Issue 47: An Overview of Basketball Scoring Terminology

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Most basketball pundits will tell you defense wins championships. And while that’s certainly true, it’s a lot more fun to score.

I remember a high school basketball coach chastising me for passing up a fairly open layup during a game (I contend had I shot the ball it would have been swatted into the third row). Instead, I passed to a teammate for a three-pointer. He told me that if I didn’t score, I wouldn’t get the girls. I guess there’s something poignant about that.

In any case, you likely know about the basics. A player can make a shot, or they can hit a basket. But there are so many other fun ways to say someone scored.

Let’s dive into a few basketball scoring terms to add to your lexicon (in alphabetical order).

And One

The act of making a shot while getting fouled. The basket counts, plus you get a free throw (“and one” refers to the free throw).

If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a player yell, “and oneeeeee” as the ball is rolling around the rim and down through the hoop.

In fact, I encourage you to try this in your daily life. Shoot a bunched-up paper towel into a garbage can while absorbing some contact from your dog, child, spouse, or roommate. Scream “and one!” as you smoothly sink your paper towel shot.

Bang! / Drain-O / From Downtown! / Splaaaaash 

All of these are things you can exclaim after someone makes a three-point shot.

“Bang!” was popularized by announcer Mike Breen. “Drain-O” is a play on the product that cleans gunk out of your drains and pipes.

Meanwhile, “from downtown!” is one of, like, four phrases the announcer in NBA Jam utters, but several announcers have used it, most notably Marv Albert (followed by his patented “YES!” if the shot goes in). And “splaaaaash” (with any assortment of a’s) is often seen in Chris Smoove YouTube videos, with an added auto-tune effect.

Dunk / Jam / Rim Rocker / Slam 

All of these are alternate terms for a slam dunk, but you can take things even further.

For example, if one player passes to another who catches it in the air and then dunks, it’s called an alley-oop or an oop. If a dunk happens to occur on or over an opposing player, it’s known as posterizing, so named because it’s the type of moment you would capture on a poster, so you can relive it for all of now and forever. Here’s an example of DeAndre Jordan posterizing Brandon Knight so thoroughly that there were tweets that replaced Knight’s body with a chalk outline because people thought he died from being dunked on.

Get Big 

I like to yell this at smaller players when they’re hanging around taller folks. Once, during a college intramural game, I witnessed a woman who was, at most, five feet tall, yell it at her 6’4” boyfriend and it made me smile.

All it means is to not slouch and stand upright when with the ball in the post, but that’s kind of a mouthful to yell during a game, so “get big” is a great replacement.

On Fire

This means a player has made at least three shots in a row without anyone else making a basket. Technically a team can be on fire, but this term is usually used to refer to a solo player getting spicy. You’d say they’re “heating up” after two made shots.

Much like “from downtown!” being “on fire” gained prominence thanks to the NBA Jam arcade game. Very rarely is the player actually engulfed in flames.


A shot that is so on-target that it only hits the net on its way through the basket and nothing else. No rim, no backboard, no player’s head. Just an absolutely perfect swish.

Also referred to as “nothing but net,” the resulting sound is so entrancing that zombies have been known to snap out of their brain-seeking hazes to stand and appreciate its beauty. If you use this term, please hold the h’s, as if you were critiquing some loud heathens in the library.

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Other Reads and Watches

Five interesting facts from the start of 2020-21 NBA season, including Zion Williamson’s historic scoring pace

A delightful look inside Steve Kerr’s postgame press conference, including a barb at Drake

The Hawks are 0-4 since John Collins claimed “we are not a joke”

Every angle of LeBron James’s ABSURD lefty outlet

Highlights from Run It Back, a time when Cartoon Network covered the NBA

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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