NCAA's Dunk Ban Made Kareem Better

NCAA's Dunk Ban Made Kareem Better

In 1966, during his sophomore season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) averaged 29 points per game, with an absurd .667 FG% — largely because he was unstoppable around the rim. The following season, the NCAA rules committee declared that the slam dunk (one of Abdul-Jabbar's signature moves) would be banned from the game. Coincidence? Probably not.

This synchronicity aside, there were some practical concerns addressed by the ban. At the time, backboards and rims weren't built to sustain repeated slam dunks (or players hanging on the rim afterwards), so games had to be postponed or even canceled for repairs after teams put on dunking exhibitions in pregame warm-ups. There were also safety concerns, as backboards, which had not been built with dunking in mind, were being shattered, sending glass shards flying in all directions. Sounds like the good old days, right?

Despite all this, Abdul-Jabbar was the driving force behind the ban, even if his own coach – the legendary John Wooden — didn't believe so and supported the rule change. (He sided with the rules committee; claiming it would ultimately be good for his young player's overall game.)

He was onto something. According to renowned basketball scout Tom Konchalski, a fixture in the high school and college scenes for over 40 years, Kareem had three shots in his freshman season at UCLA: the dunk, the finger roll, and a fadeaway jumper from the right block. But because he was no longer able to just turn at the basket and slam it home, he became a more well-rounded player, honing his footwork away from the basket and eventually developing the shot that he would become famous for: the skyhook.


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