pick-and-roll

[ pik-uhn-rohl ]
/ ˈpɪk ənˈroʊl /

noun Basketball.

an offensive maneuver in which a player interposes himself or herself between a teammate with the ball and a defender, then cuts quickly toward the basket for a pass from the same teammate.

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does pick-and-roll mean?

A pick-and-roll is an offensive play in basketball where a teammate screens off a defender and then breaks free so the ball-carrier can pass it to them.

Where does pick-and-roll come from?

The exact inventor of the pick-and-roll is unknown but it most likely emerged in the 1920s in the eastern United States.

The men most often credited for the pick-and-roll are Nat Holman and Barney Sedran, two of the most influential players in basketball history, who both started their careers in the mid-1910s.

In his 1922 book Scientific Basketball, Holman describes a play that he and Sedran would run, which he dubbed “Execution Play No. 8.” This play is almost identical to the modern pick-androll.

The term itself is recorded by 1960. The name comes from the two simple maneuvers that make it up. First, a teammate screens off a defending player (i.e., stands in front of him), which is called a pick in basketball slang. Second, the screening teammate then spins (rolls) around the defender for the ball-carrier to pass it to them.

Since its creation, the pick-and-roll has been a mainstay for some of the greatest basketball players in history.

“The Mailman” Karl Malone and John Stockton were legendary for their mastery of the pick-and-roll in the late 1980s into the 1990s. In the 2000s, Steve Nash was also a genius of the play. Come the 2010s, Stephen “Steph” Curry took up that old faithful, the pick-and-roll.

How is pick-and-roll used in real life?

Among players, coaches, and basketball lovers at all levels, the pick-and-roll is a familiar phrase. It’s often discussed as running a pick-and-roll. The play is famous for both its simplicity and effectiveness in creating shots.

Pick-and-roll even makes appearances in hip-hop lyrics, sometimes as a metaphor for outfoxing someone. Rick Ross memorably featured pick-and-roll in his 2012 track “Sixteen.”

More examples of pick-and-roll:

“The N.B.A. has largely turned away from relying on power players in favor of up-tempo offense. The pick-and-roll allows that, while creating offensive opportunities early in the 24-second shot clock.“
—Jonathan Abrams, The New York Times, November 2009