Rim-Hanging Technical Fouls


Quentin RichardsonHere is a rough screen capture off of ESPN Motion to illustrate a point I have tried to make for the past ten years or so.

Tonight in the New York vs. Milwaukee game, Quentin Richardson got called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim. Now, I always figured that rule existed to prevent players from hanging excessively on the rim in order to taunt or celebrate their move in excess. This particular pull on the rim was done solely for the safety of the player.

Short refs who could never dunk don’t understand the physics of dunking the ball. When you are moving full speed toward the hoop and dunk the ball with both hands, you have to hang on so you don’t run the risk of swinging up to the backboard and falling off right onto your head. The dunker’s natural survival instinct has them pull up on the rim. This is simple physics. If you shorten yourself by pulling up on the rim, it is easier to keep holding on and you have less weight swinging at a far distance from the rim.

What I’m getting at is that if Quentin didn’t pull up on the rim, he would have slipped off and probably broken his neck. In fact, if you saw the play, you’d have seen that he let go as soon as his momentum was slowed down to the point where it would be safe for him to come back down.

I specifically remember a similar play I had long ago in a city league basketball game. It was a fast break and I dunked with both hands at full speed. There is absolutely no other way to protect yourself on this dunk other than pulling up on the rim. I got hit with a T as well, horrible call by the ref.

Somebody needs to explain this to the referees. It’s a great and legal play to attack the hoop. Players shouldn’t be penalized for protecting themselves. Unless we get some former dunkers as refs, I assume this will haunt me til I die.

Comments (5)

Wrong on many points.
Firstly, don’t employ ‘simple physics’ if you don’t understand the concepts. If you mean to say that shortening the length of one’s body makes it easier to control the body’s swing, it actually has the opposite effect. Known as the conservation of angular momentum: you shorten the radius of the rotating body and it will increase the rate of rotation. That would make it harder to hang on to the rim, however if you don’t grab the rim at all in the first place then there’s no need to bother with swinging around.
Secondly, the rule is there for a reason and should be enforced as such. Players used to be T-ed up for TOUCHING the rim, which isn’t entirely unreasonable because it’s really never absolutely necessary to touch the rim at all. In fact, if you *really* look at it, dunking itself is essentially offensive goaltending, since the player’s hand is touching the ball and the rim while the ball is in the cylinder, so the mere fact that it’s allowed in the NBA is a testament to the inconsistency in the rule that’s already present. And if you’re saying it’s a safety issue, there’s an easy solution: if a player can’t dunk safely without hanging on the rim, do a damn lay-up.
Thirdly, it seems like you think the only reason a ref would ever call a T on a dunk is because he has some personal issue with the fact that he’s too short to do it. If you really think that’s the case, I pity you. If the ref isn’t able to enforce a perfectly valid rule – one that has been in place for a long time, and with good reason – without appearing indignant and childish, then the rules of sportsmanship must not apply to the game of basketball. That’s a pathetic argument.
For the record, I did not see the particular dunk in question. However, I have seen plenty of instances in which the correct call was made following a player hanging on the rim, and we have all seen countless dunks with no calls when there should have been one. To reiterate, the argument of the player’s safety is not valid and irrelevant: if you can’t dunk safely and within the rules, don’t dunk.

Aha, a worthy opponent! I like your energy, I do. I also enjoy a healthy debate, so here is my rebuttal.

The conservation of angular momentum is a true principle, when gravity isn’t the force that is causing the spinning. Hanging on a rim would be considered swinging, where spinning is what that law is referring to. Think of it like this: You have two pendulums of equal weight, but one is twice the length of the other. Bring those both up to the same angle and release them at the same time. Which one will stop swinging first? That’s right, the shorter one. Go try it out, it works everywhere on the Earth.

Also, I don’t know if you are an athletic person, but I invite you to mimic this. Run at a horizontal bar, jump and grasp onto it so that you swing from the bar. Do it once fully extended, then do it again, but pull yourself up and shorten your length. You’ll notice two main things. It is much easier to maintain your grasp on the bar when you are flexing other arm muscles in the shorter position. Also, you’ll slow down much more quickly in the shorter position.

One thing I didn’t mention is that following one dunk of mine that was T-ed up for, I pulled up on the rim to avoid kicking the player who ran right under me to grab the ball. Had I not pulled up, I’d have hit him and we probably both would have been injured. I was hanging on the rim in the first place because I was on a fast break, running almost full speed at the rim. Hitting anything with your arms extended above your head in the air at that speed will cause you to flip over backwards real quick. I didn’t want that to happen, so I grabbed on real tight.

