With the sale of the original rules of Basket Ball as written by James Naismith last week for $4.3 million we got to thinking about the rules of basketball and how they went from the original 13 to the far thicker rule book the NBA uses today. Here’s a few of our favorite changes:
1946 – Founding rules include 48 minute games and possession to the opposing team after scoring: Hard to picture the game without these two, definitely a good start.
1951-52 – Lane widened from six to 12 feet: Instituted solely to slow down George Mikan which it sort of did cutting him from 27.4 to 23.8 PPG but his rebounding average actually went up.
1954-55 – 24 second shot clock introduced: Made the game watchable but destroyed any chance the record low point total of 37 set in the Fort Wayne Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18 as the Pistons held the ball until the game ended to prevent a comeback by, you guessed it, George Mikan who had scored 15 of the Lakers 18 points (83% of his teams points, another unbreakable record).
1954-55 – Offensive fouls become an official violation: The ovum that would become Shane Battier smiles.
1964-65 – Lane widened from 12 to 16 feet: Mikan had retired so this rule was to slow down Wilt Chamberlain who averaged 35 points, 23 rebounds and ten groupies per game in spite of the change.
1974-75 – Fines for players or coaches ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct increased to $100: Apparently there was a time then $100 was a lot of money for an NBA player.
1976-77 –In the last two minutes the inbounding team has the option to move the ball to mid-court following a timeout: The internet isn’t big enough for all the game-winning shots made and heart stopping moments made possible by this change.
1978-79 – Number of referees officiating a game increased from two to three: No specific mention of what to do if one of those refs turns out to be Tim Donaghy.
1979-80 – Three point line introduced: Let the debates about how many points Pete Maravich would have scored if it existed during his career begin (Seriously though, in this era of sabermetrics and digitized video how has no one gone back through the footage to answer this question? ) .
1980-81 – Red light synchronized to the game clock added to the top of the backboard: Every game winning shot is instantly more dramatic on TV.
1993 Playoffs – Players who throw punches to be immediately ejected and fined with the suspension and fine varying depending on if the punch connected or not: Totally unrelated but the 1993 playoffs featured the last games ever played by Reggie Lewis and Drazen Petrovic as both died in the following off season. No relation to the rule change but kind of jarring to think about.
1994-95 – Three point line shortened from 23’9” at the top and 22” at the baseline to a uniform 22’: Meant to increase scoring the shorter three point line actually led to decreased scoring and only increased the number of guys who had never even attempted three pointers in the past decided they were marksmen all of a sudden. A personal favorite was Cliff Robinson who went from attempting 53 3’s in ‘92-‘93 to 383 in ‘94-’95 (he would drop back down to 84 3’s in ’97-’98 when the league came to it’s senses and returned to the original line).
1997-98 – The “No-Charge” area is expanded from a 2’x6’ box to a four foot radius measured from the center of the hoop: While the NBA spin on this rule was about player safety it seemed much more directly to address fans who rudely wouldn’t stop pointing out that Shaquille O’Neals only offensive move in the post was to drop the shoulder and commit an offensive foul which put the refs in a really awkward position since the “do not call fouls on superstars” unwritten rule had been in effect for decades at that point. We can assume George Mikan and Wilt were baffled by the idea a rule would be changed to make it easier for a superstar.
2006-07 – Instant Replay Use Made Mandatory: The usage is a festive combination of making sure last second shots were in time and keeping track of who threw punches or left the bench during brawls. Pretty well covers the spectrum.
Things have come a long way since Dr. James laid down his thirteen commandments. There doesn’t seem to be much buzz right now for any new rules changes in the NBA or college but that doesn’t mean the league won’t tinker. Hit the comments with the rules you think need to be added.