Basketball Rules & Regulations, NBA

A list of 42 official rule changes inspired (or forced) by NBA players

When James Naismith came up with the idea of basketball, he was concerned about how to actually make a game that was fun and competitive from the ground level.

He wasn’t thinking of giant men hanging out by the basket, jamming the ball into his peach baskets over players a foot shorter than them. Nor was he concerned about player kicking out their legs while shooting from afar to draw a foul, or worried about fouls at all. Contract bonuses? Dress codes? Euro-Steps?

Nasismith likely wasn’t thinking about how the game would evolve even 10 years down the line. The game has obviously evolved as players got better; stronger, faster, quicker, bigger, more athletic, more creative, and just plain smarter. Dribbling isn’t just a practical way of moving with the ball as it was in 1940, but has been weaponized by players like Bob Cousy, Isiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry, in subsequent decades .

Unfair Advantages Require Rule Changes

The NBA has a near-monopoly on the world’s most-talented players. When you place the best players in the same league, any edge on the court and off is necessary to succeed. However, sometimes those advantages or loopholes need to be regulated to maintain the game’s integrity and enjoyment. You just can’t hope that players will adjust that’s like using an electric bike kit to turn a regular bike into a motorcycle. It’ll work, but it’s not adjusting for the game’s evolution.

In the history of the NBA, there have been dozens of rule changes and tweaks that allow the game to be free-flowing and enjoyable. Many of those standards, and guidelines originated directly from or were  inspired by or named after an NBA player. Basically, these rule changes impacted the NBA primarily in four categories: In Game, Dress Code, Equipment and Contracts.

with the ball blows the mind and players are taking long range shots 3-4 feet past the three point line, raising the bar even for modern players

Rule Changes Inspired by NBA Players
Player Category Rule Change Year Short Description
Allan Houston Rule Contracts Luxury Tax Amnesty 2005 Due to the Luxury Tax impact, the NBA allowed all teams a one time amnesty; allowing one contract to not be counted toward the luxury tax. Though this is named the 'Allan Houston rule' because his contract with the New York Knicks was the impetus — the Knicks never used their exception on Houston"
Allen Iverson Dress Code Players in Street Clothes 2005 The NBA was concerned about how their players looked on the bench. Particularly players in street clothes and how their fashion choices reflected on the NBA's perception. The NBA Dress Code came out of that.
Allen Iverson In Game Palming the Ball There was something a bit unfair about Iverson's crossover and it turned out that it might have been illegal. Iverson inspired the league to have officials pay more attention to palming of the ball
Bob Kurland In Game Goaltending This wasn't the NBA but worth mentioning: "Kurland was known to leap above the rim to grab opponents' shots. This led the NCAA to ban defensive goal tending in 1945. He was also the first person to regularly dunk during games." Check out Wilt Chamberlain for NBA's goaltending rule change.
Bruce Bowen In Game Injuring Opponents 2006* Some of Bowen's questionable defensive tactics fell into the category of dangerous. The one tactic that the NBA wanted to eliminate was when Bowen would contest a jumpshot and place his foot where players would normally land, putting a player's ankles at risk of turning or worse. This NBA rule allows for a player to have a safe place to land on the court (and not on Bowen's foot)."
Caron Butler In Game Accessories 2010 'No straw chewing during games' Stu Jackson told Butler!
Charles Barkley Rule In-Game Five-Second Rule 1999 Players have 5 seconds to make an offensive move and not just sit there backing down their defenders and faking passes and reading the defense for 20 seconds."
Darryl Dawkins Equipment Broken Backboards 1980 The NBA changed the material of the backboard and went to breakaway rims so that their hoops could withstand more force (and Daryl Dawkins).
Dennis Rodman Off Court Cameraman Remeber when Rodman kicked a cameraman after colliding with him? ameraman close to the court and Rodman kicked him. Got an 11-game suspension. I thought that there was a change in the 'safe distance' that a cameraman could be after this incident but could only find this reference in 2014 to the NBA taking action to give players more room reducing baseline photography and TV positions from 24 to 20. Each baseline can have six photo spots on one side of the basket and four on the other. This was a reduction from the 2010-11 season when 40 photo and video baseline spots were available."

NBA Rules and Guidelines Inspired by Players
Player Category Rule Change Year Short Description
Dikembe Mutombo In Game Finger Wagging This was a clarification of the taunting rule. Basically finger wagging at an opponent is considered taunting and will yield a technical foul while wagging your finger in the direction of the crowd (after a blocked shot or not) isn't considered taunting.
Dwyane Wade In Game Gameplay 2011 The NBA instituted a rule Wade's pump fake-jumping into the midair defender to create contact. He can no longer jump into them, they have to jump into you. So if the defender goes straight up, they can't call a foul. (New officiating rule to alter Wade's game ESPN)"
Derek Fisher In-Game Clock An amendment to the Trent Tucker rule after Fisher hit a game-winning shot with .3 seconds against the San Antonio Spurs. The league came back and ruled that future shots take .4 seconds to get a shot off. Anything less would have to be a tip-in attempt.
Derek Harper In-Game Hand Checking 2004 This new rule was introduced to curtail hand-checking — used most-famously by the Knicks' Harper.
Derrick Rose Rule Contracts Incentives
George Mikan In Game 3 second rule
George Mikan In Game Widen Lane lane widened from 6 feet to 12 feet
George Mikan In Game Goaltending NCAA and NBA
Gilbert Arenas Provision Contracts Non-Rookie Restricted Free Agents 2005 The NBA introduced the Gilbert Arenas provision in Collective Bargaining Agreement as a way to help teams to keep their young restricted free agents who aren't coming off rookie scale contracts."
Kevin Durant In Game The Rip Through This move was originated by Durant – though Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are infamous for the move also. (Rip-through: Celebrating the NBA Rule Change Grantland)"
Larry Bird Rights Contracts Superstar Rights Known officially as the The Larry Bird Exception and colloquially as "Bird Rights" teams are permitted to exceed the salary cap to re-sign one of their own players. so named because the Boston Celtics were the first team permitted to exceed the salary cap to re-sign one of their own players (Larry Bird in that case). Free agents who qualify for this exception are called "qualifying veteran free agents" or "Bird Free Agents" in the CBA and this exception falls under the terms of the Veteran Free Agent exception."

