The Five Worst Rules the NBA Needs to Fix

Rules are the backbone of any organized sport. For a game to function correctly, players, coaches, fans, and all other attendees have to follow the rules laid out for them ahead of time. What do these people do, then, when the rules don't make any sense?

Quite a few of the NBA rules for players should change, both on and off the court. Some rules seem impossible to uphold, precisely because they're either immeasurable or untrackable. Besides, an influx of complicated regulations won't make for great entertainment. An average of 17,000 people attended each NBA game in seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic. Bogging a game down with rules that seem inconsequential doesn't please anyone.

Basketball may have several rules, from the NBA down to the local level, but some are unnecessary. While plenty of rules make sense, such as not punching the ball in case of hitting spectating fans, others have no reason to be considered rules. Some could be changed for the better, while others have no real reason to exist.

1. Banning Timberlands

Having an on-court dress code makes sense, as that's the way fans tell teams apart from afar, but banning a particular type of shoes while players are on NBA business seems a bit excessive. Shoes are shoes — and while shoes are essential, they shouldn't make or break how the public sees a player while they're off the court.

Obviously, wearing Timberlands while off the court has nothing to do with a player's performance on the court. That's why this rule couldn't be ignored as one of the rules that the NBA should amend or eliminate.

2. Hanging From the Rim

A player receives a technical foul if they hang from the rim after a dunk. Aside from breaking the goal, which shouldn't be a huge worry, the game has nothing to lose from a player dangling from the rim. They work hard to get where they are, training vigorously with weights to improve their performance. It should be okay for them to show off for two seconds after they've attempted a dunk.

3. Limits on Timeouts

Timeouts shouldn't be limitless, of course, because that mandate could be easily abused. However, teams should have more timeouts. Taking a timeout when none remain for a particular team results in a technical foul, which can make or break the game.

Additionally, stress can lead players and coaches to choose options that are higher risk, so there might be more likelihood of them losing a game or even injuring some players. In a game that's supposed to be fun, first and foremost, you shouldn't see players going through additional stress.

4. The Draft System

Usually, in other sports, a weaker team without many wins gets support and an early draft pick to improve their odds of winning in the upcoming season. In basketball, there is no guarantee, putting the weaker teams at an even more significant disadvantage.

Similarly, the NBA draft system targets players at too young of an age. Football players are drafted after completing three years of college, but NBA players are recruited as young as 19, just after their freshman year.

With the requirement of being 19 or older, they still have five years before their brains are mature, and chances are, they didn't have the opportunity to learn much about life in their one year of college studies. They still have plenty of time to play basketball after gaining a couple more years of life experience.

5. Emotional Fouls

Players can't be too happy and celebrate too excessively, but they can't be upset if something wasn't ruled in their favor. People don't come to watch emotionless robots play basketball. They come to see their favorite players, in all their glory and dismay, compete for the win.

If a player or coach causes a scene, they should be removed from the court. Why does average happiness or sadness feel stifled? By showing too much emotion on either side of the spectrum, players can get a technical foul for bad behavior. Isn't emotion just human nature?

Moreover, as each person expresses their emotions differently, how do you regulate how much emotion is okay for a player to display on the court? If this rule could be cleared up, it would eliminate confusion and feel less unfair to players who react naturally to good and bad circumstances.

Changing These NBA Rules Could Change the Game

While some rules are entirely unnecessary today, others could easily be amended or reworked for greater understanding. If you weren't aware of these rules before, you should be able to see how some of them can be unfair to players who deserve to be normal human beings as much as you, a fan, do. Imagine how different basketball could be without some of these rules or with just a few changes.

Comments and Conversation

September 2, 2021


No fan has ever wanted more timeouts. They would extend the game, and the fact that players must make split-second decisions is part of what makes basketball great. There are already plenty of natural stoppages during which substitutions can occur.

Likewise, raising the draft age doesn’t make sense (and could even be illegal under antitrust law). You’re correct that a 19-year-old isn’t emotionally mature, but does that really matter? Players like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Zion Williamson were among the best players in the league almost immediately after being drafted. What is the benefit of requiring them to work for free for a few more years, rather than earning hundreds of millions of dollars doing essentially the same thing?

December 6, 2021

Anthony Brancato:

When I was a growing up, a backcourt foul meant two free throws (three to make two if the fouling team was in the penalty), but a foul in the front court other than a foul in the act of shooting carried only one free throw (unless the fouling team was in the penalty, in which case it was a two-shot foul), and was hence termed a “give-up foul.”

This often made defenses wait until the man advancing the ball had crossed the mid-court stripe before fouling him, if that was the defense’s intention all along.

Why they changed this, I will never know.

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