NBA Lingo: Understanding the Basketball Terms in the NBA

Now celebrating its 75th Year Anniversary, it suffices to say that the NBA is a sport with a very rich history. Based on a 2021 census as shown below, the NBA fan demographic age spans across a large range.

There are those who have been watching the game since the vintage, Michael Jordan days, then there are also those who were enamored by the many new greats of the new generation and joined the sports at different times. Just from the recent decades, there are the early 2010s Derrick Rose fans, the Miami LeBron era, the Kevin Garnett Celtics ear, the prime Dwight Howard era, and don’t forget, the Kobe Bryant dominance era.

NBA Age Demographics Census 2021 – courtesy of statista

Inside the NBA: The NBA Lingo

There are many familiar phrases that may seem natural to the devoted NBA viewer, but may seem confusing to the casual fan. Today, we will be diving into the most common ones and giving a deep-dive insight into the history-rich sports league.


  • MVP – Most Valuable Player, the annual award dedicated to the best player in the regular season
  • FMVP – Finals Most Valuable Player, awarded to the player who played best on the winning team in the NBA Finals
  • COTY – Coach of the Year, an award of excellency for head coaches
  • MIP – Most Improved Player, an award for players who have taken significant leads in their game
  • DPOY – Defensive Player of the Year, award for players who showed excellency on the defensive end
  • HOF – Hall of Fame, players who earned their spot in the NBA hallmark
  • 6MOTY – Sixth Man of the Year, an accolade for bench players who provides valuable contribution to the starting lineup
  • Box Score – The tallied stat for the players
  • And-one – A fouled shot where the fouled player still makes the basket, resulting in one free throw
  • Field Goal – Every shot, dunk, layup or three point shot is considered to be a field goal (if it is made, of course). Free throws are not field goals.
  • Paint – Paint denotes a part of the basketball court that is located near the basket and that is usually painted a different color from the rest of the court. 
  • Wing – The wing area is located on the side of the court near the free throw line extended. 
  • Corner – The corner / Edges of the basketball court
  • Post up – An offensive setup where a player, usually a forward or center, receives the ball with his or her back to the basket.
  • Fast Break – An offensive possession that occurs as a result of the opposing team’s turnover or a quick rebound and outlet pass before the defending team could setup their defenses
  • Double-double / Triple-double – A final achieved box score stat line where players achieve double digits in two or more category (Usually in Points, Rebounds, and Asssists)

General / Slang

  • GOAT – Greatest of All Time, used to note the greats of the game
  • Crunch Time – Used to refer to the final minutes of games that are very close, usually a several point differential
  • Dagger – To drive a dagger refers to hitting a shot that decide the outcome of the game
  • Hack a Shaq – Popularised by a strategy used against Shaquille O’ Neal, the act of fouling players who are poor free throw shooters to exploit their weakness
  • Drop a Dime – To create an assist
  • Buzzer Beater – To fire a shot as soon as the clock ends and hit the shot
  • Flop – Used to refer to players who exagerrate contact to convince the referees they have been fouled
  • Downtown – Used to refer to a three point shot from long range, usually at least 3 further feet away from the 3-point line

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