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D-Up! Basketball Lingo Explained


Every one of your friends is going to the big March Madness TV party. You want to go too, but you don't want to sound like a roundball blockhead.

Don't worry. With our help, nobody's going to break your ankles (figuratively speaking, anyway).

Visit our
March Mayhem site.
This handy guide to key basketball terms will help you at least appear to know what you're talking about.

We'll be adding new terms every day, so keep on coming back! By the Final Four, you'll sound like a hoop hysteric.

  • Air Ball: Not a shot by Michael Jordan, but rather a shot that completely misses the basket and backboard. A player who shoots an airball in a hostile arena will, for the rest of the game, have to put up with fans chanting "air ball" every time he touches the ball.
  • Alley-Oop: When a player tosses the ball up towards the basket while another player simultaneously leaps up, catches the ball in mid-air, and dunks it. An effectively executed Alley-Oop can excite the crowd and change the momentum of a game. One of the most famous Alley-Oops ever was in the 1991 NCAA final of Duke vs. University of Nevada Las Vegas, when Grant Hill leaped to an enormous height to dunk an Alley-Oop pass by point guard Bobby Hurley.
  • Basket-Hanging: This has nothing to do with suicide. Basket-hanging refers to a lone player who straggles behind his teammates as they run back to play defense.
  • Boards: Slang for rebound, which is the retrieval of a missed shot. A rebound can either be defensive or offensive. Offensive rebounds occur when you retrieve your own team's shot. They are more difficult to get than defensive rebounds, which are recapturings of an opponent's shot.
  • Box-Out: A player using his or her body to shield an opposing player, strategically creating a better position to grab a rebound. Because players aren't allowed to use their hands to push an opponent for position, a successful box-out often requires a substantial derriere.
  • Breakaway, or Break: When a defensive player steals the ball and breaks away from the rest of the team to score a basket ahead of the defenders behind him. A breakaway, also called a break, means that the team with the ball has a number advantage over the defending team. This can either be 4 on 1, 3 on 1, or 2 on 1. Commentators sometimes refer to this situation by saying "They've got the numbers."
  • Breaking Ankles: A term first used on the playgrounds, wherein a player with exceptional dribbling capability and quickness, for example Kenny Anderson or Stephon arbury, fakes out a defender so badly that the he stumbles and falls. In street ball, getting your ankles broken is cause for never showing up again at that particular playground.
  • Brick: Slang for badly missed shots, especially those that come off the rim or the backboard at awkward, ugly angles.
  • Sub: Not short for submarine, but for substitute player, one who comes off the bench.
  • D-Up: An abbreviated term for playing defense. The term is usually yelled by teammates after an opposing player has scored 20 points at your expense.
  • Prayer: Although some teams pray before taking on college basketball powerhouses like North Carolina or Arizona, the term usually refers to a player releasing a shot from an impossible distance and location. Throughout the NCAA tournament you will often hear an announcer bark out "Oh my goodness, John Doe threw up a prayer from way beyond his range."
  • Tear Shot: A ball that lands in the basket in a slow, methodical fashion. Not to be confused with crying, which occurs when a fan discover that his or her favorite team has to play Duke to get to the next round of the NCAA Tournament.
  • 2-3 Zone: A defensive strategy that feature two players near the foul line and three below, closer to the basket. These players don't guard a specific player, but instead focus on "zones" of the court.

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written by Phillipe Stephen

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