Have you ever had someone ask you, “What’s a dime in basketball?” For someone who has been a fan of the game so long, that’s an easy answer: A dime is sort of a slang term for an assist. A little confusing? Well, you can take solace in the fact that the world is full of terms and lingo that sometimes does not make sense. Before we delve deeper into the world of dimes and assists, let us first examine why an assist came to be called a “dime.”
Why Is It Called a Dime in Basketball?
An assist (or a dime) is one of the basic statistics of basketball. It happens when one player passes the ball to his teammate, enabling the said teammate to score. By making that pass to the scoring teammate, the player has helped or “assisted” in that conversion.
Now, on to the million-dollar question: Why would an “assist” be called a “dime?” To be honest, there is no verifiable source about the origin of the word. The most sensible answer is that it originates in urban slang made popular on the East Coast, particularly in the Philadelphia Area. Dropping a dime is equivalent to helping the police in an investigation by “dropping a dime” or dropping 10 cents on a payphone to tip the authorities.
Another possible answer, which is closely related to the first one, was about helping homeless people make a phone call if need be. Phone calls, at the time, cost only a dime or 10 cents, so the term “dropping a dime” may mean helping people out.
Why is an Assist Called a Dime in Basketball?
As explained and mentioned in the section above, in basketball, a dime and an assist refer to one thing. It happens when a player helps his teammate out by passing him the ball to score. Similarly, the term “dropping a dime” vaguely means helping someone out, perhaps by calling the police on a payphone or giving homeless people 10 cents to make a phone call.
Another possible explanation about the assist being called a dime is because a dime costs 10 cents. Most of the time, when asked to rate things, we do so by assigning them a number from 1 to 10. A “ten” means “perfect”; thus, an assist may be called a dime because one player perfectly throws or passes the ball to his teammate leading to a score.
Examples of How Dime is Used in Basketball
Basketball, and by extension all of the other sports, use different terminologies that may come off as confusing. For example, the Golden State Warriors are often referred to as the “Dubs.” A “Dub” is a shortened form of “W,” which stands for “Warriors” or a “Win.” As any NBA fan would know, the Warriors owned the record for most wins in a single season with 73 wins back in 2016-17.
Dime is another example of many basketball slang words. It is often used by basketball play-by-play announcers or color commentators. LeBron James led the league in assists or dimes last season, and announcers would often say, “LeBron flirted with a triple-double tonight and was one dime short of achieving the feat.” That means LeBron has nine assists, only one short, to complete a rare triple-double.
Another usage of a “dime” in basketball is illustrated in the term “raining dimes.” That means a player has accumulated assists left and right, often done in a highly accurate and creative manner. The statement “Chris Paul has been raining dimes tonight with 12 helpers along with his 21 points” simply means Paul has 21 points and 12 assists for the night.
11 Best Dime-Droppers in the NBA
Gravity-defying dunks, heart-wrenching game-winners, and ferocious blocks are not the only highlights of a basketball game. Any basketball fan would also appreciate a great pass thrown here and there. The NBA’s current crop of dime-droppers delivers that package like no one else could. Who are the best dime-droppers in the NBA today? Let’s find out.
1. LeBron James
If you think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, think again. James led the league in dimes in his 17th season at 35 years old! To be fair, James has always been an adept passer, and with Anthony Davis and a bunch of shooters to give the ball to, we can see why he was the best dime-dropper last year with 10.2 assists a night. Bron also placed third in assist per game in the playoffs (8.8), leading the entire league in that category in both the regular and postseason (684 dimes in the regular season and 184 assists in the playoffs).
2. Trae Young
Young is one of the smallest players in the NBA at barely six feet, but he could ball with the best of them. He finished the season only behind LeBron in dimes per game (9.3 APG) and third in most assists behind James and Ricky Rubio.
3. Luka Doncic
Luka is not just one of the NBA’s best scorers, he also is one of its finest playmakers. In fact, the Slovenian phenom led the entire league with 17 triple-doubles during the 2019-20 season! That includes a 19-assist game in a win over the Bucks on Aug. 9.
4. Ricky Rubio
Speaking of the purest of dime-droppers, Rubio belongs in that conversation. When healthy, the Spaniard has an insanely accurate passing game. He is tied with Doncic in assists per game last season with 8.8 dimes a night.
5. Damian Lillard
Dame is known for his scoring chops and unlimited range, but commit too hard on him, and he’ll make you pay. Lillard was fifth in the league in assists per game last season, dropping eight dimes a night, the highest assist average he had in eight seasons.
6. Ben Simmons
Simmons was a freak of nature as a 6-foot-10 point guard and since he set foot in the league, he has been one of its top dime-droppers. The former LSU Tiger drops eight assists a night in the 2019-20 season, the same mark he had for his three-year career.
7. James Harden
Harden was basically the offense in Houston his tenure there, which require him to have the ball in his hands most of the time. He once led the league with 11.2 APG in 2016-17, but since he had to split ball-handling duties with Chris Paul and now Russell Westbrook, that number went 7.5 dimes last year.
8. Ja Morant
Morant is one of the most exciting players now and the type you would pay money to see. Two players average more assists than Morant last year (Kyle Lowry and Devonte Graham), but he plays fewer minutes than both. Additionally, Morant is the dime-dropping leader in the Orlando restart with 9.9 assists in eight bubble games.
9. Malcolm Brogdon
Brogdon is one of the steadiest hands you can find in the guard position, rarely making bad decisions in his shots or passes. He averaged 7.1 assists and only two turnovers last season and even led the NBA in APG in the playoffs with 10 dimes an outing.
10. Nikola Jokic
How can we not include the Joker? Jokic would be in the Bubble MVP conversation if there was one, giving teams fits and matchup problems because of his ability to score and create for others. Jokic averaged seven dimes last year, and that includes 8.3 assists in the restart alone.
11. Chris Paul
CP3 may have lost a step or two, but he is still one of the league’s best dime-droppers. He may be 35 years old soon and in the middle of a horrendously massive contract, but don’t expect his veteran savvy to fall off a cliff anytime soon. The guy is still dropping 6.7 dimes in 31 minutes a night and got himself a triple-double in Game 7 of the first round of the 2020 playoffs in a losing effort. We have not seen the last of him, people!
Wrapping Things Up: What’s a Dime in Basketball?
A “dime” may be a strange name for a statistic, but in basketball, it is the same as an assist. An assist or a dime happens when Player A passes the ball to a teammate, Player B, allowing him to score. If you have wondered why it’s called a dime, it cannot be absolutely verified as to the term’s etymology. However, there are three possible explanations.
One, it could be a reference to assisting or helping the police in an investigation by calling them via a payphone. Apparently, at the time, to make a phone call by that means cost 10 cents or a dime. Second, it could be that the term is a reference to helping homeless people in whatever way possible, perhaps by lending them a dime to make a phone call. Third, it could also refer to the fact that a dime equals 10 cents. If you rate something as a “10,” that means it is perfect. That may pertain to the assist as a “perfect” pass that leads to a score.
Whatever the case, a dime or an assist is an essential statistic in basketball. More often than not, it is a stat that indicates teamwork and unselfishness. It’s not a surprise to learn that most of the NBA’s best dime-droppers belong to the upper echelon of teams. The league-leader in dimes last year, LeBron James, was the 2020 Finals MVP en route to leading the Lakers to its 17th championship. Some of the most outstanding dime droppers in the NBA today are Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, and Nikola Jokic.
With all these being said, we hope that we have clarified some of the confusion about the term “dime.” The next time somebody asks you, “What’s a dime in basketball?” just remember the points made in this article to help you answer the question in an orderly manner.
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