60 Basketball Slang Words: Get Your Hoops Vocabulary on Point

Written by Gabriel Cruz - Slang & Language Enthusiast

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Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. Kids dream of playing in the NBA one day. The game is so popular that it is only natural that slang words have emerged from it. 

Right below is a list of slang words used for basketball or used in the game. Enjoy reading!

Slang Words for Basketball (in Alphabetical Order): 

Airball

Meaning:

  • (Noun) An airball is a somewhat embarrassing moment when playing basketball. It means when a player attempts a shot but misses the entire board and ring completely, only “hitting” the air. 
  • Example: Kevin Durant’s last-second shot would have won the game but it was an airball. He was probably tired from playing the entire game with overtime.
Airball

Alley-Oop

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Alley-oop is one of the most spectacular moves in basketball. A player throws the ball towards their teammate and that person catches and dunks it. 
  • Example: Lebron James caught and finished an alley-oop while jumping over another player.
Alley-Oop

Ankle Breaker

Meaning:

  • (Noun) When the offensive player dribbles and makes the defending player loses their balance or makes them fall on the court, that is an ankle breaker.
  • Example: Sue Bird could ankle break anyone on the court with her amazing agility. 
Ankle Breaker

Automatic

Meaning:

  • (Noun) When a basketball player continuously makes shots in a game, they become like a machine, and scoring becomes “automatic.” 
  • Example: My dad becomes automatic once he hits 3 consecutive shots. He gains a boost in skill and confidence that not even NBA players could stop him.
Automatic

B-ball

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A shortened way of saying Basketball. However, this slang may also be used for baseball.
  • Example: Tracy asked the girls to play some b-ball. She wanted to show off what she learned at basketball camp
B-ball

Baller

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Baller originally meant basketball players. However, in recent times, baller has become slang for talented, wealthy, and cool people who like to play basketball. 
  • Example: Richard is a true baller. He lives for the game and hopes to make it into the pros. 
Baller

Bank Shot

Meaning:

  • (Noun) This means using the backboard to bounce off the ball into the hoop, thus scoring some points. 
  • Example: Timmy knows how to use the angles and make a bank shot, especially late in games.
Bank Shot

Bank Is Open

Meaning:

  • (Noun) When someone successfully scores a bank shot, people would say this phrase. It is a witty reference to the signs that actual banks put up when they are open. 
  • Example: Shaine attempted a bank shot and the bank is open. They win the game because of her. 
Bank Is Open

Block City

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Block city is a slang phrase that refers to when players consistently block the opposing team in a game.
  • Example: The Lakers put up block city against the Clippers, allowing them to take the lead.
Block City

Boards

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Another name or slang for rebounds.
  • Example: Yao Ming could easily get the boards because of his immense height and long arms.
Boards

Brick

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A missed shot that hits the rim, clanking or making a loud metallic noise. Bricks are considered to be shameful at the professional level. 
  • Example: The Miami Heat lost because their star player kept on bricking his shots.  
Brick

Bucket/ Buckets

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Like boards, “buckets” is another way of saying making a shot or scoring.
  • Example: Stephen Curry could get buckets in his sleep. 
  • (Noun) Buckets could also imply that someone is a skilled scorer in the game of basketball.
  • Example: They call her buckets because it doesn’t matter who’s guarding her, she will score on them.
Bucket_ Buckets

Bury A Jumper

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Burying a jumper is slang that refers to when someone successful makes a jump shot to score. 
  • Example: I am proud to say that I buried a jumper at the championship game to seal the game in our favor. 
Bury A Jumper

Buzzer Beater

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A last-second shot that goes in the hoop and is counted. This slang phrase usually means that the clock has run out and the shot that was made was the game-winning shot. 
  • They would have lost the game if not for his three-point buzzer beater.
Buzzer Beater

Cager

Meaning:

  • (Noun) An old slang word for players. 
  • Example: Grandpa was a cager back in his game. He was a legitimate 7-footer. 
Cager

Charity Stripe

Meaning:

  • (Noun) This is the free-throw line or the foul line. It’s called the charity stripe sometimes because players can attempt shots without anyone guarding them after being fouled.
  • Example: Howard must improve his charity stripe shooting so that they don’t bench him. 
Charity Stripe

Chucker

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A derogatory or offensive slang that describes someone as a player that shoots a lot of shots but misses most of them.
  • Example: Ronnie is a chucker that needs to get subbed out. He attempts shots despite not being in rhythm. 
Chucker

Circus Shot

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Any unorthodox shot, usually in a comedic or amazing fashion, that a basketball player attempts.
  • Example: An Instagrammer I know tries the sickest circus shots in the world.
Circus Shot

Coast To Coast

Meaning:

  • (Noun) When a player dribbles the ball beginning from the other side of the court to the other end. This usually happens in a fast break. 
  • Example: Charles might be bulky but his speed allows him to take the ball coast to coast and just dunk it. 
Coast To Coast

