Monday, August 28, 2006

Basketball Rules

As you astute readers know, the Basketball World Championships are nearing completion in Japan. As Americans, we are watching to see whether we can reclaim our post atop the world's basketball stage. The chances seem decent with the team we have, especially with our greatest threats (Spain and Argentina) now in the opposite bracket.

As the tournament has progressed, I've begun questioning more and more why there are rule differences between FIBA, which runs the world championships, and the sport I grew up playing here. Chris Sheridan at ESPN did a good job of breaking down many of the rules differences, but the major ones include a smaller ball size, a trapezoidal lane, a shorter court, and a shorter 3-point line. The question that kept resonating with me was why are there so many differences?

the international court

Apparently I wasn't the only one. Last week, John Hollinger, he of the Pro Basketball Forecast, noted,

Another problem reared its head at the line, where the Americans made only 19-of-34.This has been a problem all tournament, and probably has to do with the slightly smaller ball used in FIBA play. It's not as much of a problem when the team is running and dunking, but just enough of a difference to throw them off on a finely calibrated maneuver like the free-throw stroke. (This also might be a good time for a rant on why, exactly, FIBA insists on using such different rules for a game that was invented and played here for half a century before anyone else picked it up. Can you imagine if the World Baseball Classic had used a different ball, changed the strike zone, and had the bases arranged in a trapezoid instead of a diamond?)

Indeed, John, exactly my thoughts and a fair query. And I haven't been able to find answers.

Wikipedia only notes a ball size change in 1935. How did the FIBA and NBA balls end up different? Is it an anti-USA move on FIBA's part? I wonder too, does the different ball size actually affect shooting? One would expect the difference to show up in other NBA-players on non-US teams (for outside shots and FT's). Or does the ball being smaller actually mean shots go in more easily (smaller ball to rim circumference ratio)? And most importantly, is there a movement afoot to standardize the rules?

the international ball in action

Unable to find an answer I was content with, I emailed the premier pro basketball blog in the world, TrueHoop, to see what I might be able to find out there. So now, finding my question posted there, we shall see if an answer is to be had. Where from have the differences arisen?

1 comment:

Greg said...

That was fun thread to read on Henry's basketball blog, Westy.

I actually don't mind the rule differences. For me, it's kind of fun--a nice change so to speak.

But even if everything was "standardized," there would still be differences in the officiating from continent to continent. It's never going to be the exact same game everywhere.

It will be interesting to see how the U.S. finishes the tourney. I'm glad to see them show emotion, and I hope the team stays together for 2008.