THE two questions that
I am most commonly asked when I am discussing basketball with persons
whom I have just met are, “How did you come to think of it?” and “What
changes have taken place in the game since its origin?” I have attempted
in the earlier chapters of the book to answer that first question, and
in this chapter I shall endeavor to answer the second one.
To describe each minute
change that has taken place in the game would be uninteresting and
monotonous. Rather than do this I have selected some of the more
important factors and have noted the changes in them. In the years since
basketball was started, the interest in the game has grown far beyond
anything that we could have imagined when it was originated. It is very
gratifying to me that, in spite of its spread and development, there
have been no changes in the fundamental principles on which the game was
Many of the plays and
maneuvers that we often consider recent developments were really
executed from the first. It is true that these plays are different today
from what they were then, but that difference comes from the skill with
which they are executed rather than from any change in principle.
In the process of
planning the game, I decided that certain fundamental principles were
necessary. These were fire in number:
1. There must be a
ball; it should be large, light, and handled with the hands.
2. There shall be no
running with the ball.
3. No man on either
team shall be restricted from getting the ball at any time that it is in
4. Both teams are to
occupy the same area, yet there is to be no personal contact.
5. The goal shall be
horizontal and elevated.
These five principles
are still the unchanging factors of basketball.
Several rules have been
added and others modified to meet the new conditions that have arisen
from time to time, until the original thii'teen rules are today embodied
in some two hundred fifty-two statements.
It will be surprising
to many to know how little the game has really changed throughout the
years. People often believe that much of basketball is comparatively
new, whereas in reality, the things that have been considered of recent
development were embodied in the game almost from its conception.
When the question is
asked, “What is the biggest change in basketball?” it is easy for me to
answer. There is no doubt in my mind that it is in the skill of the
players and the kind of plays that have been adopted. At first, anyone
played the game, and it was entirely possible for some mature individual
to begin and to play in match games. Today boys are brought up playing
basketball, and it is little wonder that the degree of skill of the
players is the outstanding change that has taken place in the game.
Formerly, the players were trained and coached over a period of three or
four years. Today that training may cover ten years, and frequently
Changes in the Plays
1. The Dribble. In
discussing some of the specific changes that have taken place, it may be
well to take up first one of the most spectacular and exciting maneuvers
in basketball, the dribble. It is really as old as the game, and the
changes that have tdken place are merely developments.
The dribble was
originally a defensive measure. When a player had possession of the ball
and was so closely guarded that he could not pass it to one of his team
mates, the only thing that he could do was to lose possession of the
ball voluntarily in such a way that he might possibly recover it. He did
this by rolling or bouncing the ball on the floor. This rolling or
bouncing was the start of our present-day dribble. It took only a short
time for the players to realize that by bouncing the ball on the floor
and catching it, they could control it to some extent. The rapidity of
the spread and development of the dribble was astonishing. As early as
1896, one style of game was known as the dribble game. Yale was often
referred to as playing this type of game.
Very early, the double
dribble was recognized. It was not known by that name, but in 1898 a
clause in the rules stated that, during the dribble, a player could not
touch the ball with both hands more than once. There was no limitation
on the number of timps that he might bounce it with one hand, however.
The following year it was recognized that the dribbler could use
alternate hands in bouncing the ball.
In 1901 there was a
rule which stated that a player could not dribble the ball and then
shoot for goal. This rule was in force in the collegiate rules until
1908, when the dribbler was again allowed to shoot for the basket.
Another type of dribble
that has been little used in the game is the overhead dribble. At first
there was no limitation as to the number of times that the ball could be
batted in the air, and it was not uncommon to see a player running down
the floor, juggling the ball a few inches above his hand. This so
closely approached running with the ball that a rule was inserted saying
that the ball must be batted higher than the player’ head. At the
present time, a clause in the rules states that the ball may be batted
in the air only once.
