They are not – “ blowin’ in the wind“ , but as Bob Dylan did say – “ the times they are a changin’ “ , well the rules are anyway.
Basketball rules have been constantly changing since the games inception in 1891, the list of changes is quite remarkable, some changes were good and some, well you have to wonder who in the hell came up with it, someone who obviously had not played the game.
3 Second Rule
Surprisingly some individual players became so dominant, that they had to change the rules to diminish their dominance, rules such as the 3 second rule, the width of the Key Way and Goal Tending.
One of those players responsible was Wilt Chamberlain, probably the greatest athlete of all time , who was named in both the USA Basketball and Volleyball Hall of Fame. He was also both a High School and College athletic champion predominantly in 400 metres and High Jump.
Wilt “The Stilt“ Chamberlain at 7’1 ¼“ didn’t really need to jump.
He was a notoriously poor foul shooter ( career 55% ) and resorted to using the very old fashioned two hand underhand shot.
Let’s not forget that he scored a record 100 pts in a single NBA game, including a surprising 28 from 32 foul shots.
The Rules of basketball are sanctioned by the FIBA Central Board which receives recommendations from the FIBA Rules Advisory Board which in turn co opts members from FIBA, the NBA and the NCAA.
World Cup And Olympics
Rule changes normally accompany a World Cup or Olympic games event.
These international rules however are often supplemented by other Rules already adopted by various basketball Associations such as the NBA and the NCAA.
Rules such as the NBA with 4 x 12 minute quarters and the NCAA with 2 x 20 minute halves.
The NBL and basketball Australia, always follow the FIBA International Rules.
The game of basketball was invented by Canadian Dr James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts in December 1891 as a way that Footballers could keep fit in the harsh winter months exercising indoors.
He was involved with the International YMCA Training College, which was later to become Springfield College.
Because the YMCA ( Young Mens Christian Association ) was an International organisation, the game spread very quickly to other Nations around the world . It is estimated that 450 million people worldwide play Basketball in some 185 different countries.
The influence of the YMCA was huge, I remember in Adelaide that they had large premises in Flinders Street in the City with a Hostel and a full Indoor Court on the top floor , plus many branches with indoor courts spread throughout Adelaide. That influence has waned today although there are still a number of venues operating such as Walkerville, Kensington and Holdfast Bay.
I remember training in several of them.
The YMCA became very famous in 1978 with the release of the classic song by the Village people, most of whom might I say were not sporting inclined.
This new game became very popular very quickly and a fully fledged sport in it’s own right, adopted as a Winter College Sport by several colleges as early as 1892.
The actual date of the first intercollegiate game is contentious, but certainly games were taking place regularly by 1896.
Women took up the sport very quickly as well, with the first game being played at Smith College in 1893 and the first Intercollegiate game also in 1896.
At some stage in the 1920’s they started building a cage around the court to stop the ball from flying into the crowd, consequently players became known as Cagers, a name that stuck for several decades , well after they removed all of the cages.
When Naismith first developed the game, he used Peach Baskets as the goal, although they required Officials to retrieve the Ball following each made Goal.
Eventually they cut out the bottom of that Basket which allowed the Ball to fall freely. The term Basket stuck after the goal was modified to it’s present design and because of that peach basket, the name of the game became known as – Basket Ball.
Naismith also developed 13 original rules and with no running or dribbling with the Ball, or backboard, it must have more closely resembled Netball.
Basketball for men first appeared in the Olympic games in Berlin in 1936 and was won by the USA defeating Canada in the Final 19-8 and Mexico beating Poland for the Bronze medal 26 – 12.
You will notice that the games were played outside on Grass tennis courts, which became a real problem when it rained.
Dr. James Naismith’s 13 Original Rules of Basketball
- The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
- The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist).
- A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.
- The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.
- No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule by any player shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.
- A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of Rules 3 and 4, and such as described in Rule 5.
- If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).
- A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
- When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds; if he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.
- The umpire shall be judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.
- The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made, and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.
- The time shall be two 15-minute halves, with five minutes’ rest between.
- The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner. In case of a draw, the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.
These Original Rules however quickly changed and were updated to make the game look much more like the game that we recognise today.
