No one under the age of 30 would believe this, but there was a time when college basketball players weren’t allowed to dunk.
Imagine March Madness without it now. Great players would still deliver great performances but something would be missing, like a carbonated beverage gone flat.
It was the 1966-67 season when the NCAA banned the slam during all college games, citing safety considerations. Everybody kind of figured it had more to do with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, thoroughly dominating the game at 7-feet-2. That’s what he figured, anyway, and was not happy about it.
There might have been something else going on, too. In an era before breakaway rims, it wasn’t uncommon for rims to get bent and for games to be delayed because of it. There was the occasional shattered backboard, too. What a mess, and what a cost in cleaning it all up and getting back to normal.
For seven years the dunk ban stood. That made it tougher on big men everywhere but it didn’t slow Kareem down all that much. He went from averaging 29 points per game and a .667 shooting percentage in his final season with the dunk to 26.2 and .613 in his first season without out. UCLA won national championships both of those years, too, and seemingly every year.
If anything, it might have made Kareem work on his post moves more, the sky hook included, and that probably was a good thing in the end.
UCLA’s Bill Walton also thrived during the dunk ban. In fact, it would have been difficult for him to be any more productive if allowed to dunk. In the 1973 NCAA championship game against Memphis, for instance, Walton scored 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting.
Either way, according to an NCAA news archive I came across, the number of field goals steadily increased during the years of the dunk ban. Scorers are always going to find a way to score outrageous numbers of points. The only way to stop them entirely is to nail a lid on the basket. Raising the rim to 12 feet, a topic discussed during Wilt Chamberlain’s day, might frustrate them but it wouldn’t stop them.
As far as what was lost during that dunk-free era, David Thompson, the amazing 6-foot-4 skywalker from North Carolina State, never got to posterize anybody until his NBA days. Sure did make up for lost time, though.
Would college big men be more well-rounded in their offensive games and better prepared for the pros if they weren’t allowed to simply overpower lesser defenders and stuff the ball home?
I figure it’s more of a personal thing. Guys who have the discipline and desire to develop their skills will put in the time to do it. Those who don’t will wind up like players who don’t bother working on their free throws.
They’ll be more or less like Dwight Howard, a physical force of nature right out of high school and a sensational shotblocker and defender but never an NBA champion.