While the present-day
dribble comes under the same restrictions that were early set down,
there is a great difference in the execution of the play. To see a
player take the ball and, while bouncing it on the floor, weave his way
in and out through a group of players until, with a final dash, he rises
high in the air and sinks the ball for a basket always thrills the
There is no doubt that
the dribble as played today is wonderful to watch, but there is one
objection that at the present time is serious. The officials are prone
to favor the dribbler and to call fouls on anyone getting in his way. It
is my opinion, and the rules plainly state it so, that the burden of
personal contact comes on the dribbler. Unless this rule is enforced,
there is little doubt that the dribble is due for some legislation.
2. The Pivot. Closely
allied with the dribble is the pivot. In the early stages of the game it
was not so fully developed as it is today, but a player could turn
around while he was in possession of the ball as long as he did not
advance. In 1893, the guide specifically stated that a man should not be
considered as traveling if he turned around on the spot.
The pivot, as it is
used today, has been greatly developed and is a valuable factor in the
player’s keeping the ball. It forms the basis of a great many plays. A
few years ago there was a style of basketball that was known as the
pivot-pass game. In this game, great stress was placed on the low pivot
driving style. Today it is one of the important factors in the
3. The Out-of-Bounds
Play. Although basketball was supposed to eliminate the roughness of
football, there was in the early period of the game one play that
sometimes closely approached football tactics. The early rules stated
that when a ball went out of bounds, the player who first touched it was
entitled to throw it in without interference. It is easy to imagine the
results of such a rule when the winning of the game became the important
aim. It was not uncommon to see a player who was anxious to secure the
ball make a football dive for it, regardless of whether he went into the
apparatus that was stored around the gym or into the spectators in the
bleachers. Lloyd Ware, one of the boys who played on an early team of
mine, takes great pleasure, when in a jovial mood, in exhibiting a scar
that he got when he dived for the ball and came into contact with the
sharp corner of a radiator.
One other incident that
I remember distinctly was a game played in a gymnasium with a balcony.
Early in the first half, the ball went into the gallery, and immediately
the players from one team scrambled for the narrow stairway, crowding it
so that they could make little speed. Two of the players on the other
team boosted one of their mates up until he could catch the lower part
of the balcony, swing himself up, and regain the out-of-bounds ball.
An early rule allowed
the ball to be thrown in by the player first holding it. As the rule
failed to designate just what was meant by holding, many of the players
felt that if they could take the ball away from someone who already had
it, they would be entitled to throw it in. During that year there were
so many fights that the rules committee returned to the original wording
of the rule: that the ball belonged to the player first touching it.
Not until 1913 was the
rule changed to state that when the ball went out of bounds, an opponent
of the player who caused it to go out should put it in play. This
practice led to some delay, and the following year the rule was changed
to give the ball to the nearest opponent. There is little doubt that the
change made at that time eliminated one of the really rough spots of the
game. Today there is little confusion when the ball goes out of bounds,
and it is usually returned without delay.
Another phase of the
game that is interesting is the change that has taken place in the
number and kinds of penalties. More fouls are listed today than in
earlier years. The increase may be explained by the fact that many
players and coaches realized that anything not forbidden in the rules
was permissible. Many attempted new practices in the hope that they
could gain some advantage over the opposing team. To check this
tendency, it has been necessary for the rules body to legislate from
time to time against certain practices that were deemed detrimental to
From the first there
has been a distinction between the technical and the personal fouls,
although they were not known by these terms. It was plainly stated in
the first printed rules that a foul committed against another person
carried a certain type of penalty, whereas all other fouls carried a
different penalty. The personal foul has always been considered the more
serious and has consequently carried the heavier penalty.
A history of the
penalties is interesting and distinctly shows how the various
difficulties have been met.
At first there were
only two penalties. The first time a player committed a personal foul he
was warned by the referee and the violation was marked against him. The
second personal foul disqualified the man until the next basket had been
made. As there were nine men on a side, this penalty was not so serious
as it would be today. After a basket had been made, the penalized man
could enter the game and was entitled to two more fouls before he again
would be disqualified.
One clause was inserted
in the rules in an effort to protect a clean team from another that used
rough tactics. The clause read that if three fouls were committed by one
team without the other team having committed a foul, the team that was
fouled should receive one point. This was rather a serious penalty, as a
field goal at that time only counted one point.
