Basketball History
Idioms, Cliches, and Slang

Why are assists in basketball called dimes?

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March 02, 2010 7:08PM

== Headline -- The more likely answer here is that handing out a dime or a dropping a shiny dime comes from the fact that the rich used to actually hand out dimes to help the poor in tough times. Rockefeller, for one, was known to hand out new "shiny dimes" on street corners. This is a hypothesis...but I believe a solid one which seems likely to be the true origin. A suggestion: The word is not infrequently used in the expression "drop n dimes," as in "Chauncey scored 24 points and dropped 8 dimes." The Urban Dictionary website notes that to "drop a dime" (he dropped a dime on George for stealing the car)is slang meaning to turn someone in for a crime (when there were payphones and payphone calls cost a dime!). Dropping a dime is thus assisting in the capture of a criminal, and, by extension, assisting a teammate in a score. Someone named Tom Dalzell sent the American Dialect Society Mailing List a short excerpt from an article by Dan Cahill in the Chicago Sun-Times, March 18, 1994, page 132. It is about a CBS and ESPN analyst named Clark Kellogg, famous for using new and unusual phrases. To quote: "In Kellogg's vernacular, a player doesn't make an assist, he "drops a dime." A really nifty assist is "dropping a shiny dime." Kellogg picked up some of the terms during his college (Ohio State) and NBA (Indiana Pacers) careers, but most of the catchy phrases come from shoot-arounds and summer pickup games."