Glossary of WNBA Terms

A-D | E-H | I-P | Q-S | T-Z

Air ball: Sarcastic term to describe a shot that doesn't touch the rim.

Assist: A pass that leads directly to a basket.

Backboard: The flat surface to which the basket ring is attached.

Backcourt: A team's defensive half of the court. As it refers to players, a team's guards.

Backdoor play: A fundamental basketball play in which one player passes to a teammate in the high post, and when the defenders follow the ball, another player cuts to the basket from the opposite side of the court to take a pass for an open shot.

Ball fake: Using the ball to fake an opponent off-balance; pretending to pass the ball, but keeping it to make the defender commit to the pass.

Bank shot: A shot that is aimed at a spot on the backboard so that it caroms, or "banks," into the basket.

Baseline: The line at each end of the court, under each basket. Also: endline.

Below-the-rim: The style of play that focuses on teamwork, defense and passing.

Bench: Reserves.

Block: To deflect a shot away from the basket.

Bounce pass: A pass thrown by a player to a teammate that bounces on the floor.

Box out: Use your body to stay between an opponent and the basket and thus get into better position for a rebound.

Brick: A hard, errant shot that caroms wildly off the basket or backboard.

Bunny: An open, uncontested shot, usually a layup or dunk. Also: snowbird.

Bury: Sink (a shot), as in "bury a jumper."

Charging: A violation in which an offensive player runs into a stationary opponent.

Chucker: A player who never met a shot she didn't like.

Coast-to-coast: From one end of the court to the other.

Collective Bargaining Agreement: The agreement between the WNBA and the Players Association that governs all terms and conditions of employment of WNBA players by the league.

Cut: A quick move by an offensive player, usually toward the basket, to get in position for a shot.

Dead-ball foul: A foul committed while the clock is stopped and the ball is not in play.

Deny the ball: Prevent an opponent from getting the ball by guarding her closely and staying between her and the player in possession of the ball.

Dish: A pass (often refers to an assist.)

Double-double: Scoring 10 or more in two of these statistical categories -- points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

Double dribble: A violation in which a player dribbles the ball, stops, then begins to dribble again.

Double-team: The defensive tactic of two players guarding one.

Downtown: Far from the basket, often synonymous with beyond the three-point arc.

Draft: The annual selection process by which NBA teams select players from the colleges and elsewhere.

Dribble: Bounce the ball.

Drive: A quick move with the ball, toward the basket.

Dunk: A shot thrown downward through the basket, with one or two hands. Also: slam, slam-dunk, jam

Return to top of page

Fast break: A play in which a team gains possession and then pushes the ball downcourt quickly, hoping to get a good shot off before the other team has a chance to get back and set up on defense.

Field goal: A basket, worth either two or three points, depending on whether it was taken from inside or outside the three-point line (set at 22 feet from the basket).

Flagrant foul: Unnecessary and/or excessive contact committed against an opponent.

Foul: A violation. Usually, illegal contact between two players.

Foul line: The line that is 15-feet from each baskboard from which the free throws are attempted; also referred to as the "charity stripe."

Foul trouble: When a player is nearing the limit for personal fouls before he is ejected from the game, or a team is nearing the limit in each period after which all fouls become shooting fouls.

Free throw: An uncontested shot from 15 feet, worth one point. A player who is fouled while in the act of shooting receives two free throws. Also: foul shot.

Frontcourt: A team's offensive half of the court. As it refers to players, a team's center and forwards.

Full-court press: A defensive tactice by which a team's players guard their opponents closely for the length of the court.

Give-and-go: A fundamental play in which one player passes to a teammate, then cuts to the basket to receive a return pass for an open layup or dunk.

Goaltending: A violation in which a player interferes with a shot while the ball is on its downward arc, pins it against the backboard or touches it while it is in an imaginary cylinder above the basket; may be committed by either an offensive or defensive player.

Gunner: A frequent shooter.

Half-court press: A defensive tactic by which a team's players guard their opponents closely after they cross the midcourt line.

Hand-checking: A violation in which a defender uses his hand to impede a player's progress.

Hang time: The amount of time a player can stay in the air while attempting a shot.

High post: The area around the free throw circle.

Hook shot: A shot taken with a sweeping, hooking motion. May be taken stationary or while running.

Hoop: Basket or rim. Also slang for playing basketball.

Return to top of page

In the paint: In the free-throw lane, beneath the foul line that is painted a different color than the rest of the court; also referred to as: the lane, the key.

Isolation: When a team sets up its offense so one player is left alone to go one-on-one against her defender.

J: jump shot.

Jump ball: When players from opposing teams gain simultaneous possession of the ball, the referee stops play. After the teams are realigned, she tosses the ball up between those two players, who attempt to tap it to a teammate.

Jump hook: A hook shot taken while jumping, popular among taller players because it is difficult to block.

Jump shot: A shot taken after a player jumps in the air.

Key: Slang for "lane;" same as "in the paint."

Lane: The painted area between the end line and the free-throw line near each basket, outside which players line up for free throws. Also known as the key, because in the early years it was key-shaped. It was twice widened to its present rectangular shape.

Layup: A short shot in which a player lays the ball into the basket either directly or by banking it off the backboard.

Loose-ball foul: A foul committed while neither team has possession of the ball, as while going for a rebound.

Lottery: The process that determines the order of selection in the draft.

Low post: The area at the base of the foul lane to either side of the basket.

Man-to-man: The type of defense in which each defender is assigned a specific player to guard.

Net: The cord, 15 to 18 inches long, that hangs from the rim of the basket.

Open man: A player who is left unguarded.

Outlet pass: A pass thrown by a player after getting a rebound to a teammate, generally near midcourt, to start a fast break.

Over the limit: Beyond a given number of fouls. Each team is allowed seven fouls per half for which no free throws are assessed (unless they are committed against players in the act of shooting ); after seven fouls a team is said to be "over the limit" and free throws are assessed on all subsequent fouls; also known as "in the bonus," or a "penalty situation."

Overtime: A five-minute extra period that is played when the game is tied after two halves. If a game remains tied following an overtime period, another is played and another until there is a winner.

Palming: A violation in which a player moves her hand under the ball and scoops it while dribbling. Also: carrying the ball.

Penalty situation: When a team has committed more than its allotted seven fouls per half and thus each subsequent foul becomes a shooting foul. Also: Over the limit or in the bonus.

Penetrate: To drive through the defense toward the basket.

Personal foul: see Foul.

Pick: When an offensive player frees a teammate for a shot by establishing a stationary position that prevents a defensive player from guarding the shooter. If the player who is "setting a pick" is not stationary and contact is made with a defender, it is an offensive foul and her team loses possession of the ball. Also: screen.

Pick-and-roll: A play in which an offensive player sets a pick, then "rolls" toward the basket and takes a pass from a teammate for an open shot.

Pill: Slang for ball.

Pivot: The area near the basket, generally where the center operates, or the act of changing directions, by keeping one foot planted on the ground while stepping in one or more directions with the other foot.

Post: see Low Post.

Post-up: When a player positions herself against her defender with her back to the basket before attempting a shot.

Player-control foul: An offensive foul that is committed not when a player is shooting, but just when her team is in control of the ball.

Point guard: Usually a team's primary ballhandler and the player who sets up the team's offense.

Power forward: The larger of a team's two forwards, whose duties generally involve rebounding as much as scoring.

Press: To guard very closely.

Pump fake: A fake in which a player motions as if zhe is going to shoot the ball but holds back, hoping her defender will jump out of position.

Return to top of page

Rebound: Gather in and gain control of a missed shot; a missed shot that is retrieved.

Rejection: A blocked shot.

Rim: The basket ring.

Rock: Ball.

Run and gun: A fast-paced offense on the fastbreak where shots are taken very quickly.

Sag: A defensive tactic in which a player drops off his man to help double-team a player in the pivot.

Screen: Pick.

Set shot: A shot taken while a player has both feet on the floor in a set position. Common in basketball's early years, it is now all but extinct, having given way to the harder-to-block jump shot.

Shot clock: The 24-second clock used to time possessions. A team must attempt a shot that hits the rim within 24 seconds or else it loses possession of the ball.

Sixth man:A team's primary reserve, the first substitute to enter a game.

Sky-hook: A hook shot in which the ball is released while the shooter's hand is at the top of the arc.

Skywalk: The ability to move laterally while in the air.

Slam dunk: see Dunk.

Steal: To take the ball away from the opposing team, either off the dribble or by picking off a pass.

Strong side: The side of the court where the ball is.

Switch: When teammates exchange defensive assignments during play.

Return to top of page

Team fouls: The total number of inidividual fouls committed by a team.

Technical foul: The penalty for a violation of conduct, such as abusive language or fighting. Each technical foul awards a free throw to the opposing team and also means an automatic fine for the player who commits the violation.

Three-point shot: A field goal worth three points, taken from beyond an arc that is 19 feet, nine inches from the basket.

Three-second violation: An offensive player may not stand in the lane for three seconds.

360: To elude a defender by doing a complete spin, making a 360-degree turn.

Tip-in: To tip a missed shot into the basket.

Trailer: An offensive player who trails on a fast break but often is in good position to score after the first wave of defenders goes by.

Trap: When a second defender comes over to help the primary defender guard her opponent; they are said to "trap," or "double-team" the opponent.

Transition: The movement from offense to defense, or vice versa, when the ball changes hands.

Traveling: A violation in which a player takes too many steps without dribbling the ball. Also: walking.

Triple-double: A relatively rare achievement in which a player accumulates double figures in three of the following categories in the same game: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.

Turnover: Loss of ball, either through an errant pass or dribble or an offensive foul.

Weak side: The side of the court away from the ball.

Zone: A defensive tactic in which players guard areas of the court, rather than specific men.

Return to top of page