An alley-oop in basketball is an assisted shot where the scoring player catches the pass while it is traveling in the air. Alley-oops can be finished with either a dunk or a layup. The difficulty of the shot comes with the timing, as the passer must toss the ball so that it is right above or at the rim at the same moment as their jumping teammate.
While players like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain have recorded histories of alley-oop plays, it was not until David Thompson and his teammates routinely performed the feat at North Carolina State University that the alley-oop was popularized.
This N.C. State team is also credited with the most iconic alley-oop in history. Despite the play starting out with a missed shot attempt rather than a pass, the ball falling short of the rim and into the hands of Lorenzo Charles who dunked the ball to win the NCAA title against Houston is still considered an alley-oop.
While the play typically necessitates two players, instances have occurred where athletic players lob the ball to themselves off the backboard and then slam the ball down. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are known for this type of play. Using the backboard is a common form of alley-oop regardless of the number of players, as it distracts the defender from the oncoming player who will finish the play.
Alley-oops are most commonly executed on fast breaks.