When a sport has been around for a while, it develops its own related language. Sports jargon eventually works its way into the day-to-day conversations sports fans have, and some terms are frankly hilarious.
Basketball is no exception to this trend. The sport is overflowing with funny terms that work on and off the court. Here are a few of the best and funniest basketball slang terms.
You might assume most of basketball’s slang terms come from the big moments: massive dunks, defensive stops, that sort of thing. But our first term, “Dropping Dimes” comes from the underappreciated world of assists. A “dime” is an assist, in its simplest form, though the term has been co-opted to mean a particularly good assist.
The origins of “dropping dimes” are unknown. Some rumors say the term comes from the era of payphones when a caller would have to quite literally drop a dime to make a call and reach another person.
Dimes are the smallest piece of American currency, but their legacy looms large in the context of basketball. Plus, “dropping million-dollar bills” doesn’t have the same alliterative ring to it.
In this phrase, “downtown” means any area beyond the three-point arc. YOu’re most likely to hear this term uttered by a basketball game’s announcers when a player—let’s say Steph Curry, a fitting example—drains a three-pointer from a long distance. “From Downtown” is a term of praise for a long shot. In the age of Curry and top-tier three-point shooters, “From Downtown” is more likely to be heard ringing through basketball arenas than ever before.
But here’s the thing. Though “From Downtown” technically can mean any three-pointer, it’s typically reserved for baskets made from way behind the arc. A real shot from downtown can make a statement to the opposing team. Not gonna let us get in close? I’ll just make it from downtown.
“Brick” is another term for “air ball,” but it’s a heck of a lot funnier thanks to the image it conjures. Imagine a brick flying toward the basket, only to drop sharply well before it reaches the hoop. It’s a fitting insult for a well-intentioned but poorly executed attempt at a field goal.
You won’t see many pro ballers cherry-picking these days. The term is used to identify a player sticking back on their side of the court hoping to score. Sure, being a cherry-picker can lead to glory, but more often than not it leaves teammates shorthanded on defense.
The longevity of “Cherry-Picking” in basketball remains funny because of the sport’s origins. Basketball was originally played with baskets used to collect peaches. Nowadays, you won’t find any slang terms that reference the sport’s fruit of origin, but cherry-picking is still a standby designation for any player trying to earn an easy basket.
“Swish” and “Nothing But Net” aren’t all that funny, per se, but they’re so standard in basketball that they had to earn a place on this list.
“Swish” is the best the English language can do at reproducing the sound a basketball makes when it glides through the hoop without touching the rim, backboard, or any other part of the hoop apparatus. And it’s a darn good word. Even saying it out loud is fun.
“Nothing But Net” is the cousin of “Swish,” literally acknowledging the motion of the ball through the net.
Both terms were probably funny when they first surfaced. Now, they’re simply a core facet of any basketball fan’s vocabulary.
We end our adventure through funny basketball terms with one of the most explosive plays in any sport: the Alley Oop.
One player launches the ball at the backboard while another, perfectly synced with the teammate’s toss, jumps up, nabs the ball from midair, and dunks it. It’s the basketball equivalent of football’s hail mary or baseball’s grand slam in terms of excitement. On top of it all, it’s incredibly fun to say.
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