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How removing the hand check rule changed the NBA forever

The hand-checking rule changed the NBA

The hand-checking rule changed the NBA

Back in the early days of the NBA, the game was more physical because of the hand check rule. You hear several legends like Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal talk about how the league was so much tougher back in the day. They may have a point.

Less contact

There are several key reasons why the NBA is viewed as “softer” today — one of which is because of the hand check-rule, which the league abolished for good in 2004.

In case you didn’t know, the hand-check rule was part of the NBA officiating in the 90s and late 2000s, where defenders were permitted to put both their hands or forearms into an offensive player’s chest or hips to prevent their path to the basket. It used to be the defenders’ biggest strength against a ball-handler. This rule made it easier to discourage perimeter players from getting to the rim because physical contact was allowed on defense.

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The hand check rule also helped prevent these perimeter players and ball-handlers from going to the free-throw line. The rule was more popular than ever during the 90s Chicago Bulls regime when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen dominated the perimeter. But eventually, the league removed the rule when Jordan retired because of the lack of perimeter production when the legend took off in 2004.

And since the hand check rule was removed, the offense started benefiting for obvious reasons. The NBA wanted the same production Jordan provided in the perimeter that they hoped removing the hand-checking rule would do just that. And true enough, perimeter dominant players like Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, etc were able to take over the league.

Immediate effect

As soon as the hand check rule was removed, average scoring in the NBA jumped by four from 93 to 97 points per game. The MVPs were then won by combo guards like Nash (twice), Bryant, James Harden, and even LeBron James — lethal scorers who do their damage best by either driving to the hoop or shooting midrange and 3-point jumpers. Prior to the rule change, it was big men like Garnet and Tim Duncan who won the MVP mostly because of their defense.

The end of the hand check rule is one of if not the biggest reasons why the NBA is an offensive league today. It’s the reason why a lot of Hall of Famers say that defense is a lost art in this era.

 This significant change has led to an increase in scoring, specifically three-point production (I mean Steph Curry, Ray Allen, and so many players have made a life out of it) and is the reason why better offense will always beat better defense in today’s game.

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