Realizing that this
penalty was too severe, the value of a field goal was changed from one
to three points, and each foul committed against a team counted one
point. Whether these fouls were technical or personal, they carried the
The next change allowed
the team that had been fouled to try for the basket from a line twenty
feet from the goal. If this try was successful, the goal counted the
same as one made from the field. At this same time, any person who
committed two personal fouls in the same game was disqualified for the
remainder of that game. If this player was disqualified from two games,
he was ineligible to play for the remainder of the season. In 1895, the
free-, throw line was moved up to fifteen feet, and the goals from the
free-throw line were counted the same as the goals from the field. In
the following year, the points were changed to two for a field goal and
one for a foul. The distance of the free-throw line and the value of the
baskets have remained the same up to the present time.
A quotation from the
rules for 1897 shows the extreme penalties meted out to the players in
the early stages of the game.
The referee may for the
first offense, and shall for the second, disqualify the offender for
that game and for such further period as the committee in charge of that
league shall determine; i except that disqualification for striking,
hacking, or kicking shall be for one year without appeal.
Until 1908, the referee
had the power to disqualify a man for repeated fouls. In that year, the
rules stated that the player who committed five personal fouls should be
disqualified for the remainder of that game. Two years later, the
disqualifying number of fouls was reduced to four and has remained at
that point ever since.
When the free throw was
introduced, it was with the idea that many of the shots would be missed
and the value of a foul would depend on the skill of the team at
throwing goals; accordingly, some member of the team was designated to
make the free throw. This player soon became so expert that he could
throw the ball into the basket a large percentage of the time; this
meant that a foul was practically as good as a goal, and led to the rule
that the free throw should be made by the player against whom the foul
had been made. This change was excellent, as each member of the team
developed skill in this part of the game.
At the present time,
there are three types of penalties: the violation that causes the
violating team to lose the ball to their opponents at the nearest point
on the side line; a technical foul, which allows a free throw but
carries no disqualification; and the personal foul, four of which will
disqualify a player for the remainder of the game.
There is considerable
discussion at the present time as to the comparative value of a field
goal and a foul goal. I have often overhead some spectator express the
opinion that a game was won by free throws. I have always taken the
attitude that the game was lost by fouls. Personally, I believe that any
tendency toward lessening the penalty of a foul would be a serious
One question that seems
to be of common interest to everyone is, “When was the number of players
reduced to five?”
When the game was first
started, it was with the idea that it should accommodate a number of
people; it was the practice, especially when the game was used for
recreation after a class, to divide the class into two groups,
regardless of the number, and allow them to play.
Ed Hitchcock, Jr., the
physical director at Cornell, had a class of about one hundred students.
Following our idea, he divided this class into two teams and threw up
the ball for a game. The result was that when the ball went to one end
of the gym, all of the players would rush after it. Someone would get
his hands on the ball and would return it to the other end of the gym,
and back across the floor would dash those one hundred students. On the
second day, Hitchcock decided that this plan would not do, as there was
grave danger of serious damage to the building. He decided that fifty
men on a side were too many for basketball.
In 1893, the first step
toward setting a definite number of players was taken. It was agreed
that when the game was played for sport, any number might take part, but
for match games there should be a definite number of men. Five men were
suggested for small gymnasiums, and nine men for the larger ones. In
1894, the rules set the number of men on a team at five when the playing
space was less than eighteen hundred square feet, at seven when it was
between eighteen hundred and thirty-six hundred square feet, and at nine
when the floor was larger. In 1895, the number was fixed at five, unless
otherwise mutually agreed upon. It was definitely settled in 1897 that a
basketball team should consist of five men.
From the beginning, the
success of basketball has been largely dependent upon the officials, and
today we are putting much stress on the selection and development of
competent and efficient men for this work.
In the early days of
the game, the officials were subjected to such indignities and abuse
that it is hard for us to realize the conditions under which they
worked. The crowds were so partial that they often resorted to violence
in an effort to help their team.
