Monday, December 14, 2015

Quirky NBA Rules

Here's a bit of fun trivia... The NBA has an NBA Rules History web page that notes some of the rule changes over the history of the League. There are some odd ball rules that have come and gone throughout the ages.

Reducing Late Game Fouling
There were some... interesting rules passed in the 1950s in order to reduce late game fouling. Although I'm not sure what a team late in a game was supposed to do if they were trailing, the other team had the ball, and there was no shotclock.

In the 1950-51 season, a rule was introduced such that after a free throw was made in the last three minutes, rather than the other team getting the ball out of bounds there would be a jump ball between the player who got fouled and the person who committed the foul. So sending a guy to the line to stop the clock might mean two free throws and a loss of possession, if the jump ball didn't go your way.

Naturally, the response was to have a big man foul a little guy, then no problem on claiming the jump ball. This was countered in the 1952-53 season by a rule change that required that the jump ball be between the person who was fouled and the person and the player who was guarding him.

Next year (1953-54) they added another rule to stem late game fouls - a player is only permitted two fouls per quarter. Pick up a third foul and you had to head to the bench for the remainder of the quarter.

I can think of at least one current NBA player whose game would benefit if these rules were revived...

Fighting Rules
A few fighting-related rules were added in the 70s. Fines increased from $50 to $100 for coaches who were ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct and rules were added to address what happens if there are punching fouls on both teams during the same play. (The team that threw the last punch is penalized, as the other team is award possession.)

In 1976-77 a rule was added to disallow aggressive swinging of the elbows, even if there is no contact made. And at the end of the season a rule was put into place that any player who engages in a fight is fined $10,000 and suspended.

Weird Rules from the Late 70s
I'd love to know what prompted these rules to come about (especially the last one):
  • A $25 fine shall be assessed to any player hanging on the rim during pre-game warm-up.
  • Any field goal that, in the opinion of the officials is intentionally scored in the wrong basket shall be disallowed.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NBA MVPs by Decade

Earlier this week I posted how Centers have dominated the MVP race, with nearly half of the total MVP awards going to Centers.

The following chart shows the MVP winners by decade, color-coded by position. You can see that Centers won the MVP for 16 straight years, from the 64-65 season straight through to the 79-80 season. And if a Center had won instead of Oscar Robinson in the 63-64 season and another in the 80-81 season instead of Dr. J, Centers would have won the award for 24 years in a row!

But it's been 15 years since the last Center won the MVP (Shaq), and 24 out of the 27 Centers who were named MVP won the award prior to the 82-83 season.

Is it because the 60s and 70s were witness to a few transcendent players who happened to be Centers (Wilt, Russell and Kareem)? That was my initial thought, but even in those years where one of those three didn't win, the winner was still another Center: Unseld, Reed, Cowens, McAdoo, Walton, or Moses.

One could look at it the other way, that the reasons Centers didn't keep on winning after the early 80s is because of the introduction of truly transcendent players at other positions: Larry, Magic and MJ being the main three.

Then there is changes to the style of play. Today's game is obviously one that minimizes the impact of a traditional Center. But that doesn't explain the lack of Centers in the 2000s.

My guess is that it's a combination of the above. Arguably, each position should have an equal chance at winning the award. The reason for the dominance of Centers in the first half of the League's history is due in part to the style of play but also to the fact that 3 of the top 5 Centers of All Time were playing. In the 80s and 90s we see a return to the mean with Centers winning 25% of the MVPs. The 2000s and beyond, with more backcourt-friendly rules and an emphasis on slash and kick-style offenses with long range shooting has diminished the impact of Centers on both ends of the court.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Centers Have Dominated the MVP Race

There are five positions on the court, yet, as this pie chart shows, nearly half of the MVPs have been awarded to Centers.

While today's NBA encourages small ball and pace and space, most of the NBA's history was a time dominated by big men. Wilt and Russell. Kareem. Unseld and Walton.