Let's assume an offensive player takes a shot on the basket.
If a defensive player catches the shot in the air without goal tending, is that considered a block, a steal, or both in the statistics?
When I first read the question, I read it as the player grabbing the ball after it missed the rim. But Coach-D pointed out that the better interpretation is that the ball is caught immediately after the shot. I've changed my answer to reflect that scenario.
The NBA rulebook does not have concrete definitions for some of these terms, so I'm going to refer to the FIBA Statisticians Manual.
A steal is awarded to a defensive player when his action causes a turnover by an opponent. A steal must always include touching the ball, but does not necessarily have to be controlled.
- Intercepting or deflecting a pass
- Taking the ball away from an opponent holding or dribbling the ball
- Picking up a loose ball after a mistake of an offensive player
Steals happen interferes with normal handling or passing of the ball, not from a shot. No steal is awarded.
A blocked shot is awarded to a player any time he appreciably makes contact with the ball to alter the flight of a FGA and the shot is missed. It recognises a clear rejection or deflection of a shot by a defensive player. The ball may or may not have left the hand of the shooter for the block to be counted.
The defensive player's catch is indeed responsible to change the shot, so a block (and a rebound) are awarded.
If it is a "shot" - a player attempting to score - then it is a block and a rebound. Period. You cannot steal a shot.