Dates And Rule Changes
Below is a list of the important dates and changes to the Rules –
- 1892 – First printed rules appear
- 1892 – Baskets of woven wire are introduced
- 1893 – First backboards – 6 ft x 12 ft are introduced
- 1894 – First actual basketball invented to replace the Soccer balls being used
- 1894 – Free throw line shortened from 20 ft to 15 ft
- 1896 – Field goal reduced from 3 pts to 2 pts
- 1896 – Free throw reduced from 3 pts to 1 pt
- 1896 – Backboard officially reduced to 6 ft x 4 ft
- 1901 – Dribbler could not shoot for a basket , had to pass to another player
- 1908 – Player committing 5 Fouls including travelling was disqualified from the game
- 1909 – Glass backboards approved – much earlier than I would have thought
- 1910 – Player disqualified after 4 fouls
- 1913 – Bottom of Basket left open
- 1920 – Player could only re enter game once
- 1921 – Backboards moved 2 ft away from wall , to stop players from jumping up walls to shoot
- 1922 – Travelling was changed from a personal Foul to a violation
- 1923 – Player fouled had to take the free throw , ended designated free throw shooter
- 1929 – Use of wire or rope cage around court to keep ball in play was ended
- 1930 – Games started using 2 referees instead of 1
- 1932 – 10 second line created at half court to stop stalling
- 1932 – No player with ball could stand in free throw lane more than 3 seconds
- 1934 – Circumference of ball reduced to between 29.5 and 30.25 inches
- 1936 – Greatest year of all for rule chnages –
- No offensive player could stay in lane more than 3 seconds
- Timeouts increased from 3 to 4
- Centre jump after each basket eliminated
- Defensive player prohibited from touching Ball while on the rim
- Basketballs without laces approved
- 1939 – Backboards moved to 4 ft from end line
- 1944 – Timeouts increased to 5
- Players allowed unlimited substitutions
- Number of fouls increased to 5 before disqualification
- Defensive player could not touch the Ball on it’s downward flight
- 1948 – Rectangular Glass backboards become official for College games
- 1949 – Coaches finally allowed to speak to players during timeout
- 1952 – Free throw lane widened from 6 ft to 12 ft
- 1957 – Bonus free throws awarded after opposing team commits 7 fouls in a half
- 1963 – Players committing a personal foul were asked to raise their arms
- 1967 – Dunk shot banned from College Basketball – How stupid was that ?
- 1972 – Freshmen allowed to play College basketball – previously they played in an all Freshman competition
- 1976 – Dunk shot allowed again in College basketball
- 1979 – NBA allowed a 3 pt shot
- 1981 – Possession arrow introduced
- 1985 – NCAA approves 45 second shot clock
- 1986 – NCAA introduces 3 pt line
- 1990 – 3 free throws awarded when shooter fouled shooting outside 3 pt line
- 1993 – Shot clock reduced to 35 seconds for NCAA men
- 2008 – College 3 pt line extended to 20 ‘ 9 “
Please be aware that these rules are essentially for NCAA & NBA, but most were eventually adopted internationally and not every rule change has been included, but it does give a guide as to how the game slowly morphed into what we know today.
Generally the rules have made common sense, although the passing back rule is a dinosaur and should be removed.
With a 24 / 30 second shot clock, it no longer serves the purpose for why it was introduced, plus they have to get the ball into the front court in 8 seconds, which is rarely ever called .
Plus teams protecting a lead nearly always get a shot up before the shot clock expires, although sometimes not a very convincing shot.
The only time that a team is penalised for passing back is when they accidentally cross back over the half court line or step on the line unintentionally.
The other rule which I personally particularly don’t like , is when a player intentionally throws the ball off of an opponent when going out of court. In my opinion this is very dangerous especially when thrown with force and should be stopped. If you were to throw the ball intentionally at an opposition player in general play, then you would be ejected.
Now if you’re wondering why the Keyway is called – Keyway , then as you will see in the attached photo, it’s shape originally resembled a Door Key Hole , but even though that shape has changed several times since, the name has stuck.
Comments would be most welcome especially suggestions as to rule changes that would change and improve the game.