There’s a fair possibility that if you watch or listen to an NBA game on television or the radio, the broadcasters will mention a player who is “dropping a dime” or a phrase that sounds similar at some point during the broadcast. In some cases, advertising featuring basketball players will also make mention of it. It seems bizarre and inappropriate to individuals who are unfamiliar with its meaning, and the likelihood is that you have no idea what they are talking about.
What actually is a “Dime”?
In basketball, a “dime” is equivalent to an assist. For those who don’t know, a basketball assist is when a player passes to a teammate who then makes a basket. The player “aided” in the basket’s creation by making the pass to the teammate.
It is customary to record an assist when a teammate receives the ball and shoots and makes a basket without dribbling it, but this isn’t a fixed regulation. Even while this is often true, deciding whether or not an assist has been made requires some judgment. A player would receive an assist even though they dribbled if they passed to a teammate who was cutting to the basket and that teammate continued the cut while dribbling once.
Basketball players keep track of their assists during every game. One of the “big four” statistics that are recorded for each game are assists, points scored, steals, and blocks. They are also noted in relation to career levels and career assistance. Basketball is a sport where setting up teammates with effective passes can result in easier baskets than trying to score alone, hence the statistic is significant and highly regarded.
Why is it called a “Dime”?
The term “dime” for a basketball assist has an obscure origin. There are many explanations, but the one that is most frequently accepted is that it dates back to a time when pay phones were widely used in the US. Calls to payphones cost a dime during the peak of their use (far before cell phones became the norm). It was customary to ask “does anyone have a dime?” if one needed to make a phone call. Giving someone a dime or “dropping a dime” was helping someone make a phone call in this meaning. Most people think that this expression eventually became helping a teammate make a basket in the NBA.