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Liz Cambage (AUS)
Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
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Drawing the line at small balls

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) - Small balls? Absolutely. It was a change to the women's game which took years to implement.

The logic was relatively sound on reflection and it has done a job, but then hindsight is a wonderful thing.

As the women's basketball world tries to think outside of the box to improve its standing commercially, the spectre of lowering rims seems to be threatening to raise its ugly head again.

I am therefore pleading with everyone to think carefully before pressing the red button and choosing the nuclear option - something which may result in a total wipe-out.

As I wrote in my previous column, women's basketball needs to get itself on an upward curve, but through evolution, smart technology and decisions to incrementally improve. Certainly not via forced revolution and ripping the heart out of the women's game and ignoring the spirit which makes it so special.

People calling for rims to be lowered are potentially playing a dangerous game.

The main thrust of lowering the rims for the women's game seems to be based around a cheap shortcut to the 'holy grail' of women being able to dunk - to basically replicate the men's game and yet somehow revolutionise the women's game.


All you are doing is making what is likely to be a pale imitation and moving the problem. 

Women's haters will simply shift from the current "women can't dunk" to a derogatory "you dunk like a woman". Irrespective of whether some women players turn into entertaining and regular dunkers or not.

Besides, lowering the rims wouldn't address my main criticism of 2014 at all levels (youth up to senior), which was poor passing angles.

Additionally, players like Brittney Griner and Elizabeth Cambage are now starting to dunk and the women's game is becoming more and more athletic anyway as the game evolves and the impact of 3x3 is felt.

There is however one uber-special reason for not lowering rims. Quite simply, it will risk killing women's basketball and stopping it in its tracks for good at grass roots level.

At the moment, there are tens of thousands, if not millions of static hoops all over the world - from leisure centres to parks and in all kinds of wonderful and unusual locations as photographs have beautifully evidenced over the years.

Most rims can't be lowered and then moved back. Indeed in some countries, even getting court markings altered is difficult challenge due to limited resources.

Change the height of the rims and millions of girls around the world will be forced into either not playing at all, or practicing on men's height rims. That would be a travesty.

What worries me most is that there is a weight of opinion around this from people who, unless I am mistaken, actually prefer men's basketball.

It would be like me - who prefers the women's game - asking if they can lower the rims so diminutive male point guards can throw down a few windmill jams.

Exactly. Ludicrous.

I do get some of the thought process though. Children play mini-basketball for example and often have lower rims and people will use this to throw back at me and somehow try to link it to the height of women's rims.

However, the rationale is misplaced at best.

The ultimate good practice in most decision-making across any business is the concept of risk and reward. This looks no different to me.

Altering the height of the rims poses huge risks and especially at grass roots level and in huge swathes of the world (without the investment of European nations) it would choke off participation.

And why would we do this? For a few mix tapes on YouTube and highlight promo reels of women dunking?

By all means, tinker with the rules if you have to. Even change times of shot-clocks and quarters. Continue to talk about uniforms if you really, really must.

But surely the height of those rims simply has to remain sacred. 

Paul Nilsen


FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

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Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.