QUIZ TIME! 🏀 Basketball Terms That Time Forgot 🕰️
AIR PASS to ZONE FACE ... Do you know this vintage basketball lingo?
Whenever I open The Dictionary of Sports, I get a new perspective on how sports were played and talked about in the middle of the 20th century and earlier.
This 1949 book — compiled by Parke Cummings, with Grantland Rice as an editorial advisor — contains an amazing array of sports jargon, from giraffe service to rail nurse to stall courage.
Of the hundreds of basketball expressions included, some have survived. But to see the fascinating ways the game has evolved, we can look at the terminology that perished along the way.
Here are seven of those basketball terms, in quiz form, with the answers at the bottom of the page.
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An air pass was “a pass between teammates that does not touch the floor.” Today we call that a pass.
Firehorse basketball was slang for “a type of basketball that employs fast breaks, long passes and one-handed shooting from angles.” Wild stuff.
Kill spin was another term for backspin or “reverse spin.” This one feels a bit more contemporary, and indeed, in The Mamba Mentality, Kobe Bryant noted Magic Johnson’s prowess with this technique: “The secret was the backspin he put on the ball, which allowed him to zip the ball through the defense and have it bounce up softly into a striding teammateʼs hands.”
Multiple throw sounds strange to our ears, especially since it refers to a “succession of free throws attempted by the same team.” I challenge Kevin Harlan to work in “multiple throw” next time Steph Curry goes to the line for two — or three.
This one has different “correct” answers. In the U.S. (and Canada), as Cummings wrote, basketball players score at their own goal — which he correctly noted was different from how the term was used in other sports. And that remains true, even if colloquially you often hear it both ways. In Europe, however, basketball teams defend their “own goal.” So, give yourself a bucket no matter which goal you shot at. Just as long as you didn’t guess “own goal” in the fútbol sense of — whoops! — scoring for a opponent. ⚽
A snap pass in the 1940s was thrown with two hands “employing a snap of the elbows, wrists and fingers.” But these days, a snap pass is a quick one-hand flick off the dribble. Evolution!
Zone face! I love it, even if the term doesn’t actually seem all that useful: “The arrangement of the lines of defense and the individual players within a certain zone.” Basically, it was how a zone defense moved and oriented itself toward the offense. So, hey, get out there and show ‘em your zone face.
Hope you enjoyed. We’ll do it again sometime!