What is an air ball in basketball

What is an air ball in basketball?

Like any sport, basketball has its own set of rules and terminology that can be confusing to new players and fans alike. Today, we’ll move on to one of the most well-known (and sometimes embarrassing) terms in basketball: the “air ball”. We’ll explain some of the most famous airball moments in basketball history, what they are, and when they happen.

Definition of an airball

An air ball is a term used in basketball to describe a shot attempt that completely misses the hoop, backboard, or rim… Basically, it’s a shot that touches nothing but “air” (hence the name!) before landing out of bounds or being caught by a player.

Airballs can occur during free throws and regular gameplay and are often a mixture of amusement and frustration from players, coaches, and spectators.

Why do they happen?

There are many reasons why a player might shoot an airball. Here are the most common reasons:

Poor shooting technique

Poor shooting technique is the main cause of air balls. Players who have not developed proper shooting form are more likely to experience an air ball. This can include a lack of follow-through, poor release, or improper balance during the shot.


When players tire, their form and decision-making can suffer. Fatigue can lead to poor shot selection, rush attempts, and/or poor shooting form, which can result in an airball.

Resistance pressure

Sometimes, a well-timed block or a solid defender can force a shooter to adjust their shot mid-air, causing the ball to fly off target and lead to an air ball.

They can come from any shot

In high-level basketball, airballs usually occur when a player is under a lot of pressure, whether it’s from the opposing team’s defense or the shot clock going to zero. Jump shots from mid-range or beyond the arc are the most common shot to miss the backboard completely.

However, layups, free throws, and even dunks can be airballs. These are less expected, and with it comes great embarrassment for the player who did it.

Famous Air Ball Moments in the NBA

Air balls occur at all levels of play, from amateur pick-up games to professional leagues. Here are a few famous airball moments in NBA history:

Kobe Bryant’s Rookie Airballs

In the 1997 NBA playoffs, rookie Kobe Bryant infamously air-balled four shots in one game! The Lakers lost to the Utah Jazz 98-93 in the elimination game. even though This was actually a turning point in Kobe’s career It led him on a never-ending quest to improve his mental and physical toughness.

Free throw air ball by Nick Anderson

During the 1995 NBA Finals, Nick Anderson of the Orlando Magic missed four consecutive free throws, the last of which was an airball. Missed free throws cost the Magic in the series.

Joachim Noah’s “Worst Free Throw”

In what could be described as the worst free throw in NBA history, Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks hit nothing but air in 2016. What made the airball so special was that it was so far to the side and so low in construction. Rim.

What makes airballs worse than regular missed shots?

As you might have guessed from their particularly negative connotations, air balls are more harmful to attack than regular missed shots. While both types of misses result in zero points, air balls are especially costly for two reasons:

Missed offensive rebound opportunities

Even if a shot is missed and hits the rim or backboard, the offense still has a chance to grab the rebound and score on a second chance. However, with air balls, this opportunity is usually lost. Air balls are statistically more likely to travel out of bounds or directly into a defender’s hands, missing the opportunity to recover the ball and reset their game. Instead, the team that made the airball will almost always give possession to the other team.

Psychological impact

Shooters on a scoring streak are said to have ‘hot hands’, meaning they are on a roll. There is some evidence that consecutive shots are more likely to succeed due to psychological stimulation.

Conversely, an airball is embarrassing and frustrating and can affect a player’s confidence and performance for the rest of the game. Conversely, a regular loss, while disappointing, may not have the same emotional impact.

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