I remember talking to
an official named Fields about these conditions. He told me that
whenever he refereed a basketball game, he was very careful to see that
the window in the room where he dressed was left unlatched, in order
that immediately after the game he could, if necessary, grab his clothes
and leave unnoticed. Today the officials mix freely not only with the
crowd but also with the players.
At first there were two
officials, a referee and an umpire. The referee had control of the ball
and made all decisions in connection with this part of the play, but
called no fouls. The umpire had control of the men and called all fouls.
It was found that the umpire as well as the referee followed the ball
and caught only the folds that were made around it. Under these
conditions, the players in the back court could do as they pleased. A
second umpire was introduced, whose duty it was to watch the backcourt,
although he had the privilege of calling any fouls that he saw.
The next step was to
return to the single umpire and to give the referee power to call those
fouls that were committed near the ball. Under these conditions, the
umpire had a much better opportunity to watch the backcourt. The power
of calling fouls has been gradually extended so that the referee may
call fouls in any part of the court.
It was found that the
expense of two disinterested officials was sometimes burdensome, and it
became a practice to import the referee and use a local man for the
umpire. I have often seen the local umpire undo all the work of a
After several years of
experience, the schools found that there were few officials who could
handle a game alone successfully; most institutions felt that it was
better to pay two disinterested officials than it was to economize and
sacrifice the game. There was some attempt during the depression to
return to one official, but this met with little favor.
I have had many
peculiar experiences in officiating. Some of them were more comic than
serious. One incident that I have often laughed about occurred while I
was visiting my son in Sioux City, Iowa. One morning I dropped into the
Morning-side College gym and found a pick-up basketball game in
progress. The boys were in need of a referee for the game, and one of
the players glanced over and suggested that they get me to act in this
capacity. Another of the boys looked at me and remarked,
“Huh! Come on! That old
duffer never saw a game of basketball.”
That evening I spoke at
a banquet, and among the group were three of the boys who had played
that morning. When the banquet was finished, the big fellow who had made
the remark came up and shook hands. He asked me if I had been in the gym
that day, and I told him that I had. A red glow came over his face as he
“Well, after all, I
guess you were refereeing basketball games before I was born.”
The Skill of the
In the early part of
this chapter I made the statement that the greatest change in basketball
has taken place in the skill with which the game is played. Beginning
with no experiences of each generation that has played basket ballers
passed on some new developments to the next. The technique and
expertness with which-'the game is now played are indeed wonderful to
The scores will give
some idea as to the development in skill. At first it was not uncommon
to have a final score of three to four, and in several games the score
was one to nothing. There were times when two teams would play an entire
half without either team scoring. Today there are teams that, throughout
the season, have scored a point for every minute of play.
Practice may be given
much of the credit for the scores that we have at the present time, and
it is not uncommon to see from one to ten boys shooting baskets from
different positions on the floor. This basket shooting is not a game,
but merely a series of attempts to throw the ball into the basket.
I remember walking
across the gym floor one day and seeing a boy toss the ball toward the
basket, recover it, and toss it again. An hour later, as I came back
through the gym, the same boy was still at his play. For some time I had
been trying to discover what there was about goal throwing that would
keep a boy at it for an hour. I stopped and asked him why he was
practicing so long. The boy answered that he did not know, but that he
just liked to see if he could make a basket every time he threw the
It is little wonder
that with practice of this kind, along with the other fundamentals that
have been passed down, the players of today are much more expert than
those who first played the game.
The Ten-Second Buie
I should like to
discuss at some length one change that has been made in the rules.
Before doing so, however, I should like to make it clear that I am
interested in the game of basketball from the standpoint of the players
and the spectators rather than from the standpoint of the highly
In 1901 there was
introduced into basketball a style of play called the five-man defense.
This defense was a direct effort to meet a condition in which, all five
men, on gaining possession of the ball, rushed down the floor to try to
score. This type of offense was first played on the Pacific Coast.
Before this time, the men had been more or less scattered, and the game
was comparatively open. With the concentration of the offense, the
defensive men opposed it by concentration near their own goal.
