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Basketball Players Who Caused Rule Changes

by Ron Kurtus (revised 5 July 2015)

Several basketball players had such a physical advantage and were so dominant in their play that they caused the rules of the game to be changed. These players were Leroy Edwards, Bob Kurland, George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

The rules changed concern the three-second rule, goal tending, width of the free throw lane, dunking free throws, dunking in general.

The rule changes were supposed to reduce their dominance, but in some cases they actually made these players better in their play. It shows that being forced to learn new skills can lead to better performance.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Leroy Edwards: Three-second rule

The three-second rule states that a player cannot remain in the opponents' restricted area around the backboard for more than three consecutive seconds while his team had the ball and the game clock is running. This rule was implemented in 1936 to prevent big players from controlling area and to prevent rough playing under the board.

Leroy Edwards is generally recognized as the player responsible for the implementation of the rule. He was was a 6 ft 5 in center in the early days of professional basketball. Edwards was a prolific scorer in the days of low-scoring games. He was also a very physical player. After starring in college, he joined the professional Oshkosh (WI) All-Stars in the National Basketball League in 1936.

The three-second rule did not prevent Edwards from dominating the game throughout his career. He played professional ball from 1936-1949 and is considered one of the all-time best basketball players.

Mikan and Kurland: Defensive goal tending

Defensive goal tending is catching an opponent's shot on its downward path to the basket. George Mikan and Bob Kurland caused the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to ban the activity in 1945.

George Mikan

George Mikan was the first National Basket Association (NBA) "big-man" that at 6-10 had the coordination and skill to dominate the game during his time. He developed a deadly hook-shot with either hand while in college.

But also while playing in college at De Paul University, his ability to catch an opponent's ball on its downward path to the basket caused the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to ban goal tending in 1945.

The rule changes resulted in Mikan using his hook more, making him a better all-around player. Mikan played pro ball from 1946-1956 and is considered one of the all-time best basketball players.

Bob Kurland

Bob Kurland was a 7 feet tall basketball center, who played for the two-time NCAA champion Oklahoma A&M Aggies basketball team.

Kurland was known to leap above the rim to grab opponents' shots. This led the NCAA to ban defensive goal tending in 1945. He was also the first person to regularly dunk during games.

George Mikan: Free throw lanes widened

In the NBA, George Mikan controlled the area around the basket to such a degree that in 1951, the league widened the free throw lane to give other players a chance.

Later, in 1964, the NBA widened the lane even more, because of the dominance of Wilt Chamberlain.

Wilt Chamberlain: Free throw plane

When Wilt Chamberlain was in high school, he had a unique way of shooting free-throws. He would stand at the top of the key, throw the ball up toward the basket, take two steps, jump toward the rim and jam the ball through the net. Doing this resulted in basketball rules to state that a player cannot cross the plane of the free-throw line when shooting a free-throw.

In 1956, during his freshman year in college, the NCAA banned dunking free throws, as a result of rumors that Chamberlain had been doing that in high school. Later, the NBA also banned dunking free throws.

Although Chamberlain had problems shooting free-throws throughout his career, the rule did not really improve his already dominant game.

Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar): Dunking

When Lew Alcindor started playing basketball in college for UCLA, the NCAA officials felt that he was too dominant a player—one who could dunk the ball at will. They felt he would be unstoppable, so they changed the rules to forbid dunking in college games. This was called the "Alcindor Rule."

The Alcindor rule held from 1967 to 1975, when it was rescinded, and players were allowed to dunk again.

As a result of the rule, Alcindor developed a good hook shot, which he used effectively during his playing days in college and the NBA. He played professional basketball from 1969-1989. He changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shortly after he started playing professional basketball.


These five great basketball players caused rules of the game to be changed in order to prevent a talented, tall player from dominating the game. In general, the rule changes actually helped to make the player more well-rounded. It shows that being forced to learn new skills can lead to better performance.

Overcome adversity

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Leroy Edwards - Wikipedia

George Mikan biography - Hoopball Hall of Famers

George Mikan bio -

Wilt Chamberlain biography - Hoopball Hall of Famers

Wilt Chamberlain bio -

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar biography - Hoopball Hall of Famers

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Wikipedia

Robert A. "Bob" Kurland - Hoopball Hall of Famers

Bob Kurland - Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Inductee

Sports Resources


(Notice: The School for Champions may earn commissions from book purchases)

Mr. Basketball: George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers, and the Birth of the NBA (2008) by Michael Schumacher

Wilt: Larger Than Life by Robert Cherry (2004)

On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2010)

Top-rated books on Basketball

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