Since its inception, the game of basketball has always required that the basket rim height be set at 10 feet. In 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Canadian James Naismith invented a game called "basket ball" as part of a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) training school class assignment and drafted a brief set of rules of how the game was to be played. Naismith, who went on to receive a medical degree, set the basket rim height at 10 feet in the original 13 rules for the game, a standard still upheld by the National Basketball Association 125 years later.
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The Early Days of Basketball
The popularity of basketball eventually spurred the creation of over 100 rules and a host of changes to the courts, number of players and the size and style of both baskets and balls in the following century. Rim height, however, is one rule that has gone completely untouched for the whole history of the game. When Naismith hung the original peach baskets on the first basketball court near the running track at Springfield Teachers' College, the railing happened to be 10 feet in height. The 10-foot standard was coincidental but became an integral part of the game.
Basketball Player Height Prompts Calls to Raise the Rim
When basketball players' average height hit 6 feet 7 inches, those in favor of raising the rim height seemed to have stronger support than ever. Height became such an advantage in basketball that the tallest men in the world were drafted onto teams with surprising regularity. According to Pablo S. Torre from Sports Illustrated, a 7-foot male has a staggering 17 percent chance of playing in the NBA solely based on his height. The increasing average player height left shorter players at a disadvantage, relying more on fundamentals and skill to compete with the tallest players in the game.
Basketball Rim Height and Dunking
The 2008 NBA all-star slam dunk competition became a battlefield for the rim-height debate when 6-foot-11 player Dwight Howard challenged NBA officials to consider raising the rim to 12 feet for his dunk, as an attempt to address contentions by shorter players that his height accounted for his dunking ability. Players such as Rudy Gay and Gerald Green agreed to meet Howard’s challenge, with Green even recommending the rim height be raised higher, to 13 feet. Ultimately, the rim was left at 10 feet, with NBA officials insisting that NBA standards remain level across the sport – dunk contest or not. Howard went on to win the contest, but officials consented to raise the rim for the 2009 all-star slam dunk competition, during which Howard successfully completed a 12-foot two-handed dunk.
The Future of Basketball Dunking
Over the years, some of basketball's most legendary coaches and players have come out as proponents of a rim-height increase. NCAA coaches Phog Allen, John Wooden and Dean Smith were vocal proponents of an 11-foot rim height. Southern Methodist University basketball coach Larry Brown told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he would consider a rim height of 11 feet: "Alley-oops and dunks are exciting; I love that part of the game. So I don’t take [the idea of raising rim height] lightly. There’s a skill to doing that stuff, but that’s something to think about.”