Basketball For Dummies
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Basketball is the most popular participatory sport in the United States — even more popular than Angry Birds. So whether you're a basketball player or a basketball fan, you're in with the popular crowd. The sport combines physical prowess, intelligence, grace, and coordination.

Although more than 46 million Americans play basketball, the game is flexible enough to enable each player to develop individual style. It all comes down to one basic idea: Throw the ball through the hoop!

Basketball terms and phrases

As with any sport, basketball has its own terms and phrases to describe game moves, plays, positions, and more. Knowing some basketball lingo will help you to enjoy the game more while you play or watch from courtside seats — or your sofa.

alley-oop: A designed play in which a player lobs the ball toward the basket and a teammate jumps up, catches the ball in midair, and usually dunks it.

block out (or box out): Using the body to block or shield an opponent in order to gain better position to grab a rebound.

boards: Rebounds.

brick or clank: An especially ugly, misfired shot that clanks hard off the rim.

bucket: A good multipurpose word that can mean the basket itself or a made basket; also can be used as an adjective for an especially good shooter, as in “That guy is bucket.”

bury a jumper: To make an especially pretty jump shot.

cager: A basketball player.

charity stripe: The free throw line.

deuce: A made field goal, worth two points.

downtown: A long way from the basket, as in, “He just hit that shot from downtown!”

hack: A foul.

hole: a basket, as in “take it to the hole.”

hoop: a basket.

hops: Jumping ability.

H-O-R-S-E: A popular game in which one player makes a shot and his opponent must make the identical shot. Failure to do so results in gaining a letter (starting with “h”).

in the paint: In the free throw lane.

nothin but net: A shot that goes through the rim without touching the rim or any other part of the basket.

rock: Slang for ball, as in “shoot the rock” or “pass the rock.”

T: technical foul.

take it to the hole: To drive toward the basket in an attempt to score.

trey: A made field goal from behind the three-point arc, worth three points.

21: A game in which any number of players can play. The player who has the ball attempts to score while all other players defend. A made shot results in two points, plus you are given up to three consecutive free throws, each worth one point.

walk: To travel.

Understanding player positions in basketball

The game of basketball includes a five-player team, which consist of the following basketball positions: two guards, two forwards, and one center scores points. The team gains point by getting the ball through the hoop. Each basketball player has a specific position with set responsibilities and each call for different physical requirements and skills.

  • Point Guard: Usually the shortest player on the team. Should be the team’s best passer and ball handler; not primarily a shooter. Traditional role is to push the ball upcourt and start the offensive wheels turning. Should either take the ball to the basket or remain near the top of the key, ready to retreat on defense. Best and brightest: Derrick Rose.

  • Shooting Guard: Generally taller than a point guard but shorter than a small forward. Not necessarily a great ball handler, but normally the team’s best perimeter shooter. A good shooting guard (or two guard) comes off screens set by taller teammates prepared to shoot, pass, or drive to the basket. Also tries to grab rebounds on offense. Best and brightest: Dwyane Wade.

  • Small Forward: The all-purpose player on offense: aggressive and strong; tall enough to mix it up inside but agile enough to handle the ball and shoot well. Must be able to score both from the perimeter and from inside of the basketball court. Best and brightest: Carmelo Anthony.

  • Power Forward: Has muscles or at least a little bulk. Must be able to catch passes and hit shots near the basket. A good, rugged rebounder, but athletic enough to move with some quickness around the lane on offense and defense. Expected to score when given the opportunity on the baseline, much like a center, but usually has a range of up to 15 feet all around the basket. Best and brightest: Pau Gasol.

  • Center: Usually the tallest player on the team. Should be able to post up offensively — that is, receive the ball with his back to the basket and use pivot moves to hit a variety of short jumpers, hook shots, and dunks. Also must know how to find the open player in the paint and grab offensive rebounds. Best and brightest: Dwight Howard.

Visit a basketball hall of fame

When people talk about the basketball hall of fame, they’re likely referring to the granddaddy of ’em all, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. But other halls of fame dedicated to this sport are no less enjoyable to visit. First, take a virtual pilgrimage to Springfield:

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Where can a basketball fan find nearly 300 hall-of-fame inductees and more than 40,000 square feet of basketball history? Look no further than the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Located on the picturesque banks of the Connecticut River, the museum is a fitting shrine to the game Dr. James Naismith invented more than a century ago. The landmark structure is one of the world’s most distinctive monuments punctuating the Springfield skyline and stirring the spirits of basketball fans everywhere. Hundreds of interactive exhibits share the spotlight with skills challenges, live clinics, and shooting contests. And of course there is enough basketball history to impress the world’s most avid sports fans. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2009.

National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame

The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Kansas City, Missouri, is a hall of fame and museum dedicated to college basketball. The museum is an integral portion of the College Basketball Experience created by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), located at the Sprint Center. The hall is meant as a complement to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with a focus strictly on those who have contributed greatly to college basketball.

Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame opened in June 1999 in Knoxville, Tennessee. It is the only facility of its kind dedicated to all levels of women’s basketball. The Hall is filled with multimedia presentations and numerous basketball artifacts, photographs, scrapbooks, medals, trophies, and old uniforms that bring the history of women’s basketball to life. In the State Farm Tip-Off theater, you will see Hoopful of Hope, a 17-minute video production covering the history of our game. The production shows some of the all-time greats from the sport including players, coaches, and teams from AAU, collegiate, and professional organizations.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Richard "Digger" Phelps is the former coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men's basketball team. Today, he's a college basketball analyst for ESPN.

John Walters is a writer at The Daily, an iPad-only national publication. He was a reporter and staff writer at Sports Illustrated for 14 years.

Tim Bourret is the sports information director at Clemson University.

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