by free-throw opportunities.

Three-Point Play – A 2-point field goal followed by a successful free-throw.

Three-Second Rule – No offensive player can be in the free-throw lane for longer than 3 seconds at a time.

Timeout – When play is temporarily suspended by an official or at the request of a team to discuss strategy or respond to an injured player.

Traveling – Taking more than one and a half steps without dribbling while you have the ball. It’s also called traveling when you pick up your dribble and then move or change your pivot foot. Either way, you’ll turn the ball over to the other team if you travel, so don’t do it! (Also called Walking).

Triple-Double – When a player reaches double figures in three of five offensive categories – scoring, assists, blocked shots, steals or rebounds – they are said to have had a triple-double.

Turnover – When the offensive team loses the ball to the defensive team for any reason.

Basketball Rule Terms – U

Umpire – One of the two officials in most international and high school basketball competition.

Un-sportsmanlike Foul – Unfair, unethical or dishonorable conduct. These fouls are penalized by free-throw opportunities.

Basketball Rule Terms – V

Violation – An infraction of the rules that doesn’t result in a free throw; however, the ball is turned over to the opposing team for a throw-in.

Basketball Rule Terms – W

Walking – See the term “traveling”.


I hope you found this list of Basketball 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.