Press Down/Pat Head

AW is a 19 year old college student. She is a freshman computer science major and loves basketball. She played as a child and closely follows professional basketball today.

Context: This is performed during a basketball game, both amateur and professional. This was collected at the collectors house after eating dinner.


Collector: Are there any basketball gestures that only players or super-fans would know?

AW: Oh for sure. Two that kind of go together are when a player pats their head or presses their hand down by their side *gestures to collector*.

They are kind of opposites but also very similar if that makes sense? When a player pats their head after making a basket or playing good defense, it is them boasting about how they are bigger than the person guarding them. But when a player presses down, they basically refer to how short or small the person guarding them is. So if a player makes a basket after being guarded, they can press down or pat their head as a boast of how big they are compared to the other person. It just depends on if they want to refer to their height or the other players lack of height. I think it’s pretty f*cking funny.

Pat head gesture
Press down gesture

Thoughts/analysis: These two gestures are a reflection of basketball and sports culture overall. When the players do well, they do not just praise themselves as individuals, they do so by putting other players down in a competitive way. This form of body language not only exhibits confidence in one’s self, but it is also used to get into the head of the opposing team. Overall, I thought these gestures were fun because it conveys a strong message without using words that could get players flagged for misconduct. It could also be interesting for teams to create variations of this that are unique to them. That could create a special identity for them.