I was watching the Portland/Minnesota game in a bar in Saint Paul with my girlfriend, and the sound was muted. At one point she asked me, "hey -- what does that hand sign mean?"
I'd missed it. I also admitted that I don't know too many NBA hand signals. "I'll bet you know more than you realize," she said. "How about this?" And she made this motion (all images via www.coaching-basketball-for-beginners.com):
OK, I admitted, I knew that one. I remembered it from when J.R. Rider played.
It got me to thinking. How many did I know? And where did they come from? In ASL, for example, many signs have a easily-understood origin behind them. You cup your hand to your mouth and move it down your throat, it means "hungry." Sensible enough. (Move your hand lower and it still means "hungry," just in a, rather, uh, different sort of way.)
In fact, there are several NBA referee signals that have practical applications outside the basketball court. For example:
The wrong way to wave at friends in the Paris airport.
How bartenders silently tell each other to make a martini James Bond hates. (MI-5 doesn't include tips in the per diem.)
Also from bar culture, a signal often used by William Shatner's wingman.
Like "XYZ," except for plumber's crack.
And, of course:
Etc., etc. (Don't want to run it into the ground.)
Incidentally, the lady in question really enjoyed the "3 goggles . . ."