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FIBA vs. NBA. You decide

There has been a lot of progress in the last decade on reducing the differences between FIBA rules and those in the NBA. I really don’t see a problem if they have different guidelines, both systems have good things and bad things from my point of view. I’ll put the cards on the table and you will decide which rules you want to adopt, eliminate, borrow, incinerate so the NBA can be a better place for all of us fans.

Major differences:


Three Point Line

Measured from the centre of the basket:

FIBA: 6.25 m (20' 6.25") arc.

NBA: 7.24 m (23' 9") arc


Feedback: This was a love-hate deal for me. I used to love taking three point shots, to be honest with you; it was really easy to make them, I felt that the line was really close to the basket…maybe too close. At the same time, I got pissed every time the Center of the other team made a 3 pointer, or a guy coming off the bench cold, anyone with a decent touch was able make that shot. Everyone shot 3’s at will. Ridiculous!


Verdict: NBA, I’m glad that the arc is farther away from the basket, it’s a “big boy” shot. Not all players have a high percentage shooting behind the arc. Let’s keep it that way.



Basket interference


Note: In both systems, you can’t touch the basketball once is on its way down to the basket. The difference is in what you can/can’t do after it hits the rim.

FIBA: You can tip the ball in, regardless if it’s over the imaginary cylinder. Basket will count.

NBA: You can’t.


Feedback: I really find this rule kind of stupid. Why penalize the player who is just making sure that the ball goes in?


Verdict: FIBA and NBA. I’m kind of torn on this one, some people like it, some people don’t, I think that they should just standardized it because it's an instinctual play and it’s unfair to players who aren't used to the rule in both systems. NBA players will be hesitant to touch the ball over the imaginary cylinder in FIBA contests and FIBA players will be used to doing that, causing turnovers for their teams in the NBA.


Illegal Defense


FIBA: Allowed

NBA: It will be called if a player is in the restricted area longer than 3 seconds without actively guarding an opponent.

Feedback: The lack of this rule in FIBA obligates players to become outside shooters, given the fact that the center of the opposing team will always be guarding the basket; it’s difficult to drive to the hole. This will explain why big men such as Dirk Nowitzki, Mehmet Okur, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, among others, have great shooting skills and not much of a great low post game.


Verdict: NBA and FIBA. It depends if you enjoy watching big men dominating the paint or shooting from the perimeter. One of my closest friends never developed an outside shot, because he was told by his coach that he needed to take advantage of his size in the paint. Big men belong in there, that’s what he used to say. As a result, his game became one-dimensional and struggled to score. Every time he got up the court, there was the other team’s big guy waiting for him in the paint, not moving one bit.



Restricted Area


FIBA: A trapezoid 3.6m (12’) wide at the free throw line and 6m wide at the baseline.

NBA: 4.88m (16’) Wide rectangle.


Feedback: The trapezoid is great, I just like how it spaces the floor, and forces big men to be more skillful than powerful.


Verdict: FIBA, I have come to know that FIBA will no longer use the trapezoid and that it will incorporate the NBA rectangle in 2010. What a shame.




FIBA: should be called only by the coach in the score’s table, timeout will be granted after the next field goal scored against the team that requested the timeout. No timeouts once a set of free throws has started. Players can’t call timeouts on the floor.  

NBA: Called anytime from the floor, by a player or team who is in control of the ball. Timeouts between free throws are allowed.  


Feedback: I think that that ability to call a timeout on the floor bails you out of tight situations, but it can also be a double edge sword. The refs are the ones who decide if you have possession of the ball, and that’s a big “if”. Back in 2006, before the amazing come back against the Lakers, we were upset about a particular play. Nash dribbled the ball and got trapped between Luke Walton and Lamar Odom, Boris Diaw was screaming timeout and Bennet Salvatore never called it. As a result, they called a jump ball between a larger Walton and a Tiny Nash. Salvatore said at first that he didn’t hear Boris calling a timeout and then changed his story saying that Nash did not have possession of the ball since it had been knocked out of his hands several times.

I also don’t like the fact that teams can call a timeout during free throws. This breaks the player’s rhythm and concentration.


Verdict: FIBA. You know, I’m kind of tired that refs have the ability to screw up games with their bad calls; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screamed at the TV “let them play”. By not allowing a player call a timeout on the floor, you are rewarding the defense efforts, making coaches and players think twice what they are going to do on the offensive end. Creating smarter players, better ball handlers. Better decision making.





FIBA: Does not exist

NBA: The semi circle that is located right under the hoop is the "No Charging Zone". Meaning that a defensive player will be called for a defensive foul if he plants even 1 foot in that zone while taking a charge. Getting an offensive player to commit an offensive foul via a charge, the defensive player should establish his position outside that zone before the actual contact.


Feedback: I really like the NBA semi-circle rule, in FIBA, there is always a guy underneath the basket defending it, if I drove to the basket and the guy is just standing there (no 3sec violation) most of the times I would get called for the offensive foul.


Verdict: NBA. Again, the lack of the semi-circle makes international players doubt when driving aggressively to the basket. Making them work on other aspects of the game, such as passing, setting screens. But at the same time, contributing to the reputation that they are soft players, not used to physical play.



FIBA refs vs. NBA refs


I think refs work with whatever tools they are given, FIBA tries to make it easy for their officials, trying really hard that their refs don’t become a decisive factor in a game. Reducing the amount of “subjective” calls help, but what really helps them stand out is their discipline. They will be consistent during the whole game. Offensive 3 second violations will be called not only in the first quarters; refs will not tolerate players or coaches insults, no matter who you are.

NBA refs have a lot in their hands, I understand that, but the lack of consistency it’s what angers people the most. Stardom treatment to elite teams and players, betting scandals, conspiracy theories. The NBA really needs to start cleaning up their mess.


I can certainly name a lot more differences; the ones mentioned are the ones that I find more relevant. These differences make the players think, react and train differently from others. Making each player unique, making basketball more fun to play and watch.


So after all, it’s always nice to have something to compare yourself against to, capitalism vs. socialism, democrats vs. republicans, ying vs. yang. It makes us want to improve ourselves, it makes us better.

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