10 Basketball Idioms You Need to Know

Here are 10 idioms about basketball that you need to know. These idioms will help you sound like a native speaker when you’re talking about basketball.


Basketball is a sport with a long and rich history. Over the years, the game has evolved and changed, but one thing has stayed the same: the love and passion that fans have for the game.

To truly understand basketball, you need to know more than just the rules of the game. You also need to know the language that surrounds it. This is especially true when it comes to idioms.

Idioms are expressions that are not meant to be taken literally. They are often used to describe a situation or feeling in a more creative way. For example, if someone says “that team is on fire,” they aren’t actually suggesting that the players are engulfed in flames. Instead, they are saying that the team is playing exceptionally well.

In basketball, there are many idioms that are used to describe different situations on the court. To help you better understand the game, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most common basketball idioms and what they really mean.

“Basketball is Life”

Whether you’re a diehard fan or someone who just likes to keep up with the latest sports slang, these 10 basketball idioms are sure to score.

1. Ball is life This expression is used to describe someone who is obsessed with basketball. It can be used both as a compliment and as an insult.
2.He’s got game: This phrase means that the person is good at basketball
3. She’s in her own zone: When a player is “in their zone,” it means they’re Playing at an extremely high level and are very difficult to stop.
4. He has/throws up a brick: If a player “throws up a brick,” it means they missed an easy shot. This phrase is often used when a player misses a free throw or an open layup.
5. That was a travel: A “travel” occurs when a player takes more than two steps without dribbling the ball, which results in a turnover.
6. They’re on fire: When a player is “on fire,” it means they’re making everything they shoot.
7. He/she went baseline: If a player “goes baseline,” it means they drive towards the sideline instead of towards the basket when they have the ball.
8 .He pump-faked me out of my shoes: A “pump fake” is when a player pretends to shoot the ball in order to get their defender to jump, and then they dribble around them for an easy layup/shot .
9 .That was an and-one!: An “and-one” is when a player is fouled while shooting and makes the basket, resulting in one free throw being added to their total score .
10 .He air-balled it!: An “air ball” occurs when a player shoots and the ball doesn’t even hit the rim .

“Ball is in Your Court”

The phrase “ball is in your court” is often used to mean that it is up to the other person to make the next move. For example, if you ask your boss for a raise, they might say “the ball is in your court” to mean that it is up to you to make the case for why you deserve one.

“Can’t Teach Height”

“Can’t Teach Height”

This idiomatic expression is used to describe the fact that tall people have an advantage in basketball. Because taller people can reach higher and jump higher, they often have an easier time succeeding in basketball than shorter people.

“Dunking on Someone”

“Dunking on someone” is a basketball idiom that means to score on someone in a very emphatic way, usually with a dunk. It’s seen as a very humiliating way to score, and it’s often used as a metaphor for someone being bested in a very public way.

“Giving 110%”

This is probably the most common basketball idiom, and it is often used in other sports as well. It means to try as hard as you possibly can, to never give up or take a play off. It is important to give 110% on every single play, because that is what it takes to win.

“Hang Time”

In basketball, “hang time” is the amount of time a player spends in the air after taking off from the ground. The term can be used both literally and figuratively.

For example, if a player takes off from the Free Throw Line and seems to float in the air for a very long time before making a shot, we would say that he or she had a lot of hang time. Figuratively, hang time can be used to describe how long someone lasts in a difficult situation.

If your boss is on your case about something and you manage to keep your cool, you might say that you’ve got good hang time.

“It’s All Good”

The game of basketball is filled with its own unique set of phrases and idioms that can be confusing for those who don’t know the game. Here are 10 basketball idioms you need to know.

“It’s all good.”

This phrase is commonly used to describe the feeling of satisfaction after a victory or a impressive play. It can also be used to downplay a mistake or an error.

“He’s got game.”

This phrase is used to describe someone who is skilled at basketball. It can be used as a compliment or simply to state fact.

“She’s in her own world.”

This phrase is used to describe someone who is so focused on what they’re doing that they’re not paying attention to anything else going on around them. This is often seen as a good thing, as it shows dedication and determination. However, it can also be seen as a bad thing if the person is so focused that they’re not aware of their surroundings and could end up in danger.

“Junk Yard Dog”

Like many idioms, “junk yard dog” has its origins in basketball. The term is used to describe a player who is not the most talented or skilled, but who works hard and does whatever it takes to win. This player is usually a scrappy defender who is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

“Playing with a Chip on Your Shoulder”

When a player has a chip on their shoulder, it means they’re carrying extra motivation with them into the game. This can be because they feel like they’ve been disrespected in some way, or they’re trying to prove something to themselves or others. A player with a chip on their shoulder is often dangerous, because they’re playing with an extra edge.

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