Basketball Terms

Basketball Terms

Basketball Terms For Kids

There are lots of terms in basketball to learn and understand. If you're a kid learning to play basketball or a parent teaching your child, check out these glossary terms.


Basketball Offense

An offense in basketball is the team with possession of the basketball that is trying to score. The same five players on the court play both offense and defense.



The defense in basketball is the team without the ball trying to prevent a score by the opposing team, who is on offense. The same five players on the court play both offense and defense.


A possession in basketball is a term used to describe which team has the ball. The team with the basketball is always looking to score points.


A 3-pointer in basketball is a shot scored anywhere outside the three-point arch. Anywhere outside the line to the other side of the court all counts for three points.


A 2-pointer in basketball is a shot scored anywhere inside the three-point arch. This includes the paint, midrange and at the rim. All these shots count for two points.


A layup in basketball is a shot made from short range by a player on the move toward the basket. The player might utilize the backboard if they approach the hoop from an angle.

Slam Dunk

basketball slam dunk

A slam dunk in basketball is an aggressive shot attempt where an offensive player with the ball leaps into the air and slams the ball into the net by grabbing the rim with their hands.


The hoop in basketball is how you score points in basketball. Each team tries to shoot the ball in the opposing team’s hoop. Hoops are located on both ends of the court near the baselines.


Basketball Dribbling

A dribble in basketball is the method of moving the basketball on the court by bouncing it off the floor.

Double Dribble

A violation given to a player who uses more than one hand to dribble.

Basketball Terms For Coaches

If you're a coach, you should be familiar with basketball strategy and designing your own plays. Here is a list of terminology you should know.

Set Play

A set play in basketball is when a team runs a structured offensive play rather than a fluid offense.

Man to Man

Basketball Man To Man

Man to man in basketball is a coverage strategy in basketball where each player is assigned to guard against a specific player on the opposing team. This is a popular defensive strategy.


A trap in basketball is a defensive strategy for forcing a turnover by having multiple defensive players surround the ball-handler near the boundary lines making it difficult for him to shoot or pass the ball away.


When a player creates a turnover by taking the ball away from an opposing player while on defense. Players should always be trying to play active defense and steal the ball from the team with possession.


A screen in basketball is the act of an offensive player delaying or disrupting the movement of a defensive player by standing still in their path, with their feet not moving.


Cutting in basketball is a sudden change in speed or direction while moving in an attempt to juke the defender and find open areas on the court.


An isolation in basketball is a play design in basketball to create a one-on-one situation for the best player on a team.

Pick and Roll

A pick and roll in basketball is a play design in basketball designed to get a teammate open for an easy layup by utilizing a screen.

Post Up

To post up in basketball is when a player establishes position on the low post on a basketball court. This is usually done by turning your back to the hoop and backing down a defender until you are close enough for an easy shot.

Basketball Lingo And Slang

There is a lot of lingo in basketball. Here are some terms coaches, announcers, and more advanced fans will talk about.


Basketball Downtown

Downtown in basketball is a term to describe the area beyond the three-point arc. If a score is made from beyond the three-point arc, an announcer may use this phrase to describe the 3-pointer.

Toilet Bowl

A toilet bowl in basketball is a shot attempt which rolls along the rim before ultimately falling. It is derived from water swirling around the toilet bowl as it is flushed.


A rejection in basketball is when a defensive player blocks an offensive player's shot attempt.

Off The Glass

Off the glass in basketball is a term that refers to a situation whenever the basketball hits the backboard and bounces into the hoop on a layup shot.

Over The Limit

Over the limit in basketball is when a team has committed an excess number of team fouls and is in a penalty situation. The other team is awarded additional free-throws on every foul in this situation. You can refer to the rules of the bonus and double bonus for more specifics.

In The Paint

Being in the paint in basketball is when a player positions themself in the area of the paint on the court. The paint is the area underneath the basket and is also known as the lane, key, and free throw lane.

Finger Roll

A finger roll in basketball is a term that describes a layup rolling off a player's fingers from one hand without utilizing the backboard.

March Madness Terms

Here are some basketball terms you should learn if you're going to watch March Madness this year.

  • March Madness Bracket
  • At-Large Bid
  • Automatic Bid
  • Sweet Sixteen
  • Selection Committee
  • Selection Sunday
  • Regional Championship
  • Bracketing The Field
  • Cinderella Story

March Madness Bracket

A March Madness bracket in basketball is a list of teams and who plays who in the NCAA March Madness annual basketball tournament. There are 64 teams and 64 spots in the bracket.

At-Large Bid

An at-large bid in basketball is one of the 36 spots available for the teams that have not been able to secure one of the 32 automatic bids for March Madness.

Automatic Bid

An automatic bid in basketball is one of the 32 spots in March Madness that are automatically awarded to the teams who have won their respective conference tournaments, which are held at the end of the regular season.

Sweet Sixteen

The sweet sixteen in basketball is the Round of 16, the winner from Pod 1 faces the winner from Pod 2, and the winner from Pod 3 faces the winner from Pod 4, in all four regions.

Seed: A seed in basketball is a team that has been assigned to a specific seed line, based on its national ranking.

Selection Committee

A selection committee in basketball is an organization like the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Committee, a group of 10 individuals who are responsible for selecting, seeding, and bracketing the field for March Madness.

Selection Sunday

Selection Sunday in basketball is what officially marks the start of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. On this day, the selection committee finalizes its vote for the 36 at-large teams and the final bracket of 68 is broadcasted on television.

Regional Championship

A regional championship in basketball is known as the elite eight in the March Madness tournament, the remaining two teams in each region will face off against each other to earn a spot in the final four.

Bracketing The Field

Bracketing the field in basketball is the process by which the 16 teams within each of the four regions are further separated into four pods.

Cinderella Story

A Cinderella story in basketball is a term used to describe a team that has been ranked as a number 11 seed or lower, yet has managed to advance onto the Sweet Sixteen, thus achieving far greater success than reasonably anticipated, much like the fairytale Cinderella.