Cookies

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Used to substitute steals in a basketball game. 
  • Example: Daniel is a defensive genius. He got 11 cookies in a televised game. 
Cookies

Crashing The Boards

Meaning:

  • (Verb) It is the act of getting the rebound, whether a defensive or offensive one. This also involves fighting other players for the best position to get the rebound. 
  • Example: Andre crashed the boards like no other. Other players in the park wanted him for their team.
Crashing-The-Boards

Crash The Glass

Meaning:

  • (Verb) It is similar or related to “Crashing the Boards” but it is usually used for the offensive rebound. 
  • Example: Angela had a small frame but her ability to jump made her one of the best when it comes to crashing the glass.
Crash The Glass

Dagger

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A shot late in the game widens the lead so much that the other team can’t come back and win. 
  • Example: Drake nails the dagger for his team. It looks like they will be the champions this season.
Dagger

Downtown

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A location or place in the court that is very far from the basket. Usually beyond the three-point line.
  • Example: Damian went viral when he hit a shot from downtown while blindfolded. 
Downtown

Dropping Dimes

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A player is “dropping dimes” when he makes brilliant and numerous assists to his teammates. “Dimes” is the slang for assists.
  • Example: John was quick and smart. He could find his teammates and drop dimes whenever needed.
Dropping Dimes

Emptying The Bench

Meaning:

  • (Verb) This means that the coach is subbing out most of their starting players and making the bench players play. This is done to rest some players and make the others gain experience. 
  • Example: Coach Sandr emptied the bench because they had a good lead already.
Emptying The Bench

Flop

Meaning:

  • (Verb) An exaggerated response to contact to bait or call for a foul. Flopping is strongly frowned upon but is a useful tactic.
  • Example: The coaches hated when players flop because they see it as a dirty tactic that ruins the game.
Flop

Flush

Meaning:

  • (Verb) A slang word for dunking.
  • Example: Frankie flushed the ball so hard that the hoop was torn off.
Flush

GOAT

Meaning:

  • (Noun) An acronym in sports that means “Greatest Of All Time.”
  • Example: Some say Michael Jordan is the GOAT. Others believe it to be Lebron James. 
GOAT

Granny Style

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Shooting the ball in an underhanded manner in contrast to the much usual overhand style. Granny shots are often seen in a humorous light. 
  • Example: Barry always shoots his free throws granny style. It might be funny but he almost always makes them. 
Granny Style

Gumping

Meaning:

  • (Verb) Comes from the film “Forrest Gump.” Gumping refers to running around the court and playing aggressively.  
  • Example: You need to build up stamina to continue gumping and pressuring the opponents. 
Gumping

Hack

Meaning:

  • (Verb) The act of fouling another player. 
  • Example: They wanted to hack him frequently because he is a bad free-throw shooter. 
Hack

Handle

Meaning:

  • (Noun) This slang word refers to the ability of a person to handle the ball and dribble all over the court. 
  • Example:  Skylar’s handle is probably the best in the WNBA. She controls and maneuvers quickly and efficiently. 
Handle

Heat Check

Meaning:

  • (Noun) “Heat Check” is what players do when they make seemingly impossible shots continuously. They try to attempt more shots to see if they can ride their “hot streak” 
  • Example: Kevin made 5 three-pointers in the first half. He wanted to heat check himself which lead to him make a total of 12 three-pointers.
Heat Check

Heating Up

Meaning:

  • (Verb) It means a player is getting warmed up or they are beginning to play better due to making good plays. 
  • Example: Thompson started to heat up by the middle of the second half. He finished the game with 45 points.
Heating Up

Hops

Meaning:

  • (Noun) This refers to the vertical leaping ability of a player. 
  • Example: Will has some insane hops. He has a max vertical of 50 inches. 
Hops

Ice Cold

Meaning:

  • (Adjective) The opposite of warming up. When a player is out of rhythm and is unable to play properly, he is ice cold.
  • Example: Last night, Candice got ice cold. She could barely score properly.
Ice Cold

In And Out

Meaning:

  • (Noun) An in and out refers to a shot that temporarily goes in the hoop but goes out eventually, maybe due to hitting the rim or spinning out.
  • Example: The game-winning shot by Gordon became an in and out. It was sad because they lost.
In And Out

Jumper

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Any jump shot in basketball.
  • Example: I am still practicing my jumpers. I won’t stop until I could hit them consistently. 
Jumper

Mad Ups

Meaning:

  • (Noun) When a person could leap or jump very high, they have mad ups.
  • Example: Gregory has mad ups. He can use this to dunk the ball with ease. 
Mad Ups

Making It Rain

Meaning:

  • (Verb) When a player makes it rain, it means they can sink any shot they want and have done so many times.  
  • Example: Rachael can make it rain all day long. She effortlessly shoots and scores almost anywhere. 
Making It Rain

