What Is An Alley Oop In Basketball? Complete Guide

One of the most exciting offensive plays to watch in basketball is an alley-oop.

When you thought the ball would miss the shot and go out of bounds, a teammate from the offense catches it mid-air and swiftly dunks it through the hoop. Many times, the surprising delight adds to the thrill that viewers enjoy.

But you might wonder, what is an alley-oop in basketball? And why is it called such? We’ll talk about these and more in a bit!

In basketball, an alley-oop is an offensive play wherein a player throws the ball mid-air near the basket or bounces off the backboard to pass it to a teammate who will then perform a quick shot, often a dunk. The passer will then be credited with an assist.

What is an Alley Oop in Basketball?

What is an assist in basketball

At the outset, we’ve already mentioned an overview of what is an alley-oop in basketball. It is an exciting kind of offensive play to watch that occurs between two teammates.

One assist in creating an alley-oop by throwing the ball mid-air near the basket or by allowing it to bounce off the backboard. This creates a sort of blind pass, but in a fancier way.

The partner in the alley-oop, on the other hand, is the receiver of the pass. He quickly stuffs the ball through the basket.

Usually, the receiver attempts a dunk. But doing a layup is another way to complete the alley-oop.

Why is it Called Alley Oop?

Now that we’ve described what an alley-oop in basketball is, you might be wondering why it’s called such.

The term alley-oop was coined after “allez hop”. It’s a French phrase that could mean “let’s go”.

French circus acrobats yell the phrase just before they leap. But the term alley-oop wasn’t immediately adopted and popularized in basketball. It was first known as the name of a syndicated comic strip by cartoonist V.T. Hamlin.

In sports, on the other hand, alley-oop was initially used in football to describe a kind of high arcing pass. Later and up to this day, the term alley-oop became more popular in basketball lingo.

And taking into account its etymology, the term fits its context in basketball. This play requires especially the receiver to have a high and impeccable vertical jump to receive the pass and immediately get the ball through the hoop.

Two Types of Alley Oops (Dunk and Layup)

An alley-oop is a play performed by two players from the offense. While the receiver usually grabs the ball after it bounces off the backboard and attempts a slam dunk, you can also do a layup in an alley-oop.

A layup is a one-handed shot executed from near the hoop for newbies’ reference. An offensive player usually attempts a layup after the ball rebounds off the backboard. And so, that’s indeed fitting for an alley-oop.

But did you know that you can also perform an alley-oop without a partner? An example is when you intentionally bounce the ball so hard that it bounces above a defender. You go around the defender, leap, grab the ball and attempt a dunk.

Another example is when you bounce the ball off the backboard, catch it mid-air, and do a dunk.

The main difference between the two types of alley-oops is how the shot is performed. It would help if you had an incredibly high vertical jump to do a dunk. The layup does need a high vertical jump but doesn’t need to be as high as that of a dunk.

top 5 Must Know Tips to Do an Alley-Oop Successfully

It may seem intimidating at first, but the NBA guys aren’t the only ones who can perform an alley-oop. You can too! Check out these handy tips.

1. Practice doing alley-oops with your teammates

It will help if you pick a partner one at a time. Decide who will do the pass and who will receive it. Remember that an alley-oop is usually successful when two players from the offense display incredible teamwork and communication.

2. Be able to make a strong chest pass

The thrower should pass with great precision and timing in an alley-oop. The play also involves a strong chest pass that can reach the highest point of a teammate’s vertical leap.

3. Enhance your vertical leap

That’s a non-negotiable tip, especially if you’re the ball receiver. If you’re attempting a dunk, you need an excellent vertical jump for a layup. So go ahead and do some workouts that will help improve your vertical leap.

4. Create verbal or non-verbal signals with your teammates to signify an alley-oop.

It doesn’t hurt to do some Morse code. You wouldn’t want to be so apparent to the defense when you’re about to perform an alley-oop. You can choose a word, a hand signal, or anything that will communicate your intent with your teammate that you’re going to do an alley-oop with him.

5. Master a specific area on the court from where you can execute an alley-oop

At first, you can choose a specific area on the court where you can perform an alley-oop before attempting to do it from several more areas.

Which Players Have the Most Alley-Oops in the NBA?

To give you some more motivation, you might need specific NBA names to look up and observe how exactly they perform an alley-oop.

Over the years, here are the top-performing alley-oop players in the league, either as receivers or lob assists.

PlayerAlley Oop RoleStats
Dwight HowardRecipientRecipient of 984 alley-oops
James HardenLob assists475
Trae YoungLob assists235
Russell WestbrookLob assists233


There you have it, folks. We’ve talked about an alley-oop in basketball and how you can successfully perform one. It’s one of the exciting plays to watch. Go ahead and nail it!

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