What Does Hero Ball Mean In Basketball?

What Does Hero Ball Mean In Basketball

No, it isn’t anything to do with comic books or action movies; “Hero Ball” is basketball slang for when a single player tries to score all by themself at the end of a game, essentially attempting to save their team as a hero would. The term has an interesting history starting in the 1980s and is still commonly used by basketball fans and sports commentators today. Read on to find out about the meaning of hero ball in basketball.

Hero Ball Meaning

Hero ball is essentially the opposite of team-oriented basketball. When a player tries to play hero ball, it means the player is not even thinking about making a pass to a teammate. Rather, they keep possession of the ball and try to score themselves. Often, a team’s best player, their all-star, tries to do it all themself at the end of the game. Some of these players, like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and Michael Jordan, became known among basketball fans as classic “hero ball” players. 

Negative Meaning

Although it is usually the team’s best player who’s trying to play hero ball, the term itself is usually used in a negative context. A player will often be accused of “hero ball” when they attempt (but fail) to score at the end of a game, leading to a loss for their team. In the minds of many basketball fans, hero ball players are acting selfishly, trying to keep the spotlight on them at the end of the game.

Positive Meaning

However, there are also many fans and commentators who prefer to have a team’s best player take the last shot of the game, even if it means not passing the ball to another player who has a better look at the basket. From this perspective, the idea is that your team’s highest-paid player is being paid all that money to make the most important baskets and thus should have the ball in their hands at the end of the game.

Hero Ball Origins

It’s not clear who came up with the term “hero ball” or when it was first used. What we do know is that there are several key NBA players who have been associated with playing hero ball, some positively and some negatively. Magic Johnson was known to take the ball and not pass it near the end of games for much of his career with the Lakers. He may have been the first player to be known as a hero ball player.

Similarly, the legendary Michael Jordan was famous for his late-game heroics, which usually did not involve him passing the ball to his teammates. For those two, though, the hero ball label was no insult. Rather, it demonstrated their ability to take over a game as an individual.

Modern Hero Ball Players

More recently, players like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and James Harden have been labeled hero ball players in a more negative light. Since modern basketball has shown it is more efficient to move the ball and look for better scoring opportunities, these players who hold onto the ball at the end of games may actually be harming their teams’ chances of winning.