An airball is a shot attempt in which a basketball player shoots the ball but misses the rim, the net, and the backboard completely. Instead, the ball sails far below, above, or wide of its intended target, often resulting in at least one fan yelling out, “airball!” An airball is the opposite of “nothing but net” or a “swish.”
So, why is it called an air ball in basketball? Is getting an airball a foul during a game? What happens after the ball sails out of bounds on a shot attempt, and are you able to rebound it yourself? Finally, what does the shot clock do with an airball in basketball?
Let’s discover the answer to all these questions and more in this in-depth look at what an airball is in basketball.
Why is it Called an Air Ball?
An “air ball” has a pretty straightforward meaning because the only thing the ball touches during that particular shot is the air. The term was first used in 1967 when referencing a Cal State game. Fans will chant “air ball” multiple times when an air ball occurs during a match for the visiting team. While the reason for the airball attempt could be solely from the shooter, it can also happen for other reasons.
For instance, the player’s defender blocked the view of the hoop on their shot, which led to the air ball. That player may be returning from a long hiatus and feeling rusty. Another instance is if the shooter got fouled on a shot, which led to the errant shot attempt. Finally, a little more forgiving is if a player takes a half-court (or full-court) desperation shot before the end of a quarter, and it becomes an airball.
Is an Air Ball a Foul?
While an airball does not result in a foul, there can be a foul that results in an airball. Though this is technically not a true airball (the official definition of an airball requires the shooter to go untouched as they shoot the ball), you can guarantee you will still hear a cry or two of “airball!”
However, a foul during a shot attempt that results in an airball is considered a shooting foul. This shooting foul means the player can shoot free throws for their team. If the airball came from the three-point line, that player could make three points from their free throws.
Is an Airball a Turnover?
Most of the time, an airball results in a turnover for the offensive team. This offensive turnover occurs because the goal is directly in front of the baseline. When a player shoots an airball, the ball will most likely sail out of bounds, resulting in a turnover. The opposing players will gain possession of the ball, and the game continues. They (the new side on offense after the turnover) will throw the ball inbounds and dribble down the court.
However, there are also cases where the ball is recovered before it goes out of bounds. If the ball is retrieved by one of the shooter’s teammates, the shot clock will continue to count down, and the current play will continue. If the opposing team recovers the airball, the shot clock resets, and the game continues.
What Happens After an Air Ball in Basketball?
What happens after an airball depends on who gains possession of the ball after it leaves the shooter’s hands. The ball will often sail straight through the air and out of bounds. When this happens, the opposing team gains possession of the ball.
If an offensive player rebounds an airball, the play continues, and the offensive team will have extra opportunities to score. Sometimes, an airball can become a great pass to a teammate for an easy layup or even a dunk.
When the opposing team recovers an airball, the shot clock resets, and that team will then make their way to their side of the court. They then have an opportunity to score before their shot clock runs out. Regardless of which team rebounds the airball, that player will get a tik in their stats for a rebound.
Can You Rebound Your Airball?
According to the official basketball rules of the NBA, you cannot shoot an airball and then rebound that shot. Doing so results in a traveling violation, which in turn causes a turnover. However, in many other leagues, including recreational leagues and college, catching your airball is acceptable and a great way to set yourself up for an easy layup.
However, this method would only work if you shoot from a close position relative to the goal. If you make a far-field goal attempt, it can be tough to make the shot and make it to the goal in time to catch the rebound.
What Happens if an Air Ball Occurs after the Shot Clock Expires?
When it comes to beating the shot clock, the same rules apply to an airball and every other regular shot. The ball must leave the player’s hands before the shot clock expires, plain and simple. If the player’s fingers are still on the ball as the shot clock expires, a violation occurs, and the opposing team receives possession of the ball.
If the player shoots an airball and the shot clock expires as the ball is still in the air, what happens next depends on who rebounds the ball. For instance, if the offensive team rebounds the ball, they are committing a shot clock violation, and the opposing team receives possession of the ball. However, if the opposing team recovers the airball, the shot clock resets, and their possession period continues as normal.
Either way, the shooting team will lose possession of the ball.
Conclusion: What is an Airball in Basketball?
In conclusion, an airball occurs when a player takes a shot that does not touch the backboard, the net, or any other part of the goal. It is neither a foul nor a turnover, although both can occur in certain circumstances. Rebounding your airball is perfectly acceptable, as long as you are not playing in the NBA with their official rules.