The recent Harden Rule has changed the game in more ways than one. The lowest free-throw attempts in NBA history mean every single top 10 free-throw attempt leader of last season is significantly down in 2 point %. Well, everyone except for the yet to debut injury-riddled Zion, but he already has enough on his plate. Here are 20 more rules that made the game what it is today.
Bruce Bowen: Safe Place to land
Bruce Bowen was notorious for contesting a jump shot then placing his foot where players would normally land, putting a defender's ankles at risk of turning or worse. So after spraining Steve Francis' ankle and nearly doing the same to Jamal Crawford, the NBA issued the rule that allows a player to have a safe place to land (and not on Bowen's foot).
The irony of this rule is that Greg Popovich defended Bowen's antics like an overprotective father, claiming "the people who cry about it are just frustrated about having to go against Bruce." He continued, "I told Bruce, 'You be Bruce Bowen, 'You're the best defender in this league. You will not change the way you play defense'." Well, that came back to bite him when Zaza Pachulia ended a future Spurs' era with one fell swoop.
Magic Johnson: Blood Rule
Yes, this is exactly why you think. When Magic came back to the court after discovering he had HIV, there was little public knowledge of the disease, leading to widespread public freakout. Players like Karl Malone said that he might come in contact with Magic and get infected. So now, when there is any blood, the play must be stopped. Moral of the story: Magic is still a boss while Malone still came into contact with something else that wasn't good.
Kobe Bryant: Hand Checking Rule.
A lot of people throughout the NBA have been given credit for the banning of the hand-checking rule, but this... was the most interesting explanation. What the 2004 Pistons lacked in star power, they made up for in ridiculous defense. So if you watch footage of the 2004 NBA Finals, you will see the Pistons bodying up and bumping Kobe every time he tracked to the basket. But no foul was called since Kobe had the advantage on the defender. However, that little bump slowed Kobe down just enough that it gave Ben Wallace a split second more to be in a better position to defend the basket.
After the Finals, a discussion was held over the difference between player and team advantage leading to the NBA eliminating all forms of hand-checking before the 2005 season. The rule was intended to give offensive players more freedom but has given offensive players an unfair advantage where it's now virtually impossible to keep perimeter players out of the paint. We know what happened shortly afterward. Scoring absolutely blew up, ultimately helping Kobe drop 81 points in a single game.
Rajon Rondo: Upside Down Handbands.
After Rajon Rondo popularized the style of wearing headbands upside-down, with the familiar NBA logo inverted, the league banned its practice instituting that headbands must now be worn with the logo facing the right way. That reminds me, do you remember the ninja-style headbands? Why can't the commissioner just be cool?
LeBron James: LeBron James Hate Propaganda
When LeBron James famously took his talents to South Beach in 2010, it's safe to say his first game back in Cleveland was greatly anticipated by many. Before LeBron's return on December 2nd, 2010, the NBA executives were investigating "Anti-LeBron Merchandise like hats, t-shirts and signs." It was discovered that many t-shirts were circulating locally within the city of Cleveland holding hateful statements directed at LeBron James. As a result of this discovery, the NBA warned fans not to wear these clothes to the game and even placed extra security at the entrances to ensure nobody had any such clothing or hateful signs. Sidenote: The Miami Heat blew out the Cavaliers 118-90, with LeBron dropping 38 points!
Wilt Chamberlain: Everything
Many of the most basic rules of modern basketball were created as counters to Wilt Chamberlain's abilities. Argued by many as the single most dominant player who has ever lived, Chamberlain's accomplishments read like video game stats.
Some of these rules include that shooters cannot cross the free-throw line until the ball hits the rim because Wilt would just throw it against the backboard for dunks. They changed the dimensions of the court by widening the paint from 12 feet to 16 feet to keep him further from the basket. They created offensive interference rules or the creation of 'goaltending' to prevent him from grabbing his teammates' shots from midair and dunking them when they were headed into the basket anyway. They even issued that the ball cannot be inbounded over the backboard because inbounders standing underneath the basket would routinely lob the ball over the backboard for Wilt. Safe to say, Wilt was pretty good.
Caron Butler: Can't chew straw
Many people have weird habits, and for Caron Butler, it's chewing straws. But when the two-time All-Star came to Dallas, Mark Cuban brought up the potential dangers of chewing straw mid-game to the NBA. Hence the Caron Butler rule was created, forcing Butler to give up the unhealthy habit.
Trent Tucker: Trent Tucker Rule
The Trent Tucker Rule disallows any regular shot to be taken on the court if the ball is put into play with less than three-tenths of a second left on the game or shot clock. So if there are 0.2 or 0.1 seconds left, the shot has to be done by just the tip of the player's fingers. Fun fact: The rule came about because of a controversial buzzer-beater against Michael Jordan.
Reggie Miller: The Leg Kick
What's so fascinating about this is that it took the league 88 months after Reggie's last game to create. Named after the player who made it famous, players cannot kick their legs out on shot attempts to draw fouls. Although James Harden was somehow allowed to get away with it?
Allen Iverson: The Dress Code
In 2005, David Stern made the NBA the first major sports league to have a dress code. A mandate that required baggie pants and jersey wearers like Allen Iverson to "wear business casual attire" to games and a sports coat with dress shoes on the bench. This was often jokingly referred to as the 'A.I. Rule' while some even referred to it as plainly racist. But it was unanimously agreed that Iverson did usher in flashy dressing and soon became the scapegoat for the new rule.
Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins: Backboards AND Chains
The NBA changed the backboard material because of this man. That's a cool thing to tell your grandchildren. Unfortunately, due to constant glass-shattering dunks (well, just two, but the commish had enough), the league stepped in. On top of that, while many other NBA legends like Wilt and Dr. J rocked the gold chains, it was Dawkins that was responsible for the banning of them because he would wear more than a few. Picture Mr. T, with the same strength and attitude… wait a minute!
Of course, Jordan still wore them in exhibition events like the slam dunk contest.
Shaquille O'neal: Backboard Support and Hack-A-Shaq
The NBA changed the backboard support and stanchion design because the Diesel brought down the backboard - on two separate occasions. I'm going to throw an honorable mention for the Hack-A-Shaq Rule, which involves repeatedly and intentionally fouling a poor free-throw shooter on an opposing team. As can be imagined, this led to horrible television forcing the NBA to punish teams who foul away from the ball, especially in the last two minutes. In this period, the fouled player would shoot one free throw, and his team would then retain possession. But like Wilt, the rule never capped Shaq's greatness.
Michael Jordan: Colorful sneakers
Back when every NBA player's sneakers were either black or white - Jordan chose to rock the black-and-red Air Jordan 1s in a preseason game and the league immediately banned them from regular-season use. So Micheal became the first ever player to challenge the NBA and wear whatever shoes he wanted, even if it meant a $5,000 per game fine. As a result of Jordan's defiance and Nike's marketing, the majority of players in the league now wear Nike and Jordan shoes.
Sidenote: Jordan was also the first player to have his own custom longer shorts made. The entire league followed as players' shorts kept getting longer while the John Stockton style eventually turned extinct.
Charles Barkley: 5 second rule
At 6'6", 260 pounds, Barkley was able to turn his back to the basket, put the opponent on his backside, and methodically back them up beneath the rim before laying the ball into the hoop. This was with complete ease. I cannot stress how underrated and under-appreciated Charles Barkley was for his actual game, not just hysterical humor. However, the process was often tedious and ate up a lot of time, so with the intent of speeding up gameplay, the NBA created the "Barkley Rule," also known by annoying New Yorkers as the Mark Jackson Rule. This states that players dribbling below the foul line can only face away from the basket for up to five seconds.
Dwayne Wade - Custom Band Aids
Such a trivial rule, but when Wade got a cut under his left eye in 2009, a band-aid was obviously suitable for medical purposes. However then Dwayne (and rapper Nelly) tried making the facial bandage cool by having custom band-aids. Clearly, the NBA was having a bad week at the time because they put an immediate stop to it.
Lew Alcindor - No Dunking (while technically it was only instituted in the NCAA, it's still really interesting)
Before the '68 season, the NCAA announced it was banning the slam dunk from all competitions. In their words, it "was not a skillful shot," and the rules committee said they issued the ban partly due to injury concerns.
While the NCAA never admitted it explicitly, it is widely believed that the ban was enacted because of UCLA's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then named Lew Alcindor), who dunked over his opponents with ease. It was nicknamed the "Lew Alcindor rule" by the press, and it prohibited players from making shots above and directly over the cylinder. However, the rule didn't deter Kareem from having the greatest college career of all time. 3 years 3 MVPS 3 Championships.
During that time, players blessed with amazing athleticism had to drop the ball delicately through the hoop after flying well above it. NC State's David Thompson, one of the greatest dunkers of all time, played the entirety of his college career during the ban.
Sam Perkins: Durag
Similar to the 'Ninja Style Headbands,' Sam Perkins was the first player to wear a durag during a preseason game and immediately became the last.
LaMarcus Aldridge: Late-game Goaltending Reviews
The 'LaMarcus Aldrige rule' came after a controversial call by referee Scott Foster, who claimed that Aldridge goal-tended a game-winning layup by Kevin Durant. After the NBA came out saying the call was "incorrect," they implemented that they could review late game goaltending.
Ron Artsest: The technical foul rule.
Artest or Metta World Peace was not known for his unique placidity. And after the Malice in the Palace, the NBA increased its fines, instituted a one-game suspension after 16 technicals and another one-game suspension for every two technicals after that. You always knew Artest would change the game, but you never knew how.
Sam Cassel: The Big Balls Dance
In the 2006 Western Conference Semi-finals, Sam Cassell scored 28 points, dished out nine assists, and also hit a clutch three-pointer to put the Clippers up by six points with 27 seconds left. However, while running up the court, he dropped his hands by his groin and bounced them up and down to imply the juggling of big balls. Now the NBA fines a player $15,000 dollars when they do that dance.
Yes, that is who LeBron can thank for why he was fined for his celebration against the Pacers this season.
BONUS - James Harden: The Harden Rule.
You already know how annoying this style of play was. Harden would put up unprecedented numbers for a few seasons in Houston, and he was at best my fifth favorite star to watch. So to encourage no more of the 'non-basketball moves' the NBA came up that it is no longer a foul when an offensive player leans in or jumps into the defender unnaturally. This has not gone well with foul-baiting stars but has increased the contact when driving to the rim - a very good move by the NBA.
I didn't include NBA players responsible for changes in a player's contract like Allan Houston, Gilbert Arenas, Derrick Rose, and of course Larry Bird because I just think things relating to changes in cap space or player rights within a contract just gets really dull. Instead, I focused on changes to how the game is played or the dress code. How do you think someone like LeBron or Jordan would stack up with the entirely different NBA of 75 years ago?