Mouse In The House

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A situation in which a smaller player tries to guard a larger opponent. A mismatch of sorts. 
  • Example: There is a mouse in the house. The point guard gets destroyed in the paint by the large center. 
Mouse In The House

Nothing But Net

Meaning:

  • (Adjective) A slang phrase popularized by a MacDonald’s commercial featuring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Nothing but net means that a shot goes through the hoop without touch the metal. It creates a satisfying “swoosh.”
  • Example: WNBA and NBA players when playing against regular people could shoot and hit nothing but net all the time. 
Nothing But Net

On The Cookout

Meaning:

  • (Adjective) It means similarly to heating up. This phrase simply says that a person is playing exceptionally better than usual.  
  • Example: Looks like Beth is on the cookout. She already scored 15 points. 
On The Cookout

Pure

Meaning:

  • (Adjective) Usually used to describe a jump shot. A pure jump shot means the mechanics, form, and motion of the jump shot are perfect. 
  • Example: I think Curry has the purest jump shot of all time. He smoothly pulls up and releases the ball. 
Pure

Putting Em On Skates

Meaning:

  • (Verb) Like ankle breaker, this slang phrase is used when someone dribbles past their defender and makes them fall or slide on the court. 
  • Example: My son has been putting em on skates whenever he has the ball. He could go pro.
Putting Em On Skates

Putting On A Clinic

Meaning:

  • (Verb) It is when a basketball game becomes intense and good, that beginners could learn by just watching the game. 
  • Example: The Thunder and Raptors put on a clinic today. The great game showed off the best offense and defense in the league. 
Putting On A Clinic

Ringless

Meaning:

  • (Adjective) Another of saying nothing but net.  
  • Example: Tony scored 5 straight ringless. It was unbelievable because he was doing it from downtown.
Ringless

Rods

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A slang term for a player’s leg that could jump very high.
  • Example: His rods got injured last time. Hopefully, he recovers enough to jump and play again.
Rods

Schooled

Meaning:

  • (Verb) When a team completely defeats the  other team and shows them moves that are so amazing, they are considered “schooled.”
  • Example:  Our high school team got schooled by the rival team. They had a 5-star recruit playing for them. 
Schooled

Shoot Some Hoops

Meaning:

  • (Expression) This slang simply means “to play some basketball” in a friendly manner. 
  • Example: Hey! The court is free now. Want to shoot some hoops?
Shoot Some Hoops

Spine Tingler

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Popularized by Kenny Smith, the spine tingler is a dunk that fails spectacularly because the ball hits the rim, causing it to go out. It causes a loud metallic sound.
  • Example: Bobby got on the news because his spine tingler was so loud that it made all the dogs in the neighborhood bark.

Splash

Meaning:

  • (Noun) An amazing three-point shot from deep or downtown.
  • Example: The twins continued to make splashes as they lead their team to victory. 

Stuffed

Meaning:

  • (Verb) It means getting blocked.
  • Example: The Rockets were able to maintain the lead when their center stuffed the lay-up. 
Stuffed

Swish

Meaning:

  • (Noun) Like “nothing but net” and “ringless,” this slang term is a shot that references the sound that the ball makes when hitting the net. 
  • Example: James Harden could hit swishes in the warm-ups but struggles in game time. 
Swish

Take It To The Rack

Meaning:

  • (Verb) A move in which a player drives to the rim and hits a shot or dunks it.  
  • Example: Henry took it to the rack with authority. He dunked on his defender and scored a highlight. 
Take It To The Rack

The Rock

Meaning:

  • (Noun) The ball in the basketball.
  • Example: You must learn to pass the rock to free teammates. This sport is a team sport. 
The Rock

Trey

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A three-pointer of any kind.
  • Example: Today’s game is all about treys. Dunking and midrange shots are almost out. 

Wedgie

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A wedgie happens when the ball gets stuck between the rim and the backboard.
  • Example: The game stopped for 5 minutes because of a wedgie. They had to use brooms to remove the ball.
Wedgie

Wiggle

Meaning:

  • (Verb) To move and dribble in a way that you lose your defender. 
  • Example: Her agility and craftiness allow her to wiggle her defenders off and make the correct plays. 
Wiggle

Zone

Meaning:

  • (Noun) A state of extreme focus in sports. Being in the zone means that a person is utilizing their full potential and playing to the best of their abilities.
  • Example: No one can stop Lebron James when he is one the zone. He can make plays, score threes, and dunk on everyone. 
Zone

Wrap-up

 There are so many basketball slang words and phrases as the game is beloved by many. Much of these slang words and phrases are used creatively in the game. Through reading this listicle, you may have increased your knowledge regarding the game and helped you love the sport more. Have fun using these slang words while playing with your friends. 

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