What Is An Air Ball In Basketball? Explanation

In basketball, no one can be too confident—seasoned pros and rookies alike will inevitably commit errors in an actual competition.

But among the errors you could make, here’s probably the most dreaded one: an airball shot.

An airball in basketball is a missed field goal attempt in which the ball does not touch any part of the backboard, rim, or net. To fall under the definition of an airball, a field goal attempt should be an unblocked shot.

So, why exactly is it embarrassing, and what are some tips to avoid it? Let’s find out.

What is an Airball in Basketball?

As the term implies, an airball shot occurs when the ball floats about in the air during a field goal attempt.

It is one of the worst shooting mistakes because a defender didn’t even block the shot, yet it failed to reach the basket area. The ball does not touch the rim, backboard, or net in an airball shot.

There are some reasons why a player might unwittingly commit an airball.

For example, the power exerted isn’t enough to sustain the ball as it travels toward the hoop. And in some cases, the player miscalculates the distance the shot needs for the ball to go through the basket successfully.

If the shot is blocked and the ball cannot hit any part of the basket area, this would not be officially considered an airball.

Can You Catch Your Own Airball in Basketball?

Now that we understand what an air ball in basketball is, we bet another question is lingering inside your mind. Is it possible to recover from your own mistake? That will depend on your league.

In most leagues, like in college and high school basketball, catching your airball is legal as long as it is a legitimate field goal attempt. But in the NBA, this is not permitted.

If an NBA player catches his airball, this is considered a traveling violation, resulting in ball turnover.

For more on this, check out – Can You Catch Your Own Airball? (Rule Explained)

Basketball Airball Rules in Different Leagues

Players looking at the ball in the air

Let’s take a look at how different basketball leagues handle airball situations.


The official NBA rulebook specifies in Rule No. 10 (Violations and Penalties), Section 13.f. that a player who threw an unsuccessful shot should not be the first to rebound the ball if it does not touch the backboard, rim, net, or another player.

In other words, catching your own airball is considered a violation in NBA. The offending player’s team will lose possession of the ball. This will then be awarded to the opposing team on the sideline nearest the infraction’s area.


All these leagues are not too stringent when it comes to airball situations.

In FIBA, NCAA, and NFHS, a player is allowed to be the first to rebound an unsuccessful field goal attempt even if the ball fails to touch the basket area.

The only condition is that the referees should determine whether the airball resulted from a legitimate field goal attempt.

Why is an Airball Embarrassing in Basketball?

The term ‘airball’ has a long way of history. Perhaps, basketball veterans would remember an article dated January 29, 1967, which mentions a basketball team committing airball shots several times.

Since then, the term has become popularly used in sports. But as mentioned, it’s one of the most dreaded errors any player wouldn’t imagine committing.

A field goal attempt resulting in airball indicates a lack of shooting skill and experience, which is why it’s embarrassing.

And what even makes it much more embarrassing is the audience’s reaction. Part of the audience that supports the opposing team will usually yell “Airball, airball!” repeatedly.

The purpose is to deliberately humiliate the shooter, who might lose his focus and morale.

Sure-Fire Tips to Avoid Airballs

Player shooting the ball

Because committing an airball is embarrassing, what can you do to avoid it? The answer is simple, of course. You need to be an accurate shooter.

It’s easier said than done, though. Accept that not every player is a good shooter. Some players are great at driving the ball, while others make incredible passes.

But that doesn’t mean a player who isn’t a good shooter doesn’t have a chance to improve his shooting skills.

If that’s one of your struggles on the hard court, check out some handy tips below.

  • Recognize that several body parts must work together harmoniously to achieve an accurate shot.

Good positioning is crucial to throwing accurate, successful shots. Learn proper foot placement, shoulder width, hand placement, arm motion, and the right footwork, whether for a jump shot, layup, three-point, or free throw.

When you practice all these together constantly, you’ll be able to develop your muscle memory for accurate shooting over time. But obviously, this needs a lot of patience and hard work.

  • Improve your range and confidence.

It doesn’t have to be a full-on game practice every time. Like any other skill in basketball, you can develop one skill at a time. Shooting exercises are a must, too, if you’re doing dribbling drills regularly.

Newbie players will want to start as close as possible to the basket. Practice easy shots first.

It doesn’t matter if you do a hundred reps as long as you do it accurately. In addition, with constant practice, you’ll be able to make calculated moves, mastering the distance the ball needs to travel to go through the hoop.

Gradually increase your range.

Move on to the three-point range, and if possible, much farther away from the basket. By attempting long-range shots, you’ll be able to build your confidence gradually.


As a recap, we’ve learned so far from this article what is an air ball in basketball, why players fear committing this error, and a few handy tips on how to avoid it.

With constant practice, training, and useful exercises, you can improve your shooting skills until you can confidently say, “What is an airball anyway? I don’t know that thing!”

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