Sports for Dummies: Basketball lingo to know for the start of the season

Ashley Potts

As football season starts to wind down, soccer comes to a close and volleyball starts to look towards postseason play, there arises a new sport to look forward to. Or it may just be another sport to struggle through conversations about.

It is already edging into basketball season. As Colorado State University’s basketball teams get ready to play some preseason exhibition games this weekend ahead of the regular season, you might want to brush up on your hoops lingo.


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  • Moby Arena looks empty during the final minutes of a Men’s Basketball Game against the Boise State Broncos on Feb. 21. About 25% of the seats are filled with fans scattered all over the arena. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

  • Forward/Center Nico Carvacho gained possession of the ball after him and two Boise State players collided during the last moments of the second half of the game on Wednesday. After a loss during the game, CSU’s record is now a loosing 11-18 on the season. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

  • A dejected J.D. Paige dribbles the ball down the court in the last minutes of the game on Wednesday, February 21 against Boise State. The Rams went into the second half trailing and ended up coming out of the game with a decisive 87-54 loss against the Broncos. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

  • Guard Anothony Bonner (15) dribbles past a Wyoming defender on Jan. 31. The Rams lost 91-86 in double overtime. (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

  • Redshirt Freshman, Grace Colaivalu takes the ball upcourt, trying to set up the offense for the Rams. (Joshua Contreras | Collegian)

  • Forward Che Bob (10) attempts to dunk the basketball over a Wyoming defender on Jan. 31. The Rams lost 91-86 in double overtime. (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

  • Guard Raquan Mitchell dives to take the ballf rom a Wymoing player on Jan. 31. The Rams lost 91-86 in double overtime. (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

  • Grace Colaivalu, redshirt freshmen tries to get around a San Diego Aztec player during the first half.(Julia Bailey | Collegian)

  • Nico Carvacho (32) with a jump hook over an Air Force defender during the 1st half of the Rams 76-71 loss to the Falcons. Carvacho finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

  • J.D Paige (22) hammers home a dunk during the 1st half of the Rams 76-71 loss to Air Force. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

  • Anthony Bonner goes up for a layup against Fresno State on Jan. 6. The Rams lost 82-79 in overtime. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

  • Nico Carvacho attempts to get the crowd pumped up against Fresno State on Jan. 6. (Javon Harris | Collegian).

  • J.D. Paige (22) sprints forward with the basketball against Long Beach State on Dec. 23, 2017. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

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Double Dribble

Dribbling is one of basketball’s basics. A player can not dribble the ball with two hands. Nor can they dribble down the court, stop, pick up the ball and then start dribbling again.

Once a player has picked the ball up and held onto it, they either have to shoot or pass before they are able to keep dribbling. This seems pretty simple to those who know basketball but is called frequently in games and might be confusing if you have never stepped foot on a court in your life. 


Traveling is another “cardinal rule” of basketball, so to speak.

This is mostly a rule saying that you have to dribble the ball while you are running down the court. A player can not just grab the ball, put it under their arm and run towards the basket. That is called football. This is somewhat similar to double dribbling, in that once you stop running with the ball, you can not start again. One foot must stay planted where you stopped, so you will frequently see players pivoting around that one foot, looking for a pass to make without moving. 

Backcourt violation

Backcourt violations are another rule that is very basic for those who know basketball and therefore is not violated often in college and professional level hoops.

Basically, once your team gets the ball and is on the offensive moving towards the basket they are trying to score on, you can not go back past the half-court line. There are not many reasons why you would want to, but occasionally it happens, usually on accident.

Only the other team can move the ball back over the half court line, and usually, you are trying pretty hard to avoid that in the first place. 

3-second rule 

A 3-second violation can be confusing if you know nothing about basketball because it happens so fast.

A player can only stand in “the lane” or “the paint” or “the key” for three seconds while on offense. That area is the lines right in front if the basket that you can see painted in the court. This rule is basically to avoid players standing right under the basket, waiting for a pass or opportunity to shoot.

Basketball is all about movement and trying to find an open teammate or spot, so just hanging out in one spot (for longer than three seconds anyway) is not allowed. 


Fouls in the lane

A pivotal part of defense when driving to the hoop is blocking the ball. But, a defender can not block a shot by touching anything but the ball. When a defender successfully blocks a shot, especially a layup or dunk attempt, it’s referred to as stuffing, or “getting stuffed,” and is usually cause for celebration when done well. 

When the hand of the offensive player is touched or interfered upon, a foul is called. 

Basketball has many other intricate rules and things players will get called for. Hopefully, those basics are helpful as the season gets rolling. 

Ashley Potts can be reached at or on Twitter @ashleypotts09.