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Brush up on lingo before Final Four tips off

Tae Andrews | Monday, April 2, 2007

Shakespeare once wrote, “What’s in a name?” Well no offense to William, but when it comes to the wide world of basketball, using the proper terminology when watching and playing the game is crucial, as it can either bolster your street cred or expose you worse than a throwback pair of high shorts. For example, you never want to be caught quoting Bill Walton. While watching March Madness, it would be disastrous to yell out “Throw it down, big man!” after a particularly fierce slam dunk. Glances would be cast sideways and you might find people slowly shuffling away from you on the sofa. As a result, here’s a quick compilation of some of the latest and greatest court comments.

*”Dummy,” verb, to block someone’s shot. Synonyms: to stuff, to reject. Usage: “Oh man, did you see Oden dummy that guy?”

*”Hops,” noun, the ability to jump high. Synonyms/interchangeable phrases: “to get up” (as in, “Oh man, he really got up there) and “bunnies” (“Nate Robinson is only 5-foot-7, but boy does he have bunnies.”)

*”Cookies,” grammatical part unknown. Exclamation: “Cookies!” is usually shouted during a game if one player loses control of the ball and an opposing player steals it. The origins of this phrase remain unknown, but it is rumored that its birth has something to do with the age-old rhyme, “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?” etcetera.

*”Handle(s),” singular and plural noun. The ability to dribble the ball well. Usage: “Oh man, Steve Nash has sick handles” would be a good choice to use as the mop-top hero bounces around the court.

*”To get sick with it.” Related phrases: “To get nasty,” “to get up.” This phrase can refer to a variety of things, but is mainly related to dazzling plays, as in “Oh giddyup! Tim Duncan just got sick with it all over Carmelo Anthony’s face.” It’s usually said as, “sick wit it.” Not to be confused with “getting jiggy with it.”

*”Ballin’,” noun, This word has a lot of meanings (and also inspired the current hip-hop smash single by Jim Jones). “Ballin'” refers to succeeding at any walk in life, but especially on the court or in making a lot of money (synonyms: scrilla, cheddar, bread, etc.) Usage: “Wow, Manu Ginobili is just ballin’ right now.”

*To “break someone’s ankles” is to cause them to stumble, trip up on their own feet and perhaps even fall down after juking them with a nasty crossover.

*”Teardrop,” noun. Synonym: “floater.” A high-arcing shot usually launched by a shorter player over a taller one, which concludes its journey going through the hoop. Usage: “Wow, Tony Parker just floated that teardrop shot over Elton Brand and in!”

*To “have game” actually has two definitions: one, the ability to successfully woo a female by use of smooth conversation and two, the quality of being a good basketball player, as in the hit film “He Got Game,” featuring Denzel Washington and Ray “Jesus Shuttlesworth” Allen.

*”Mercin’,” verb, to generally inflict pain and destruction; to bring ruin to another’s doorstep; to impose one’s will on the game. Usage: “Kobe Bryant is just mercin’ right now. No one in the league can stop him.”

*”Kicks,” noun, basketball shoes (or just shoes in general). As in, “Oh man, nice kicks! I didn’t know you had copped that pair of white-on-white Air Force Ones.”

*”Facial,” noun. Related term “posterization.” A bone-jarring dunk delivered with ferocious intensity as one player rises above another, usually less athletic player (or a player who just so happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time) and slams the ball home, usually to raucous applause.

*Also, any phraseology from the vintage video game “NBA Jam” is fair game: phrases such as “boom-shaka-laka,” “razzle dazzle” and “is it the shoes?” have enduring relevance. Of course, if you have any questions , concerns or comments, feel free to contact our very own campus Merriam Webster of basketball terminology, Hudson Sullivan.