We have grown up to cherish players of the past. MJ, Wilt, Bird, Magic Johnson, Kobe, Kareem, Shaq, etc., the list can go on indefinitely. Rules within the NBA have developed immensely over time and it wasn’t out of the blue or from thin air. Sometimes, all it takes is one incredible once-in-a-generation player to absurdly abuse a technique until the league had no other choice but to force a new rule implementation. Let’s get on with it.
Player No 1. Wilt Chamberlain
To no surprise, Wilt Chamberlain was consistently the most athletic player on the court at any time in the NBA, but absolutely nothing could be implemented to contain or limit his athleticism from taking over the scoreboard and stat sheets. Wilt’s teammates would routinely stand behind the NBA backboard during an ordinary inbound pass from the baseline intentionally for a big man. With his teammate waiting patiently to inbound the ball by standing directly behind the backboard, Chamberlain would simply get an intimidatingly fast running start from the top of the key while his teammate would inbound the ball OVER the backboard. 10/10 times Wilt would rise above the herd and throw it down for an easy flush over several smaller defenders. Teams simply couldn’t contain Chamberlain. Ultimately, there were so many complaints to the league’s front office and the commissioner that the NBA would ban inbound passes from over the backboard altogether.
Player No 2. Bruce Bowen
Bruce Bowen is relatively unknown in today’s basketball scene, yet it didn’t stop him from having a major impact on the NBA. Players absolutely hated competing against Bowen and it wasn’t for his incredible defense or stunning athletic display. He was known for putting his feet under players in the air while in the motion of their shot. Similar to the injury Kawhi Leonard sustained due to the actions of Zaza Pachulia several years ago in the NBA playoffs, Bowen would discretely try to injure the opponent player by slipping his foot under their initial takeoff spot. The NBA was in the loop of this when he was in the midst of his career and instituted an immediate rule change forcing every player to have a safe landing spot/space during their offensive possessions. Bowen would retire in 2009, but he’s made a lasting impact on future NBA endeavors.
Player No 3. Charles Barkley
As a basketball player, you always think it’s petty or useless when a referee stops the play because of someone standing in the paint for too long. But how did that become a rule? Make sure to send a thank you letter to both Charles Barkley and Mark Jackson. The pair were both relatively dominant 90s players who specialized in loitering around the paint for the entirety of the shot clock until they could get off the best shot imaginable. Because of the positive rate in which this worked and how persistent players were loitering in the paint for upwards of 20 seconds, the NBA instated a 5-second paint violation, ultimately eliminating a constant battle down low in the paint that stalled play.
Player No 4. Shaquille O’Neal
Easily one of the top 3 most physically dominant players to exist as we know it, Shaq was notorious for his style of bully-ball. Nobody could outmaneuver O’Neal in the paint man to man, let alone be a neutral body to his body-builder-like frame. Previously, the NBA had a ban in the 90s about the constant use of a zone defense, which would allow multiple players to swarm the possessor of the ball in the paint rather than a casual 1 on 1. Due to the dominance of Shaq and the rate at which he was performing 1 vs 1 against your parents old favorite player in the paint, the NBA front office would pass a rule allowing constant zone defense. Allowing opposing coaches to send as many defenders at O’Neal in the paint as he desired.