In basketball, an assist is attributed to a player who passes the ball to a teammate in a way that leads to a score by field goal, meaning that he or she was "assisting" in the basket. There is some judgment involved in deciding whether a passer should be credited with an assist. An assist can be scored for the passer even if the player who receives the pass makes a basket after dribbling the ball. However, the original definition of an assist did not include such situations, so the comparison of assist statistics across eras is a complex matter.
Only the pass directly before the score may be counted as an assist, so no more than one assist can be recorded per field goal (unlike in other sports, such as ice hockey). A pass that leads to a shooting foul and scoring by free throws does not count as an assist in the NBA, but does in FIBA play (only one assist is awarded per set of free throws in which at least one free throw is made).
Point guards tend to get the most assists per game (apg), as their role is primarily that of a passer and ballhandler. Centers tend to get fewer assists, but centers with good floor presence and court vision can dominate a team by assisting. Being inside the key, the center often has the best angles and the best position for "dishes" and other short passes in the scoring area. Center Wilt Chamberlain led the NBA in assists in 1968. A strong center with inside-scoring prowess, such as former NBA center Hakeem Olajuwon, can also be an effective assistor because the defense's double-teaming tends to open up offense in the form of shooters.
The NBA single-game assist team record is 53, held by the Milwaukee Bucks, on December 26, 1978.
The NBA record for most career assists is held by John Stockton, with 15,806, and the highest assist per game average in NBA history is held by Magic Johnson, with 11.2.