Air Ball

What is an air ball in basketball?

A missed shot that doesn't hit the rim or backboard

An air ball in basketball is a missed shot that doesn't hit the rim or the backboard, only the air. It is considered a great embarrassment to shoot an air ball and often prompts "Air ball!" chants from opposing fans after the shot and whenever the player that shot the air ball touches the ball again.

Origin of air ball

There are differing accounts as to who first coined the term. The most notable one is that it comes from "Cameron Crazies" (the name for Duke basketball fans) in the February 24, 1979 matchup between Duke and North Carolina (UNC). In the game, UNC player Rich Yonakor badly missed a shot, and the Cameron Crazies started chanting, "Air ball!"

When do people use air ball?

Air ball is one of the most common taunts in basketball that you will hear in almost any game when a player misses the hoop entirely. You'll hear it in pick-up, high school, college, and especially in NBA games, where fans can get really vicious. You will also see it used by basketball fans in texts, online messages, and social media when discussing woeful shooting performances.


Westbrook with an air ball to end the half
It looks like he's been off all night

The demoralizing air ball

Related Slang


Updated October 26, 2022

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This page explains what the slang term "Air ball" means. The definition, example, and related terms listed above have been written and compiled by the team.

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