NBA playoffs are here, and as we always do at Inmersivo, we intend to give full-court press to the event! And, yes. Before you look again at the phrase in italics, we are using a basketball idiom. We have said it before, and we repeat it, sports are part of our life; and quite a significant one, let us say.
Basketball is the USA’s second most important sport nationwide, right after baseball. That is why we may find different phrases that are closely related to it in everyday English. It is of great relevance to learn about these idioms. Why? Because they help us understand not only what people may say, but also learn about their culture and traditions. So, without any further comment, let us take a shot at acquiring new vocabulary related to sports – Oops, I did it again!
In basketball, a full-court press is a strong defensive strategy. It means that the whole team commits to defending, no matter the position. Teams generally employ this strategic move when they need to recover the ball as soon as possible. It may be because the match is close to its end and there is a narrow difference in score between both teams.
When we say that we will give ‘full-court press’ to something or someone, we mean that we will employ the same strategy. It may be an important task at school, for instance, or a relevant event in your personal life. By saying this, you will focus your full attention to this, making it your priority.
Players take shots several times in a match. In fact, that is what they do to score points. Even though it is closely related to the position and ability of the player, chances of success or failure are both present when doing so. Those who have better positioning or shooting skills have the best success at making the basket after a shot and scoring points for his/her team.
This happens in life, too. When you take a shot at something, you are putting your efforts into succeeding at it. The better qualified and prepared you are, the better your chances to succeed. However, taking a shot implies you are not certain the outcome will be successful. A good example could be when applying for a job. You know you have the required qualifications, but at the same time, you are not sure you are the best qualified to get the job. Thus, you take a shot at it and hope for the best outcome.
A slam dunk is a type of shot. Instead of throwing a two- or three-point jump shot, players jump with either one or both arms extended. While they do so, they carry the ball directly into the hoop and slam it down. It is quite a show but at the same time, it is an almost certain score. This is because it is quite improbable to miss a slam dunk once you get the required height.
When we use this phrase as an English idiom, we do not refer to the difficulty of developing a slam dunk, but to the certainty of scoring. In this way, we can say that something ‘is a slam dunk’ when it is almost sure it will happen. There is no negative nor positive charge in it, so it can be used in both senses with no difference at all. For example, one could say that rain is a slam dunk when we see a dark cloudy sky. In other words, it is very likely to happen.
A buzzer-beater happens when a team scores just in time before the match ends. The buzzer goes off while the ball is in the air. According to basketball rules, this means that should it go into the hoop – if not, it would not be a buzzer-beater – it will give that team the corresponding points. Lots of historical games have been defined by a buzzer-beater – I do not want to sound old, but Michael Jordan’s slam dunk in Space Jam comes to my mind, too.
Whenever we finish something right on time before it is past its due moment, we call it a buzzer-beater. Delivering an essay right before the bell rings and we run out of time could be a good example. Think of any past time in your life when you thought you were not going to make it, yet right at the last minute, you succeeded. Now you know what to call that crucial event in your life. It sounds more epic that way, doesn’t it?
So, here are four idioms related to basketball that you can now apply to your everyday English. Have you ever used or heard of any of them? How about any other basketball idioms? Share them with us. Remember they may be a little informal, so do not use them when writing an essay – or your teacher may want to kill me! Subscribe to our newsletter to find out more about idioms, tips, and English news related to sports!