An assist is a statistic used in many different sports to quantify the act of helping another player achieve a certain goal. That goal usually involves scoring points or goals.
Basketball, hockey, soccer and baseball are all sports in which one can record an assist, and the rules are slightly different in each. In basketball, the recording off assists is very straightforward. When someone makes a basket, the player who passed the ball to them before the score is credited with an assist. The premise is basically the same in soccer, although an assist can be recorded by a player whose missed shot is put back in the goal by another player. It is also possible for two assists to be recorded on the same play, although the two passes must have led directly to the goal.
Hockey is the only other sport in which two assists can be credited on the same play, but the intent to help another player score is not required in order to record an assist. When a goal is scored, an assist is automatically credited to each of the two players on the offensive team who most recently touched the puck, provided no defensive player controlled it during the play. For example, say a goaltender passes the puck to his teammate, and the teammate skates down the ice and shoots the puck. The puck bounces off the other goalie's pad, and one of the player's teammates gathers the rebound and scores. An assist would be credited to the first goalie - even though he had little to do with the goal being scored - and the player who took the first shot would get an assist despite the fact that he never passed the puck to the player who scored.
Baseball is the only sport in which assists are achieved on defense. An assist in baseball occurs any time an out is made by two or more defensive players. The final player to touch a ball during a play is credited with a "putout," while any other defensive players who touched the ball, intentionally or otherwise, are credited with assists.
Baseball is also the only sport in which an assist can be recorded even if the play is not completed successfully. If a player makes what would normally be an assist, but the out is not recorded because of another player's error, the first player is still credited with an assist. Assists in baseball are very common, but assists made by outfielders are not common at all, and are therefore given more respect than assists made by infielders.