Under these conditions,
both the defense and the offense became so specialized that a system of
scoring plays and a set defense came into vogue. The development of
these systems in the last few years has presented a vital problem in
The set defense became
harder and harder to penetrate, and the offense became more and more
reluctant to crash into those five closely grouped players. This
reluctance was especially shown by teams that were in the lead and who
already had the game won. After all, why should these men who had
already shown their superiority attempt to increase their score when the
other team was not interested enough to come out and attempt to get the
ball? It was seldom that a team could score, unless it had possession of
Some time after the
five-man defense was introduced to the game, the matter of stalling
became one of grave concern. The crowds were not attending the games as
they had, and the players were not sc enthusiastic as they had been.
Something had to be done. At this point, a few men who were exponents of
the five-man defense made a great cry about the harm of stalling.
Through newspaper propaganda, the spectators were led to believe that
the team in possession of the ball was doing the stalling, and for some
time when the offensive team refused to enter a closely set defense, the
crowd would boo and accuse them of stalling.
It is my contention,
and that of many coaches with whom I have talked, that when this
condition occurs, the blame should be placed on the team that does not
attempt to get the ball.
In 1901, someone wrote
to George T. Hepbron, editor of the guide for that year and still a
member of the rules committee, and asked this question:
Is there any rule,
stated or implied, against holding the ball for any length of time
There is no rule stated
or implied against holding the ball for any length of time within
bounds. The opponent of the man with the ball generally decides how long
he shall hold it.
I cannot understand how
any man can hold the ball for any length of time without another player
interfering and attempting to get it. However, if there is such a case,
rule 11, section 38, can be applied to it. [This rule has to do with
intentional delay of the game. Naturally, the ball may not be held more
than ten seconds in the backcourt.]
The slogan of
basketball has always been “Play the ball and not the man,” and for many
years it has been a common thing through certain sections of the country
to hear E. C. Quigley blow his whistle and in a stentorian voice say,
“You can’t do that! Play the ball, not the man.”
In the 1931 basketball
guide there is an article entitled “For the Sake of the Game/’ written
by Dr. F. C. Allen, one of the most successful basketball coaches in the
country. In this article, Doctor Allen, speaking of his basketball team
from the Haskell Institute, said:
Earlier in the year I
had impressed upon the Indians the fact that they were playing with that
ball. It was their ball—for them to get it. They had to get it to play
clearly indicate that in order to play the game of basketball, one must
at least try to gain possession of the ball.
When the five-man
defense introduced the stalling game in which one team refused to make
an attempt to get the ball, the condition became so serious that it was
agreed that something must be done. Some teams, when on the defense, had
clustered around the basket and remained in this position for nineteen
minutes, making no advance toward the ball. Under these conditions, the
people were forced to sit in their seats and watch ten men on the floor
doing nothing. A great many people did not care to pay to see two teams
at opposite ends of the floor looking at each other.
At a meeting of the
coaches in 1932, this subject was discussed. It was agreed by most of
the coaches that they should eliminate this hazard to the popularity of
the game. A number of suggestions was considered.
I was not present at
this meeting, but I had been studying this objectionable feature for
some time and had come to the conclusion that there were three ways in
which the evil might be remedied. I made the following suggestions to
the rules committee:
1. Any team that
retreated under the basket and refused to make an attempt to get the
ball for thirty seconds should be penalized by giving the other side a
free throw. [This was simply putting into effect the statement that had
been made by Hepbron and which for thirty years had been overlooked by
2. Any basket that was
shot from outside of the defensive players should count four points.
3. That not more than
three defensive players be allowed in the defensive half of the court
while the ball was in the other half.
All three of these
suggestions clearly put the burden of stalling on the defensive team.
At the coaches’
meeting, after some discussion, it was decided to recommend a rule that
would force the offensive team to take the ball to the defensive team,
instead of getting them out of their close formation.
When this rule was
first demonstrated, I was present at the exhibition game and was asked
to make some comment on the rule. I told the men in charge that I
disagreed with them, but they still insisted, When I was called on to
speak, I said.
Note: we are missing a couple of pages here.