10 Basketball Words

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10 Basketball Words!! If you are a hoophead, you will indeed have no problem recognizing the different basketball words and slang. But for the rest, we have compiled a short glossary of basketball words today.

While non-basketball fans might have heard the terms like slam dunk and jump shot, they might not know the meaning behind the words.

For example, the term garbage time! The sport’s fans will have no problem telling what it is. But for non-fans, no, it has nothing to do with garbage!

Oklahoma City Thunder VS Golden State Warriors
Oklahoma City Thunder VS Golden State Warriors (Source: Pinterest)

Similarly, various terms for different moves, slang, and rules are used in basketball. In this article, we are looking at the ten basketball words. We will try to explain them as best as we can and in simple terms.

So we hope you will find our article insightful and entertaining. Please stick with us as we shine a light on the ten basketball words!

Quick Overview

Here is the overall look of the words on our ten basketball words list!

S.N. Words
10. Garbage time
9. Brick
8. Shot clock
7. Sixth man
6. Hoopster
5. Full-court press
4. Buzzer-beater
3. Alley-oop
2. Swish
1. Slam dunk

10 Basketball Words

We have prepared our glossary with the help of internet sources like Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster.com, etc.

10. Garbage Time

The first word is garbage time; as we mentioned before, it has nothing to do with garbage. The term refers to the period towards the end of the game when the outcome is already known.

When the game turns towards garbage time, the team’s coaches usually replace their best players with substitute players. The substitute players are generally young or inexperienced.

Garbage time in basketball
Garbage Time In Basketball (Source: BleacherReport)

The term garbage time also comes from the fact that it refers to the game’s quality significantly dropping. The use of substitute players is one of the reasons behind it.

Since the outcome has already been decided, players often try to make individual impressions. Garbage time is one of the most commonly used basketball terms.

9. Brick

The term brick in basketball simply refers to a bad shot. One might say it is just a missed shot. However, it is not merely missed shot. It is rather embarrassing and ugly for the player who shoots it.

The term has been used in basketball for some time and is not a modern addition. While the normal missed shot and brick shot might look the same, there are slight differences.

In addition to being an ugly shot, brick is also loud. When the player tries to take an easy shot, the ball hits the rim or a backboard with a loud clanging noise. 

Brick in basketball
Brick in basketball (Source: DVIDS)

An airball shot or the shot that completely hits the board is also called a brick shot. It can usually happen in a three-point line or free-throw line.

The players who shoot the brick shots are called bricklayers. You might not believe it, but some of the greatest shooters, like Shaquille O’Neal, Stephen Curry, and Russell Westbrook, have become a bricklayer at some point.

8. Shot Clock

The next basketball word on our list is shot clock. The term refers to the clock in basketball that displays a countdown of the time within which the teams possessing the ball must shoot the ball.

In 1954, the shot clock was professionally introduced to the sport. The reason behind it was to eliminate any lackluster pace in the game.

Before the shot clock, players in the early 1950s simply passed the ball on, running out the clock to preserve their lead. It made the games rather dull to watch.

Shot clock in a basketball game
The shot clock in a basketball game (Source: Wikimedia.org)

The shot clock displays in seconds, except for the tenths of seconds, which shows once the clock reaches 4.9 seconds.

The team failing to make the shot within the time is called a shot clock violation. Then the ball is passed to the defensive team on the sideline near the spot.

Also, Read About Michael Jordan’s Top 10 Dunks

7. Sixthman

The sixth man refers to the player regularly called off the bench as the first substitute during the game. The term became popular in basketball at the beginning of the 20th century.

Since the sixth man is a substitute, the player is not a starter. The teams in basketball have five starting lineup players; the sixthman is the first man who is not in the lineup but is the next player called.

They often play equal minutes or more than the starters and post similar figures. Similarly, these players can play in multiple positions as substitutes.

One of the best sixth man, Lou Williams
One of the Best Sixth Men, Lou Williams (Source: Medium)

A team with the sixthman on their roster is often a sign of excellence. Often these players are prolific scorers and add to the game to score more points or maintain the scores.

John Havlicek, Manu Ginobli, and Vinnie Johnson are some of the greatest sixthmen in the history of the NBA.

6. Hoopster

The word hoopster means a basketball player. The term hoopster is one of the many terms for basketball players.

NBA players in action
NBA players in action (Source: Pinterest)

One example of the word being used is by the Logan Republican [Logan, UT] on February 23, 1915, where it was written, “Tables Turned By Aggies On B.Y. Hoopsters.”

5. Full-Court Press

The next basketball word is a full-court press. It refers to the defensive playing style where the defensive team applies pressure to the offensive team throughout the entire court length.

