Some time ago, my son Lachlan and I were watching a game of basketball—I believe it was the Golden State Warriors vs. the Miami Heat—and he asked me a question. 'Dad, how tall do you reckon NBA players will get before they decide to raise the hoop?' I pondered about this, and it has since formed the basis of countless conversations with basketball fans.
The average height of an NBA player today hovers around 6'7". However, the sport has also seen giants who have towered up to 7'7"—think Gheorghe Mureșan or Yao Ming. Arguably, the increasing height of players does affect the game, but how much will it take for the powers that be to increase the height of the hoop? Let's break that down in this blog post.
Ever since the inaugural 1946-47 season of the NBA, the height of the players has watched a steady incline. From players as tall as Elmore Smith at 7 feet to more recent additions like Tacko Fall at 7'6", one cannot dismiss the fact that players are getting taller. And while it's a far cry from saying everyone in the NBA is growing taller, there's no denying that the higher the players, the more advantages they usually have.
The more towering players can reach the rim easier, block shots with more proficiency, and have a better court vision due to their higher viewpoint. The vertical advantage is immense, so much so that the world is convinced there must a considerable correlation between a player's height and his performance on the court. If you think about it, wouldn't it make sense to raise the hoop to level the playing field again?
To ask whether it's possible to raise the hoop in the NBA is to ask if it's feasible to change the base dimensions of the pyramid of Giza—it is, but would we want to? Raising the hoop would be a colossal change in the sport, affecting strategies, play style, and players' fundamental skills. It would almost be like learning a new game. Certainly, Lachlan would have a thing or two to speak on this matter since it was his question that started this whole thought process.
From a more practical perspective, the idea of raising the hoop does have some merit. In a theoretically fair scenario, the hoop should be raised proportionately to the average height of the players. Does this mean that the hoop height should be dynamically changed every season based on the players' average height? Or should it be a fixed proportion of, say, 1.2 times the average player's height? The complexity of regulating a new hoop height is comprehensive and, frankly, quite daunting. Not to mention the logistical aspects, re-configuring the courts worldwide would no doubt be a significant initiative.
I felt compelled to seek the opinions of experts and seasoned basketball aficionados on this matter. Throughout the basketball community, many people believe that height is not the only attribute that contributes to a player's success. They mention aspects such as speed, agility, skill, and knowledge of the game, among others. After all, if height were the only factor, NBA players would all be towering over seven feet, out there on the court like a Goliath parade. It's the advantageous harmony of height, agility, skill, and basketball IQ that creates the stand-out players we all revere.
However, even though height is advantageous, basketball is still a multi-dimensional game where, most often, height just happens to be one of the dimensions. Take, for example, stalwarts like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant who've made a significant impact on the game, despite not topping the height charts.
If the hoop were to be raised, how much should it go up? 'A foot,' a friend once suggested, 'That way, the average player will obtain a little more satisfaction when he makes that dunk.' Then comes the question—should we raise the hoop proportionally for women's basketball as well? But that's a discussion for another blog post.
In the end, while all these musings are incredibly interesting, they are, at most, thought experiments. Until there's a dramatic shift in players' average height, the hoop is probably going to stay right where it is at 10 feet. But boy, would it be a sight to see our favorite players adapting if the hoop were ever raised. I guess my son Lachlan and I will have to wait and see.