Basic Basketball Terms

Every man should know basic basketball terms. You're finally ready to start joining your friends in some full-court action –  we're talking basketball – but at this point, you're not caught up on the lingo. Well we're here to help. Here's a quick guide to some terms you'll need to know if you don't want to ride the pine for 48 minutes. (Don't worry, we'll get to "riding the pine".)

  1. Tip off/jump ball: The tip off or jump ball happens at the beginning of a regulation game (and any time neither team maintained possession after a break in action.) The referee throws the ball in the air while two opposing players try and tip it to a teammate to gain possession.
  2. Starters/reserves: Starters are the five players who start the game. Reserves are the players who come in during the game.
  3. 6th Man: The 6th man is the first reserve off the bench and into the game. You do not need to see dead people to be the 6th man.
  4. Dribbling: This has nothing to do with saliva or passing out. It's the act of bouncing the ball. You'll need to do this – a lot – in order to move the ball up the court.
  5. Rebounds: Not every shot you take will go in the basket. When a shot misses, someone has to get it. A missed shot picked up by someone on the court (technically, before it bounces) is a rebound. Rebounds are good.
  6. Boxing out: This is the act of blocking an opponent from getting position for a rebound. Usually it involves your butt sticking into a part of them. It may be awkward at first, but if you box out well, you'll get a lot of rebounds. People will be impressed. With your butt.
  7. Pick/Screen: A pick is when you use your body to block a defender from staying with one of your teammates. Picks create more spacing and allow your teammates to get to the basket easier. For some reason, lots of people hold their crotch when setting a pick. Feel free to enjoy the moment.
  8. Fast break: After a missed shot, when gaining possession of the ball, push it up court as fast as possible to create an advantage on the offensive side, and hopefully quick, easy points.
  9. Give and Go: The most basic play. Give the ball to a teammate, go to the basket, and they'll give it right back to you for an easy shot.
  10. Pick and Roll: One of the most fundamental plays in basketball, the pick and roll starts with a player (usually a forward or center) setting a pick on a defender so his teammate (usually a guard) can free himself. After setting the pick, the forward then "rolls" (moves) toward the basket, expecting a pass from the guard. Most of the time either both defenders involved end up staying with the guard leaving the forward open under the basket, or the defenders switch responsibilities, leaving the smaller defender on a bigger player. This is the kind of mismatch you look to exploit.
  11. High screen/low screen: A high screen is a screen or pick that is set near the foul line or farther from the basket. A low screen is set closer to the basket.
  12. Loose ball: No. Stop thinking with your pants. A loose ball is a ball that is in play, but not in control by either team. Someone who dives for loose balls (hey now!) is usually considered "scrappy". Scrappy players make happy teammates.
  13. Alley-oop: An Alley-oop is a slam dunk created directly from a pass. The dunker jumps toward the basket without the ball while a teammate lobs a pass near the rim so the dunker can grab the ball mid-air, slam it home, and then yell and growl as if they just became a werewolf.
  14. Riding the Pine: Slang for a bench warmer. If you grasp any of the concepts here and master even one , your days of riding the pine will soon be over.
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