Many moons ago, almost anybody could try out for a high school team, and if you could shoot decently, dribble with both hands, throw a chest-high pass and stay out of the coffin corner when you took the ball down court you had a decent chance to make the team. Better-than-average height was a plus, but not a pre-requisite. There were plenty of well-under-6-foot guards and even a few smaller forwards earning their varsity letters. Centers could stick their long arms up, but a 5’7” speedster could often jump quicker (and higher), not to mention zip around the big boys for a quick lay-up.
Only the really big schools had guys who were over 6-foot-6. At smaller schools, even the sub-6-footers could find a home on the hard court.
Now most college programs boast nothing but redwoods on a roster. If you’re not at least 6’4”, you might as well head to the baseball diamond or tennis court. Six-footers look like Little People on the court.
With height comes the advantage of being able to effortlessly get up close and personal with the basket. If you reach 6’6” in stocking feet and your sleeve length is 35” or 36”, just standing on the floor and extending your arm over your head gets you to within half a foot of the rim. Add a pair of Air Jordans to those size 15 feet and putting a ball through the hoop isn’t a strenuous task.
That advantage is the biggest reason for NEW RULE #1: All baskets shot within three feet of the hoop will be worth one point. Dunks too. Going up above the rim, turning loose of the ball and letting gravity do the rest of your work is a shot that should never be missed. Given its ease of operation, one point should suffice.
Two points will still be awarded for any shot taken between the three-foot circle underneath the basket and the three-point line. Those are much more skillful shots, and should be compensated accordingly. Ditto with the current three-point shots.
With that argument in mind comes NEW RULE #2: Any ball launched from beyond half-court that goes through the basket is worth four points. Granted, there may be more luck than skill involved in this type of shot ... at least at the beginning. But the three-pointer has become a specialty shot. Why not the four-pointer as well?
Those new rules might let smaller humans back into the fray. Frankly, until you get to the pros, there aren’t many big guys who can shoot a decent jump shot from the top of the key. They tend to get used to shooting down on a basket rather than contemplating the necessary angle of upward mobility required to enjoy the “swish” sound at the end of a ball’s journey.
These different scoring methods would definitely change the complexion of the game. But to really achieve a more even playing field, I suggest NEW RULE #3: The height of the basket should be 12 feet instead of 10. I believe this idea has been bandied about before by others. Two more vertical feet would force the jump shot issue right away.
As you’re watching March Madness unfold for the next couple of weeks, see how many points are scored within that three-foot range under the basket. For fun, keep score as if these shots only count as one instead of two. (It’ll give you something to do once your bracket is busted.)
Bill Lewis is a freelancer in Marietta.