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Back to basketball

| Friday, November 5, 2021

With the start of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Season, fans celebrate being able to watch their favorite stars like Lebron James and Stephen Curry back in action. However, with recent rule changes made by the league ahead of the 2021-22 season, this year’s competition looks a little different.

The NBA has evolved tremendously throughout the years, and what used to be a heavy two-point shooting game and scoring in the paint has transformed into a league dominated by new talented young blood running the stat lines with their impressive three-point shooting and ability to draw fouls on mismatches. Players are always looking for point-scoring opportunities, which has led to more three-point attempts, layups, and free throws than ever before. Heck, you’ll find some big guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dwight Howard pulling up from beyond the arc every now and then. However, some players, like James Harden, the “poster boy” as Steve Nash references, for some of the new rules, and Trae Young have been called out for what some describe as “foul-hunting.” With the new rules that the league decided on, referees are slower to blow their whistles for offensive players looking to force a trip to the free-throw line by hurling their bodies into defenders with “overt, abrupt or abnormal basketball moves.” Instead, this season you’ll see officials ignoring or even calling offensive fouls on plays that would’ve traditionally been in favor of the offensive player looking to draw a foul by any means. 

What has this resulted in so far? Well, these new rules have slowed down some of the league’s top offensive threats and given defenders the freedom to make more stops without the fear of drawing a foul by taking a shooter’s bait. As with every new rule or change, you’re going to have those who approve and those who do not, but surprisingly these changes have almost been met with universal approval by players, coaches, broadcasters, and fans alike. Players like Draymond Green and Steph Curry (who has been a “foul-hunter” himself before) expressed in interviews how much more enjoyable the game has been, both in terms of viewing and in their participation, without all the flailing and flopping and players cheating the game.

I think most fans would have to agree as well. As a fan myself, it has been refreshing to see basketball being played the way it should be with dynamic offense and defense and without using outrageous tactics to get an advantage over the other. It makes the game better. Offensively, players can spend more time developing a consistent shot without devoting so much attention to creatively designing a way to be granted free throws without authentic contact. Defensively, players can play with more freedom and physicality, knowing that the refs will no longer blow the whistle for fouls orchestrated by offensive players overtly extending portions of their bodies into defenders or abruptly leaning into defenders at abnormal angles anymore. They will be given a chance to guard and do their job. As Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors Head Coach, puts it, “We’ll get away from players manipulating refs and back to basketball.” 

Back to basketball. While the game looks drastically different than it did back in the 1950s at the league’s beginning, it is still the same ball game at the end of the day. Players and coaches will always search for ways to score and win, but the league has and always will have a duty and responsibility to preserve the integrity and heart of the game for everyone, no matter who approves.

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