In basketball, an air ball is an unblocked shot that misses the basket, rim and backboard entirely.[1]


The Oxford English Dictionary cites earliest printed use of "air ball" in a 29 January 1967 article from the (Hayward, Calif.) Daily Review, which reads: "Cal State, four times lofting air balls at an orange basket that may as well have been painted invisible."[2]

Crowd behavior and consequences

In collegiate basketball, home crowds were found to initially chant when the air ball shot was made from a distance and when it resulted in a lost possession. Home crowds were also more persistent in their chants when the shot was made farther from the basket.[3] An archival exploration showed that away players who shot an air ball had a lower success rate in the shot immediately after, as compared to home players launching the same shot; however, this difference was unrelated to the chant.[4]


In a 106 to 89 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on December 28, 1974, Elmore Smith of the Los Angeles Lakers had an unusual performance in a game where he made only one of 11 free throw attempts. He missed three consecutive shots from the free throw line (under the now defunct ""three to make two" rule in the NBA at the time), all three of which failed to hit anything but the floor.[5]

In another example, a three-point shot by the Brooklyn Nets' Kevin Durant in Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals, that would have put the Nets ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, 114 to 113 with less than one second left, was an air ball.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Definitions:
    • "Unblocked, doesn't touch the rim or the backboard".
    • "Completely misses the basket, rim, and backboard".
    • "Misses the basket and backboard entirely". Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
    • "Missed shot that fails to touch the rim, net, or backboard".
  2. ^ "air, n. 1". OED Online. Oxford UP. Retrieved December 1, 2012.(subscription required)
  3. ^ ""Air ball, air ball!": A study of collective crowd chanting in collegiate basketball". ResearchGate. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "The experience of ego threat in the public arena: A study of air ball shots performance in collegiate basketball". ResearchGate. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  5. ^ "Air ball" in Historical Dictionary of Basketball, by John Grasso (Scarecrow Press, 2010) p.27
  6. ^ "Giannis, Bucks Hold Off Nets to Advance to East Finals",