Air Ball

What does Air Ball mean in Basketball?

A basketball shot that doesn’t touch the rim or backboard

An air ball is when a basketball player misses the shot and the ball doesn’t touch the rim or the backboard but only the air. It’s quite an embarrassing moment for the player who shoots an air ball, and it often leads to the crowd chanting “Air ball!” every time the player gets the ball again.

It’s not entirely clear who came up with this term. One widely recognized story traces it back to a basketball game between Duke and North Carolina on February 24, 1979. Reportedly, a North Carolina player named Rich Yonakor missed his shot so badly that the Duke basketball fans, known as “Cameron Crazies”, started shouting “Air ball!”

The phrase air ball is now commonly used in basketball games, from casual pick-up games to high school, college, and professional NBA games. Fans can be quite brutal, especially in the NBA, and they won’t hesitate to chant “Air ball!” at a player who misses the hoop completely.

You’ll also see the term being used a lot in text messages, online chats, and social media posts, especially when basketball enthusiasts are talking about a player or a team’s poor shooting performance. It’s just one of those slang terms that has become a staple in the world of basketball.

Example for using ‘Air Ball’ in a conversation

Hey, did you watch the game last night?

Yeah, it was crazy! Did you see that air ball by Johnson?

Haha, yeah! It was so embarrassing. The crowd started chanting “Air ball!”

I can’t believe he missed the hoop completely. Air balls are the worst.