The Continental Basketball Association plays the same brand of basketball as does the National Basketball Association, college basketball, and worldwide basketball. Two points for a field goal, one point for a free throw, three points from behind a scoring arc.
However, over the years the CBA has added different rules to its contests – some were experimental rules that the NBA wanted to see implemented on a smaller scale; other rules were designed to improve CBA scoring; while still others were necessary to increase fan interest. Some of these rules have been in place in the CBA for years; others came and went in a single season.
- 10-MINUTE QUARTERS (1946-1948) – This is from the December 1, 1946 edition of the Allentown Morning Call newspaper, the home paper of the Allentown Rockets (1946-47). The quotes are very heavy with hyperbole, but this was the writing style of sports reporters in the 1940s. “Organized with the purpose of bringing pro basketball into “big time” sports promotion, the Eastern loop has announced that it aims to eliminate many of the evils of some pro loops which operated in past years. Collegiate type of basketball is to be played and the Eastern wheel will follow the college rules to the letter except that four 10-minute periods instead of two 20-minute halves will be played. A staff of officials highly regarded in scholastic and collegiate basketball has been employed and to avoid confusion evident in the past, the Eastern has set up a uniform interpretation. Probably the biggest change fans will see is that the Eastern will permit “pickoffs” of screening providing there is no body contact on the play. This will stress offense and with many high-scoring stars signed by the teams fans should see plenty of action.” As the 1948-49 season began, however, the league increased their quarter times to 12 minutes per quarter, the same time as used today.
- THE THREE-POINT ARC (1963-present) – Beginning in the 1963-64 season, the Eastern League adopted the old American Basketball League 3-point line; any shot taken in the game from behind a white line 25 feet away from the basket earned three points for a team. The clipping at right came from the Camden Bullets’ 1965-66 yearbook. The 3-point line today is at the standard 23.9 feet (22 feet on the sides), the same distance as for the NBA.
- LATE TO GAME (1960’s) – Since players in the Eastern League only participated in weekend contests during the regular season, they could hold jobs and travel to the games on the weekend. Sometimes, a snowstorm or a missed flight could keep a player from arriving on time; in the 1960’s the Eastern League actually had a rule addressing player tardiness. “Any player or players who report late after scheduled starting time shall be automatically fined $25 for the first offense. If player or players violate this ruling a second time, they shall be fined $50 and suspended two games.”
- SALARY CUTS – This rule was designed to keep the owners honest when it came to game receipts and the distribution of same to the players. It was one thing if poor attendance meant a soft box office; but the rule was designed so that players should not be penalized because the crowd didn’t show up. “Player or players reserve the right not to accept more than a 25 per cent cut in salary on a per-game basis. Player or players have the right to notify the league president if club or clubs are cutting more than the stipulated figure.”
- FOULING OUT (1979-present) – When the Eastern League was originally formed in 1946, a player was only allowed five fouls before he was dismissed from the contest. In 1948, that limit was increased to six fouls per game. In the early 1970’s, the Eastern League’s rules about fouling out were as such – players could foul out of the game after six personal fouls, however if there were only five men left on the court because the team’s other players had fouled out, any player who then achieved six personal fouls would be penalized with a technical foul as well.
Beginning in the 1979-80 season, the CBA adjusted this rule so that players could not “foul out” of a game. A player could still take the court after his sixth personal foul, but every personal foul after a player’s sixth results in a technical foul.
- THE 7-POINT SCORING SYSTEM (1981-present) – This rule is undoubtedly the most distinctive rule of the CBA. Instituted in the 1981-82 season, it determined playoff positions not by wins and losses of games, but by wins and losses of games and quarters of games. Two teams fought for control of seven standings points per game – three points to win the game, plus an additional point for each quarter in which they outscored their opponent. Essentially this meant that the teams were playing four mini-games (when asked if this would work in the NBA, one general manager said that the players would think they were playing four games and would want to be paid four times as much). The seven-point scoring system also meant that teams kept their star players in the game during blowout contests (each quarter won determined whether a team could make the playoffs or not), and some squads could earn moral victories by losing a close game – yet taking three of the standings points in the defeat. With this exception of the 1999-2000 season, when the CBA was under the ownership of Isiah Thomas, the seven-point scoring system has remained in use in the CBA to this day.
- THE NO CALL BOX (1981-82) – During the 1981-82 season, the CBA created a six-foot by five-foot “no call box”, an area in front of the baskets in which any contact in the box betwen offensive and defensive players was to be an automatic defensive foul. This rule, which was designed to encourage drives to the hoop, caused more confusion than scoring, and the rule was quickly abandoned before the season ended.
- OVERTIME RULES (1982-88)
- 1982-83 to 1983-84 – If two teams went into overtime, the first team to SCORE three points in the overtime period was declared the winner.
- 1984-85 to 1986-87 – If two teams went into overtime, the first team to LEAD BY three points in the overtime period was declared the winner.
In the 1987-88 season, the “lead by 3” rule was abandoned in favor of a standard 5-minute overtime period.
- NO DOUBLE TEAMING (1999-2000) – This rule was instituted in the 1999-2000 season, when the CBA was owned by Isiah Thomas. The rule stated that players could not be double-teamed except in the final five minutes of the game; and was a rule designed to increase scoring and improve players’ ball-handling and defensive one-on-one skills. The rule lasted only a year.
- THE 7-POINT SCORING SYSTEM IN THE PLAYOFFS (2005-present) – Beginning with the 2005-2006 season, the top three teams in each of the CBA’s two conferences would play three post-season games against teams from the opposite conference, and the two teams with the greatest number of quarter-points would advance to a best-of-three matchup for the CBA championship.
Interestingly, during the 1980’s CBA Commissioner Jim Drucker actually asked fans for their own ideas on rule changes that would benefit the CBA. Some of the more unique ideas were:
- A free-throw shooter will have the option of going for one point from the foul line, or trying for two points with an unobstructed shot from 3-point range.
- A player putting the ball in play from out of bounds would be able to take a shot, instead of being forced to pass to a teammate on the court – as long as that shot was not taken from the baseline.
- When a defensive player kicks the ball, it is not a violation – soccer rules would prevail.
- Dunks should be part of the game statistics.
- Players should wear six Velcro strips on their uniforms – every time a player commits a foul, one Velcro strip would be removed, allowing fans to know which players were in foul trouble.
- Only have four players on a team.
- Have five players, but two must be women, or have five but one must be 5’10” or shorter.
- Give a player on the free throw line the choice of shooting two shots for one point each, or one shot for two points.
- Erect plexiglass sideboards along the basketball floor so that the ball won’t go out of bounds.
- Either raise the basket to 12 feet in the air, or lower it to 8 feet (which would increase dunking).
- Legalize any defense, but start the 24 second clock when a player crosses the midcourt line.