A Beginner’s Guide to Basketball Slang

One of the best feelings in the world is rolling up to the gym ready to run 5’s. Every hooper knows the feeling of walking through those doors wearing slides and a backpack, looking for a spot to post up. We’ve all taken our sweet time lacing up our shoes so we can scout the competition. While you’re getting up a couple of stiff practice shots waiting for your chance to run, you’ve undoubtedly heard several phrases being said over and over again. For the uninitiated, I present to you a beginner’s guide of key phrases, and their definitions, that you’ll need to know every time you play pick-up.

“You got your five?”

The winning team on the court will pose this question. They want to know if you have your team assembled. It’s a cardinal sin of pick-up basketball to not have your full team ready when it’s your turn. This creates delays and downtime which will frustrate everyone and make you the most hated person in the gym.

“That boy’s a shooter.”

This implies the person you’re guarding is very good at shooting the basketball. Take this advice with a grain of salt, if the person offering it is a trash player then they may be exaggerating a tad. However, if the player you’re guarding has an arm sleeve and wipes the soles of his shoes before check, then, for the love of all that is holy, do not give him an ounce of breathing space.

“Let him shoot”

This lets everyone on the court know the person with the ball in their hands is a poor shooter. If this phrase is directed at you, it’s one of the most demoralizing statements in the world. If you choose to shoot after hearing this and you brick the shot, you may as well walk off the court and into a black hole of despair.

“Pick left/right.”

Good teammates will always let you know where the pick is coming from. A bad teammate won’t say a word, leaving you to slam into screen after screen until you’re battered and bruised.

“And 1!!!”

You’ll hear this after someone hits a contested lay-up or shot. While it implies that the shooter was fouled, it’s not the same as calling a foul. People mostly just yell it to gas themselves up after getting a tough bucket. More than likely you’ll hear several swear words follow the phrase.

“What’s count?”

It’s unreal the number of times you’ll hear this question throughout one game. Asking it almost always leads to an argument because once people step on a basketball court, they lose all ability to keep track of a score. When you come across this situation, simply tally each teammate’s number of points and add them up. People will always forget how many the team has scored, but never how many they’ve scored.

“Good hit boy”

One of the best compliments you can receive on a basketball court. This is thrown out after a player knocks down a tough, contested jumper. You’re never to say it to an opposing player, doing so will be considered an act of weakness.

“Swing it/One more”

Both of these mean the same thing. They’re born from a teammates’ desire to play San Antonio-style basketball and have you pass up a good shot for a great shot. While the phrase is useful at times, saying it too often will lead to your teammates hating your guts.

“Foot’s on the line”

This is one of the most frustrating things to hear in all of pick-up basketball. It’s said shortly after someone launches a three, most likely from the person guarding him. They want everyone to know that the shooter’s foot was on the line and therefore is only a one. The irritating thing about this phrase is that some players will use it to distract you, even if you are well beyond the arc.


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