Magic's return to NBA would inspire new guidelines in how to treat a player with an open wound

NBA Rules and Guidelines Inspired by Players
Player Category Rule Change Year Short Description
Magic Johnson Rule In Game Player Bleeding After Magic announced that he was HIV positive he briefly returned to the league
Matthew Dellavedova Dress Code Wearable Technology 2016 Though Delly wasn't the one that inspired the rule, he became the face of it when the Cavs guard when the NBA informed him that league rules do not allow for the health tracker to be worn during the game."
Mark Jackson Rule In Game 5 second rule players have 5 seconds to make an offensive move
Paul George Equipment Safety Placement of basketball staunchions in international play
Rasheed Wallace In Game Technical Foul Cap Though not directly attributed to Wallace, he was top of mind when the NBA instituted the rule that when a player accumulated 16 technical fouls in the regular season, they would get a one game suspension, every additional 2 techs = 1 game. 7 techs for playoffs = 1 game, and every additional 2 techs = another game.
Rajon Rondo Dress Code Headbands 2010 As of 2010, headbands must now be worn with the logo facing the right way; right side up and facing forward. You hear that Rondo?!"
Reggie Miller In Game The Leg Kick Players cannot kick their legs out on shot attempts in order to draw fouls from a player running at them
Shaquille O'Neal Equipment Reinforced Supports 1993 After Shaq brought down a couple basketball supports; the NBA hired a team in 1993 that would inspect the bolts and screws of every basketball support including the backboard and hoop. This ensured that the standard equipment could withstand more force (and Shaq).
Shaquille O'Neal In Game Hack-a-Shaq The Hack-A-Shaq strategy was implemented to negate Shaq's dominance and to disrupt an opposing team's rhythm. It has since been used on other infamously poor free throw shooting big men like Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan.

Rules and Provisions Inspired by NBA Players
Player Category Rule Change Year Short Description
Trent Tucker Rule In Game Clock 1990 After Trent Tucker curled around the screen and hit a three-point shot with just one-tenth (0.01) of second remaining on the clock to defeat the Chicago Bulls in Madison Square Garden; the NBA stepped in. So a new basketball rule came out in 1990 that negated any regular shot to be taken on the court if the ball is put into play with less than three-tenths (0.3) of a second left on the game or shot clock.
Vince Carter Dress Code iPod/Pregame Music 2004 During the 20-minute pre-game warmups, players cannot listen to their music via headphones, earbuds, ipods, or boombox according to the league in 2004."
Vlade Divac In Game Anti-flopping 2012 Vlade had retired nearly a full 7 years before the league implemented their anti-flopping guidelines. Even so the memory of Divac falling down or grabbing his face or jerking his head back felt like it was October 3rd 2012 (the day before the guidelines were announced)."
Wilt Chamberlain In Game Free Throw Line Wilt had a penchant for throwing his free throws against the backboard for dunks so the NBA (also in high school and college) created a rule that shooters cannot cross the free throw line while during free throws
Wilt Chamberlain In Game Widen Paint The "paint" was widened from 12 feet to 16 feet in order to deal with Wilt's dominance near the basket.
Wilt Chamberlain In Game Goatending offensive interference
Wilt Chamberlain In Game Inbounding over Backboard The ball cannot be inbounded over the backboard, Inbounders standing underneath the Wilt Chamberlain, In Game, basket would routinely lob the ball over the backboard for Wilt
Zydrunas Ilgauskas Rule Contracts Re-signing Traded Player 2010 The Cavaliers traded Ilgauskas in 2010 near the deadline to Washington for Antawn Jamison. Ilgauskas was immediately bought out and then re-signed him after what was then a 30-day restriction. "

Every Generation Has Their Unicorns

There’s a lot of talk about “unicorns” in today’s NBA; players with size that can run, jump, dribble and shoot from distance are changing the professional game. Players such as Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis are inspiring lanky kids around the world to aspire to do more than layups and dunk.

They are far from the first unicorns though. The NBA’s first unicorns were players like George Mikan and Wilt Chamberlain where their mere presence required in-game, on-court rule changes.

It’s no surprise that rule changes have been inspired by dominant centers — it’s a big man’s game after all. Even in the years when the game shifts to more guard-oriented offesnses, the game eventually comes back to the big men whether they’re traditional centers like Shaq, Wilt or Mikan or big men with lethal crossovers and three-point range like Durant, The Greek Freak or Porzinigis.

As big men go, so will the game. It’s hard to believe that there will be a player more forceful and unstoppable as Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain, but there will be another. And once that player arrives on the scene, the NBA will have to adjust their rules (and update their equipment) so that the game can also evolve.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.