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The NBA Has Discussed Eliminating Free Throws


Nobody watches basketball for the free throws. Tedious, tiring and largely unathletic acts, they slow down every NBA game. This is an observation you’ve probably heard at a bar or on a couch before, but recently the notion of free throws as a total snoozefest has also been discussed by NBA brass.

A collection of “the league’s basketball operations folks and rule geeks,” as reported by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, has discussed the prospect of condensing every trip to the foul strike to just one shot. So: The fouled shooter would take one foul shot, worth two points. This rule, if instituted, would shave an estimated five minutes off of game time.

One might laugh this concept off as mere theory, unlikely to ever take form in reality. But new league commissioner Adam Silver — who took the helms from David Stern this past February — just may be progressive enough to pass a rule so seemingly experimental. His open, forward tenor is largely different from his predecessor’s, and his swift, judicious handling of Donald Sterling’s dismissal as Los Angeles Clippers owner shows he’s a man of action.

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Silver has previously said he’d also consider the idea of having one extra referee, off the floor, dedicated solely to video review. This is another measure that could speed up the game — which, truth be told, is not exactly slow as it is. But perhaps the NBA sees an opportunity to become America’s number one sport, as the NFL struggles with repeated PR disasters, and the league is taking any marginal step it can to entice fans ready to jump ship.

Less waiting, more dunking is a pretty good selling point. But a shot of speed to one of the world’s faster team sports should be appealing to fans regardless of whether it helps basketball’s TV ratings. There’s no need to fill space with a redundant, stale skill competition — that’s exactly the kind of boring rubbish we turn towards sports to escape. Let’s make basketball more exciting.

— John Wilmes