Time For NBA To Legalize Goaltending

Sports Illustrated

The NBA has a problem. No, it’s not that the Earth might be flat. It’s much worse than that. The association is getting boring. And, the three-point shot is to blame. The NBA is turning into a one-dimensional league, geared to long-distance shooters and finesse players who make a living from pulling up 35-feet away from the basket for a shot. Meanwhile, the NBA’s big men, once the most prominent and important member of any basketball squad, are reduced to cleaning up after errant shots or handing the ball over to another guard if it goes in.

The three-pointer was introduced to the NBA in 1979 and was seen by many as a gimmick that wouldn’t last. Since then, it has graduated from gimmick to a league-wide addiction. I’m not saying I know anyone like this, but it’s like if someone put jerk sauce on their beef nachos as a gimmick and then starting pouring jerk sauce on EVERYTHING. A play that at one time helped the league become more exciting has now been saturated by it, limiting the role of the frontcourt and all but driving low post scoring to extinction.

Luckily for the NBA, I have a proposal on how to fix the problem without getting rid of the three ball or with tinkering with the three-point arc. One simple rule modification that could change the league and make the game more inclusive again.

Goaltending. Make it legal.

Here’s how it would go:

Anything shot from beyond the three-point arc can be blocked at any time so long as the ball is in the air. Once the ball hits the rim, you can’t touch it until it is outside or below the rim. Basically, the old goaltending rules apply once the ball hits the iron.

Anything shot from inside the arc, the goaltending rule as we know it still stands. You can’t goaltend 2-point jumpers, hook-shots, lay-ins or floaters.

To be clear. This:


Is now equal to this:


The three-point shot has become so routine it now borders on the mundane. Player A launches a long range shot while Players B through J stand around to see if it goes in or not. Changing the goaltending rules would add some extra dimension and suspense every time a three is hoisted. Will it go in? Will it get blocked?

Plays like this would no longer be controversial. This would now be totally legal in every way.

Tweaking the goaltending rule would help usher in a new era of the fan favorite mid-range jumper and bring back the low post warriors last witnessed in a bygone era of the NBA. The John Stocktons and Karl Malones of basketball can finally leave their Lost World Island and join the NBA again.

If there is one thing the 2017 NBA All-Star game taught us is that scoring a ton of points is boring. Nobody wants to see two teams score a total of 220 points every night anyway, right? Or, 500 points during an All-Star game. So, let’s kick it down a notch. Let’s bring back offensive strategies that are more complicated than “Give the ball to (best shooter on team), set a screen, and have him shoot.” Give me fadeaways, floaters, hook shots and finger rolls any day of the week over a 25-foot bomb. These at least require a set of skills that even the most random fan who shoots a ball from half court to win a new car doesn’t possess.

I realize this would hamper the cravings of many Blazers fans who love a free McDonald’s breakfast sandwich when the team scores 100 points, so some alterations will have to be made to correct this. Might I suggest a free breakfast sandwich for reaching 75 points? Or, a free breakfast sandwich when Allen Crabbe scores more than 10 points.

This rule change would also make the art of boxing out more critical, for both offense and defense. On three-point attempts, not only are players in paint trying to position for a rebound, but the offense must keep the defense from potentially blocking a three. Can you imagine the battles we would see below the basket? The matchups, positioning and combats under the hoop would make Marcus Aurelius blush.

This could be a solution to the NBA’s parity problem as well. All the sudden, the Golden State Warriors are not a sure-bet to win the West, anymore. In fact, they could potentially have trouble getting out of the first round.

Fun scenario to think about since the Demarcus Cousins trade: If the New Orleans Pelicans make the 8th seed of the playoffs, how much more intriguing is their potential matchup with the Warriors under this new goaltending rule? The Warriors’ greatest weapon, the three ball, is now in constant danger with two of the league’s premiere centers lurking near the basket. I’m not saying Golden State wouldn’t still win the series, but the matchup instantly becomes more fascinating.

Guards also get all the juicy categories, like the triple-double. Now, forwards and centers will have an equal opportunity to stack the numbers. Just playing the Warriors alone, any center in the NBA could wind up with a triple-double with blocks accounting for one-third of the equation. I’ll see your Russell Westbrook triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and raise you an Anthony Davis triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 20 blocks.

It’s time the NBA starts playing fair again and realizes that the forward and center positions matter. The guards in this league have had it too good for far too long, while the workhorses get nothing in return.

Let’s make basketball great again. Legalize goaltending.

About John Stupak 44 Articles
John Stupak is a senior writer for Oregon Sports News since 2014. John has followed Oregon sports for nearly 30 years. He is a life-long Portland Trail Blazers fan and has had the privilege of covering the Portland Thorns of the NWSL. Along with everything sports, he is fan of movies and of quality television (sorry CBS) in his spare time. John has a beautiful wife, Amanda, along with one soccer-loving, intelligent, and artistic daughter. John is an electrical tech designer by day and a writer by nights and weekends. You can follow John and all his musings on Twitter (@Stupak77).

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