Legendary African-American coach John McLendon invented the full-court press defense in the 1950s. However, the full-court press has been common in basketball since the late 1940s.

Full-court press model
Full-Court Press Model (Source: FastModel Sports)

The primary purpose of the full-court press is to prevent the offensive team from creating offensive formations. It could either be a man-to-man press or a zone press.

Over the years, it has become prevalent in NCCA college basketball. Compared to the half-court defense, the full-court defense prevents the opposite team from coordinating their strategy and forcing turnovers.

4. Buzzer-Beater

A buzzer-beater is a shot made right before the game ends and before the buzzer sounds. The shot is usually a game-winning or game-tying shot.

The term also refers to the shot made right before the end of a quarter or halftime. In the NBA, LED light strips have been mandated along the edges of the backboard and the edge of the scorer’s table to identify the buzzer beater.

Derek Fisher's buzzer beater in 2010
Derek Fisher’s Buzzer-Beater in 2010 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

To know if the player beats the buzzer, you can look at the sides and boundaries of the backboard to see if it is illuminating red.

The buzzer-beater continues after the game clock hits zero. It is always exciting to see the winning shot made at just the perfect time at the game’s end.

Also, Read About The 12 Most Hated Basketball Players

3. Alley-oop

Another fun basketball word is alley-oop. It refers to an offensive play where one player throws the ball near the basket, and another teammate grabs it mid-air and scores.

Alley-oop is derived from the French word “allez hop,” which translates to the cry of a circus acrobat about to leap.

The term was first popularized in the United States in 1932 and later became popular in football. But at present, alley-oop is the popular term in basketball.

Alley-oop (Source: The State News)

When one says alley-oop, an acrobatic basketball dunk or score generally comes to mind of the hoop heads. The image became popular when newspapers captioned the picture of an athlete flying in the air as an alley-oop.

Alley-oop can be quite a helpful offense in basketball if the players can execute it well.

2. Swish

Our second choice of basketball word is swish. It refers to the basketball that goes directly through the net without touching the hoop, rim, or backboard.

Swish comes from the ball’s sound while traveling through the hoop. It is also known as a perfect shot in basketball without touching anything.

The hoops before 1912 were made with metal nets and were closed at the end. As a result, there was no swish sound.

Swish (Source: AppAdvice)

However, after the hoops changed in 1912, the word became mainstream and popular. It is also often described as nothin’ but net.

The first known use of the word was in Trebor Yarrun’s book, “The Coward,” in 1913. It described the shot going straight through the basket as a swish because of the sound.

The phrase began gaining popularity in basketball in the early 1900s.

1. Slam dunk

Our number one choice of the basketball word on our ten basketball words list is the crowd-pleaser move, the slam dunk. It is when the player jumps with a ball above the horizontal plane of the rim and scores.

While slam dunking, the basketball does not leave the player’s hand. The term also refers to the highest percentage shot.

The first slam dunk recorded was during the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin. A fun fact, the NCAA banned slam dunking from 1967-1977.

Michael Jodan's slam dunk
Michael Jodan’s Slam Dunk (Source: The New York Times)

The slam dunk was not considered a skillful move and was believed to have a racist undertone. At the time, touching the rim was a technical foul.

After the move again became legal, slam dunks became popular again. In NBA, slam dunk contests are common during the NBA All-Star Weekend annually. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest NBA basketball players, is famous for his slam dunks. 

Honorable Mentions

  • And one
  • Hack
  • Foul Trouble
  • Ankle-breaker
  • Facial
  • Catch a body


With this, we would like to conclude our today’s article for the ten basketball words! We hope you enjoyed our article and found it as enjoyable as we did while preparing it.

While many words have been used for a long time, many different terms have been added in modern times. These terms add to the game’s fun, and knowing them makes one feel like a basketball pro.

So make sure you remember these words and use them while you watch basketball. It is an excellent way to flex in front of your friends during game night!

Also, Read About The 12 Best NBA Defense

Boby Rai
Boby Raihttps://playersbio.com/

Boby Rai

Boby Rai is a dedicated writer who specializes in capturing the essence of sporting excellence through his unique lens. As the creative mind behind numerous sports-centric projects, he brings a fresh perspective to the world of athletics, blending insightful commentary with captivating narratives.


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  • Boby's writing transcends conventional boundaries, offering readers a glimpse into the lesser-known stories.
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Armed with a passion for sports and a gift for storytelling, Boby has honed his craft through years of immersive experiences in the field. With a keen eye for detail and an unwavering commitment to authenticity, he continues to inspire and inform readers through his thought-provoking work.

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