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Basketball is a highly regulated, multibillion-dollar industry and a sport played around the world, but when Dr. James Naismith invented the game in 1892 he penned just 13 rules for the amatuer participants to follow. Now the official international rules have 50 articles and take up 36 pages. As the game has evolved, some odd, weird and funny rules have come into the game at all levels.
5 Fashion Fouls
Violations of fashion aren’t just declared by the haute couture crowd: they can also be called by the refs in a basketball game. The National Federation of High Schools has a rule that states the stripe on the side “must be a solid color and that side stripes must center vertically below the armpit and be no more than four inches wide.” Unfortunately North Lawndale College Prep’s uniforms had arcing strips under the armpits. Oops. In the state tournament refs called a pre-game technical foul and their opponents, the Centennial Chargers, made the free throw and got the ball to start the game ahead. The Chargers went on to win the game—by one point.
4 Dunking During Warm-Ups
In many high school basketball leagues, it’s illegal to dunk the ball prior to the game. You are welcome to dunk with vigor and verve during the game—and probably after the game if it suits you—but before the game no dunks allowed. It can cost the team a technical foul and award the opponents a free throw if you dare to break this rule. Worse than that, in Montana, the rule is that if you break the glass of the backboard prior to the game, your team forfeits the game.
3 Air Dribble
It’s illegal to advance the ball without passing or dribbling it. No, that’s not the rule you’ve never heard of: wait for it. You can dribble by bouncing the ball off the ground—still not the weird part. You can also dribble by batting the ball up into the air. It’s called an air dribble. The ball has to bounce on the ground again before the player can touch it to continue the dribble. Since there’s no real advantage to the air dribble, it’s rarely seen, but if you ever witness it, you can be sure that it’s legal.
2 No Own-Goal in the NBA
In November 2009 just as the clock was ticking down, New York Knicks player Nate Robinson got the ball. With no time to spare he turned and fired a shot at the basket. It went in with a swish. Two things were wrong, though: he shot at the wrong basket, and he didn’t get the shot off before the buzzer sounded. Even if he had gotten the shot off in time, though, it wouldn’t have counted for any points. In the NBA, it’s not possible to score on your own goal. It’s simply considered a turnover and given to the opposing team. Robinson was probably relieved to learn that — after his coach stopped yelling at him.
1 Naismith’s Fouls
According to the original rules of the game, there were no free throws. Instead if one team committed three fouls before the other team committed a foul, a point was awarded to the team that didn’t do anything wrong. You could be charged a foul for punching the ball; for pushing, shoving or tripping a player; or for delaying the game by taking too long to inbound the ball. If one player received two fouls for pushing, shoving or tripping another player, he would be removed from the game until the next basket, allowing for power plays.