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air-ball

Air ball

In basketball, an air ball is any shot that misses the basket completely and does not hit either the net, rim, or backboard.

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.

This term was invented by the Cameron Crazies of Duke University. It was first used in 1979 during a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels.

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.

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