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Archive for Sunday, April 10, 1994

MAYER COLUMN

April 10, 1994

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Basketball coaching legend John Wooden suggested it during a recent television interview, and doggone if making the dunk shot a one-point maneuver might be worth a try.

The dunk was outlawed in college ball for a short while about 25 years ago but was brought back because of its popularity with the fans. Lofty Lew Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, didn't get a chance to show how he could slam and jam in the late 1960s.

But the fans didn't like the rule, and the players wanted it gone, too, so the dunk was restored for the collegians and high schoolers. It's become a whole science unto itself. So much so that it often seems too dominant in a game.

Wooden, the UCLA wizard with 10 NCAA titles on his dossier, bemoans the deterioration of team play in favor of individualism that often features all sorts of dipsy-do's in the dunk department. John thinks the more traditional shots, such as the layup and the set or jumper inside the three-point line should produce the usual two points but that the slam should produce only one. Not a bad idea. You could still show off, but at a cut rate.

Yet considering how spectators love the dunk and the fact it's become such a part of most kids' weaponry, it's not likely Wooden will get his way. Especially because the professionals aren't likely to accede. But a 1-2-3 range for field goals would be interesting for a trial period.

And the colleges might well consider moving their three-point arc from the current 19 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 20-6. (The pros are even deeper.)

  • Perhaps the most celebrated non-dunk in modern Kansas times occurred in Madison Square Garden on the night of April 1, 1952. Kansas, the NCAA champion, was playing the Peoria Caterpillar-Diesels, the National AAU kingpin, in the Olympic playoffs. The score was 60-all with the clock running down.

KU's Clyde Lovellette, he of the deceptively quick hands, stole the ball from a Cat and set sail for what seemed sure to be a game-winning crippie. Clyde was no Carl Lewis-like jet, but he could move pretty quickly once he got a head of steam. Lovellette's surprise steal had allowed him to get a good enough lead that he would be uncontested upon reaching the enemy hoop.

Only thing is, Clyde got careless on his layup (no dunking at the time). The ball went awry, Peoria got the bounce and with the clock dying, Howie Williams poked in a jump shot to give the Cats a 62-60 victory. It was a bragging rights contest, of course, for KU already was assured of seven spots on the U.S. Olympic team. Coach Phog Allen had wisely negotiated that earlier.

Of his dunking ability, Clyde says: "As high as I could reach was about as high as I could jump. Kids ask me what kind of a dunker I was and I'm relieved to tell them it was illegal in my day. I'd have been lousy at it."

I always thought the dunk was allowable back in those days; it was just that nobody did it. But no less an authority than Wayne Louderback, the 1952 KU student manager and a whale of a cage historian, says you couldn't. Whatever, Clyde says he wouldn't have dunked anyway because he felt more comfortable with a layup.

"Just got prosperous and careless," he says.

  • Yet I'm trying to figure when the no-dunk rule was abolished. Oklahoma A & M's 7-0 Bob Kurland who led the Cowboys to the 1945 and 1946 NCAA titles made a living out of batting away enemy shots, whether they were going up or coming down. So the defensive goal-tending rule was instituted.

In 1955, Bill Russell led San Francisco to its first of two college crowns, and his revolutionary "funneling" technique for teammates' errant shots led to offensive goal-tending rules. OK, when between 1952 and 1955 when Russell became the most famous Dr. Dunkenstein did the rule change?

I still think Clyde could have dunked that ball in 1952 if he'd chosen to.

  • As for what can be done about so many easy baskets in today's game, there's always Phog Allen's notion to raise the hoops to 12 feet to open up things more for little people and lessen the chance of so many dunks (I'd guess somebody like Michael Jordan or Julius Erving could stuff at least few at 12 feet).

Phog got that notion in the 1930s and had 12-foot goals in old Robinson Gym for practice games to prove his points. But you're talking major changes. Even if the college and high schools went that route, the pros would never change unless they could see big money in the move. And U.S. international competition would be devastated.

  • As for determination of whether a close-in shot was a one- or two-point effort, that could be worked out same as the three-point decisions have been done. And lessening the impact of the dunk might restore some of the purity and finesse to the game.

Frankly, I'd much rather see a game decided by a genuine shot, like Charlotte Smith of North Carolina or Scotty Thurman of Arkansas, than by a cheapo slam.

That is, unless some Kansas guy assured another national title as a slammer and the title game opponent was the slammee. Funny, isn't it, how personal interest sways your logic?

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