Your reference to old rules is fine. Things change, I accept that. Your offensive goaltending argument, however, is something I’ll discuss. During a proper dunk, the hand doesn’t touch the rim until the ball has gone almost completely through the rim. After the ball is entirely below the rim, the shot is complete, and the rim can be touched. So technically, has a shot even been taken until the ball leaves the dunker’s hand? This makes it so that there is no time frame for offensive or defensive goaltending to occur. This has nothing to do with my original point, but I like it, so I’ll roll with it here.

Also, for many players, dunking the ball has a much higher percentage chance of scoring than does a layup. So, you say lay it up if you can’t safely dunk without hanging on the rim. I say do all you can to increase the probability of scoring for your team, then deal with those consequences. There are also emotional effects brought on a team by a dunk. Teammates get more fired up, the crowd gets more into the game, and the momentum shifts toward the team who just dunked.

Scroll up and read my article again. You will notice that I said the refs don’t understand the physics of dunking a ball. I said short refs, but I suppose most refs have never dunked. I mentioned nothing about any personal issues with a ref wishing he could dunk. Typically, if somebody hasn’t experienced something themselves, they have a harder time understanding what that thing feels like. Is that incorrect?

For instance, most people see others driving a car for 15 years. They likely form ideas of what it feels like to drive a car. But when the time comes for them to do it, things feel quite a bit different than they expected, and their whole concept of driving needs to be readjusted so they can learn to be a good driver. So, refs who haven’t dunked have a lesser understanding of what is involved in a dunk. Is this still a pathetic argument?

I hope you reply to this. I’m enjoying it.

On the first point:
Talking straight physics here (cause that’s what I do), the pendulum example doesn’t really apply in this case. I will try to explain why it isn’t really a physics issue as to why it is easier to hang on the rim if you pull up:
The force that is causing the rotation is not gravity, it is the reaction force from rim (the rim pulling the player toward the center of rotation) and gravity is the force providing the oscillation. The fact that the shorter pendulum will stop swinging first is because the forces of friction on a small scale are in higher proportion to the motive forces in the shorter pendulum than the longer one, but by increasing the masses and lengths of BOTH of them, the difference in swinging time will become less and less significant. By this, I mean that on a bigger scale (a short and long clock pendulum compared to a short and long person’s body hanging from a rim) the difference TIME that it takes them to stop swinging is based on resistive forces, and doesn’t make it easier to hang on the rim in either case. Notice I’m just referring to the ‘time it takes to stop swinging,’ saying that this part of your is mostly irrelevant in making it easier to hang on.
Now, the flexing the other arm muscles is a biomechanics issue, and I’ll give you that. By using arm muscles and hanging on with fingers to control your momentum, it distributes the effort to different parts and effectively makes it easier to hold on for longer.
What I’m saying is that it’s almost never absolutely necessary to hold on the rim at all. Even going at full speed, it’s almost always possible to put the ball in and pull your hand down without it affecting the motion of the rest of your body very much at all – an outstretched arm is not rigid, and most of the effect of hitting the rim can be absorbed in the arm without transferring rotational motion to the body. Yes, I’ve done it plenty of times and for me it’s usually an issue of pulling my arm out of there fast enough so I can land on my feet. I don’t hang on the rim out of mere principle, and that where I play everyone does it and the rims are all bent to shit by now anyway from people pulling up on them.
On the second point about the rules:
My reference to the fact that dunking itself is in contradiction with the rules is probably just a philosophical conviction of mine, and I don’t really mind if anyone takes it to heart – it’s just my opinion that, technically, dunking should be against the rules. But that doesn’t really matter anyway. However, the rules state that pulling up on the rim can only be done when it helps to ensure the player’s safety. I feel that including this clause does as much to endanger the dunking player as it does to help them. Perfect example: the other night when the Syracuse player went up to dunk on a fast break, he pulled up on the rim and his foot got caught on the shoulder of a Louisville player. As he let go, he was flipped nearly upside-down and landed on his neck, and by some miracle he was able to walk away from it unhurt. In this case, had he not held on to or pulled up on the rim (which was entirely possible) he would have come down and probably landed on his feet. By pulling up, he put himself in a more vulnerable position to be thrown around by the other players. This would be an example of this “safety rule” having the opposite of its intended effect, and that the rule would benefit from being unconditional, and that because of the arguments I have previously made that it is not necessary to ever hang on the rim, a hard rule against it would be more practical and effective and end debate over what’s in the name of safety and what’s just showing off. Now if only the refs were consistent…
Third point:
The fact that you said “short refs” led me to think that it was their issue. I’ve heard this argument before, and usually dismiss it as just short-sighted. However, you cleared it up fine. No, yours is not a pathetic argument.

Alright, you didn’t go away, good on ya!

Your pendulum point is a bit skewed in your example because you are using two completely different pendulums, as if you were to compare a 7 ft tall player to one at 6 ft tall. You are right; the difference between those two will be pretty small, almost insignificant. What I am comparing is one person fully extended on the rim versus that same person having pulled up on the rim, being in more of a fetal position. Comparing two different people in this case does nothing, since I based my original point on pulling up on the rim. I don’t completely disagree with the rule, I like the rule. I didn’t know that the safety clause was even in there. I just disagree with how it is interpreted in many cases.

Your knowledge of specific laws of physics is apparently much vaster than mine. Here is my explanation of why the shorter pendulum (or pulled-up person) would stop swinging more quickly (and significantly enough to make a difference in safety) than the longer pendulum of the same weight (or the same person, fully extended): As you stated, gravity is causing the oscillation. That is because it is a constant downward force on the moving pendulum. Each pendulum will accelerate and decelerate at the same rate. The longer pendulum will take more time to go from one end of the swing to the other because it is accelerating no faster than the short one, but has more ground to cover, giving it more inertia at the bottom of the swing than the shorter. That downward inertia makes it harder to hang on to the rim. I know you understand this, and since you’ve dunked, I imagine you have felt it happen. That is, unless you have never hung on the rim.
Alright, on to hanging on the rim in the first place. I agree with you that in most cases, the player doesn’t need to hang on the rim. I imagine you like the relatively new trend in the NBA to throw the ball in with barely even touching the rim. I like it because of the variety it gives dunking, so everybody wins. I gotta say too, I’m a Blazer fan, and I can’t stand watching when Greg Oden mimics a seizure while pulling up on the rim after most of his dunks. Those should be T-ed up much more than they are.

I found that dunk you referenced in that Syracuse-Louisville game. That’s a very close call. I would’ve tried to hang on in that case. His arms were slightly bent on impact with the rim, but pretty close to fully extended, and he was getting fouled at the same time, making his body gain speed toward the baseline. I argue that had he not tried to hang on, he would have ended up with an injured ankle, knee, or even possibly jammed his back from landing in a tall, uncontrolled position from being pushed from behind while reaching out. He was dunking with some force to avoid a blocked shot, and his hands were going to hit the rim. Throwing your arms at a solid object above your head after jumping from a running speed will start to flip you over. If that same dunk was done with nobody else around him, yes, it would’ve been easy to not hang on the rim.

Your feeling on dunking not being true to basketball rules, or the spirit of the game, is something you’re entitled to, and I’m fine with that. I think dunking is great, fun, and exciting, and the rules accommodate it, so I’m lucky. I guess my whole point is that most refs, on the rare occasion when players pull up on the rim to protect themselves, just don’t understand when a player does it to protect himself. It seems as though your whole point is that dunking, in the first place, is absurd, and hanging on the rim takes that absurdity to a ridiculous level. Fair enough. You’re a purist I suppose; I like to have fun within the rules. I’ve been really bothered by some refs calling technical fouls after impressive dunks in heavy traffic. I feel the player is being punished for scoring in a way that was very difficult, which should be rewarded with 2 points and all the feelings and cheers that go along with a dunk like that.

I don’t know if you want to comment on this again. I’d enjoy hearing from you, and giving you a chance at the last word, so I’ve got a question for you. Should that Syracuse player have been given a technical foul for hanging on the rim because, as you argue, he was hanging on the rim when it didn’t help ensure his safety?

Quick note on the physics: I didn’t really explain myself well, but I was just saying that the time it takes for the pendulum/person to stop swinging has nothing to do with the force centrifugal force felt by the person, whether his body is extended or pulled up or whatever.
I can entertain the fact that we simply differ in our views on dunking. Recently, I took it to just to see if any laymen could enlighten me on the real distinction between offensive goaltending and dunking… I’m still not convinced, but I guess that some people have taken issue with it for years and to no avail, so me badgering at it doesn’t make a difference either way. You’ve been more than gracious in allowing me my opinion, so I’ll take it and be done with it.
Should he have been T-ed? Well, under the rule as it is, he didn’t deserve one because it did seem like he was holding on for safety. You could even argue that if he had pulled up even higher or held on for longer, then he wouldn’t have had that horrible fall. However, I still don’t feel it was necessary for him to grab it at all, and if the rules were written by me (which they should be, cause I know everything…) then he would have gotten one. Call me a heartless bastard, but the fact that he was probably inches away from paralyzing himself doesn’t change the fact that he broke the hypothetical rule. It’s not the ref’s job to decide between carelessness and wrecklessness, especially if the rule was devoid of any ambiguity, as I feel it should be. thanks

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