An 'outlet pass' in basketball is a pass made following a defense rebound. Outlet passes allow the player that has just gained possession of the ball to quickly transfer it to a teammate. The offensive team can then advance the ball up the court before the opposing defense can recover and get in proper position.
Two players are involved in performing an outlet pass. First, a member of the team on defense must secure a rebound by grabbing the ball as it bounces off the rim following a missed shot. The player will then look for a teammate (usually a guard with good speed and dribbling ability) standing near the middle of the court. Once a teammate has been located, the player that has just corralled a rebound will pass the ball, officially initiating an offensive possession.
Outlet passes are often the best way for a team to transition from defense to offense. By quickly getting the ball to an open teammate that has leaked out towards the other half of the court, the team that has just gained possession of the ball can achieve a 'fast break.' The term 'fast break' refers to a situation in which the offense has a numbers advantage over the defense, caused by several defensive players clustered near the basket in an attempt to secure a rebound. In other words, the offense can advance the ball up the court before a suitable number of defenders can get back into position to contest a shot, often resulting in a two-on-one scenario in which one defender is stuck guarding two offensive players for a brief period of time.
In order to prevent an outlet pass from occurring, the team that has just lost possession of the ball to the opposing team due to a missed shot must be aware of their surroundings. Once a rebound has been obtained by the other team, the team formerly on offense is now on defense and must sprint back to the other end of the court to prevent the opposition from being able to attack the defense in a two-on-one fashion and score an easy basket.