Particularly embarrassing to the shooter, an air ball by an opposing player during a competitive game will usually prompt fans (primarily in the college game) in attendance to chant “Aiiiir ball! Aiir ball!” repeatedly in a continuous drone to humiliate the shooter. At many schools, it is common to restart the chant the next time the shooter touches the ball.
Perhaps the most famous and fortuitous air ball in history was a desperation shot attempted by N.C. State’s Dereck Whittenburg during the 1983 NCAA Championship Game. Whittenburg’s teammate Lorenzo Charles was positioned under the basket and dunked the ball as time expired, providing the winning margin over the heavily-favored University of Houston team.
The term has spread to ice hockey, where a shot that completely misses the net, post, and goalie is called an air puck.