It’s Official: First hoops rules sure were quirky
Published 12:00 am Monday, March 1, 2004
I’ve never been a real enthusiastic basketball fan, but there has been so much hype about Saturday’s Hoops at the Hump shootout between Mississippi State at Ole Miss that I found myself eagerly preparing to watch the game.
The contrast between ancient and modern rules of the game will add to my interest.
When Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball he listed 13 rules. They were:
Email newsletter signup
4The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
4The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (but never with the fist).
4A player cannot run with the ball. He must throw it from the spot on which he catches it &045; allowance to be made for a man who catches it when running at a good speed.
4The ball must be held in between the hands. The arms or the body must not be used for holding it.
4No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed. The first infringement of this rule shall cost a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made. If there was evident intent to injure the person for the whole of the game, no substitute shall be allowed.
4A foul is striking the ball with the fist, violation of rules 3 and 4 and such as described in rule 5.
4If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall cost a goal for the opponents.
4A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the ground into the basket and stays there. (Remember the original goals were actually baskets with bottoms.)
4When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field and played by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on them.
4The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee of three consecutive fouls. He shall have the power to disqualify men according to rule 5.
4The referee shall be the judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and shall keep account of the goals, with any other duties usually performed by a referee.
4The time shall be two 15-minute halves with five minutes rest in between.
4The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner. In case of a draw, the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.
I can’t find when the dribble was first allowed, but in 1909 the dribbler was allowed to shoot the ball and the double-dribble was declared illegal.
The bottom of the basket was not removed until 1914.
Next time you watch a basketball game, try to visualize it played under those rules.
And that’s official.
Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached at