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The NBA has become a dunkfest and it’s time to raise the rims

KevDurant OklahomCity Thunder makes dunking look too easy — for him it has been.  | AP

Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder makes dunking look too easy — and for him, it has been. | AP

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Updated: September 29, 2011 12:28AM



It’s time to raise the basketball rims.

Ten feet, 6 inches would be a reasonable height, a half foot above the current rim, although I’d let you make an argument for 10-4 or even 10-8.

Why?

Because the current 10-foot rim, which has been at that arbitrary height ever since James Naismith nailed a peach basket to the lower railing of the balcony at Springfield (Mass.) College in 1891 has ‘‘grown’’ too low.

Well, the rim hasn’t moved, but the forest around it has. And that forest has become more specialized than ever. That is, the rim’s accessibility to all the freakishly tall men and jumping phenoms has made it into something not even close to what Naismith had in mind.

We don’t need to honor that inventive man by adhering to all his wishes — ol’ Doc didn’t think about backboards, goaltending or even dribbling at the start — but we should acknowledge one key principle of his game: The rim was supposed to be something that was essentially out of reach, at which players shot the ball, not jammed it through from above.

Oh, we love the dunk. Who doesn’t? Nor is this an argument against facials.

Indeed, a 10-6 rim would no more stop jams than lowering the pitcher’s mound in baseball stopped no-hitters. It would just make such displays a little more, shall we say . . . special?

The very picture of a problem

For evidence of game evolution, check out the action photo of Kevin Durant in last week’s Sports Illustrated. The Thunder forward’s head is about at rim level, he is perhaps three feet from the basket, he is being fouled by an opponent who is way below him, his right arm is fully extended, and his right hand is about to cram the ball through the rim from at least 18 inches above it. This could have been a profound dunk on an 11-foot basket.

There are now street-ball games where the guys have raised the rims to as high as 12 feet, just to make dunking more interesting.

But even if every player on the floor during NBA games can dunk with ease, which is often the case (except when J.J. Barrea is out there), there is still such clutter above the rim that close-in shots become almost impossible.

There was a failed movement back in the late 1960s to raise the rim, largely because basketball seers could not fathom the future of the game with giants such as Lew Alcindor coming along. In fact, there have been sporadic movements to raise the rim since early in the 20th century.

‘‘In the early 1930s,’’ the legendary Kansas coach Phog Allen said years ago, ‘‘I foresaw that the influx into the game of more and more big men would ultimately make a travesty of basketball. Actually, I had a 7-footer in 1927. I was convinced that eventually 12-foot baskets would be necessary.’’

Twelve feet is too much. But in periodic exhibition games played with 12-foot baskets, smaller men have shot almost as well as they did on 10-foot baskets, and big guys couldn’t block everything that came their way.

Said former University of Tennessee center and longtime Bulls center Tom Boerwinkle after playing a preseason college game in 1967 on 12-foot baskets: ‘‘Usually I block six or eight shots a game, but I didn’t have a chance tonight because of the higher arc.’’

Rose goes . . . where?

I started to think seriously about rim-raising after 6-3 Bulls guard Derrick Rose repeatedly was unable to shoot close to the basket against the Miami Heat because there simply was not enough glass above the rim to angle in a shot above supreme athletes such as Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

It came to a head when I saw the Dallas Mavericks’ 6-2 Jason Terry dunk on the massive, 6-8 James in the first game of the NBA Finals. The ball went through, but Terry was nearly killed by the arrogant collision with James. The point was clear: You do not score from inside on a rim above which I can raise my eyebrows.

When 5-9 Nate Robinson can make monstrous slams, and 6-10 Blake Griffin can jump over automobiles and lions, raising the rim to 10-6 would help all. I fear the power-leaping Griffin might someday destroy himself by hitting his head on the backboard, which hangs down far below the rim.

If the height is not changed, some incredible athlete is going to be able to block 15-foot jumpers, before their descent, from five feet away.

All sports tinker with their rules and dimensions. Heck, football once didn’t have the forward pass.

Basketball already has solved some of its issues by getting rid of the center jump after baskets, adding the 24-second clock and bringing in the three-point shot.

Raising the rim will help stop the football-like wrestling underneath and the clubbing that goes on when men drive. It will bring back more skilled shooting.

Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke, you say?

I say better to adjust it before it blows up.

And if you want to talk about a four-point shot, I’m ready.



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