A Basketball Epiphany: The Jump Ball

I had a basketball epiphany earlier this basketball season. While watching a high school basketball game I realized the sole and only purpose of the opening jump ball is to determine posession. I guess I didn’t realize this until the opening tap of the game I was watching. When the ball was tipped players from oppossing sides had a tie up after the intial tap. I looked up at the score board to see which way the posession arrow was pointing when i realized no team possession had been made. In all my years of arrow switching basketball I had never seen this. What do the refs do now? They looked at each other, re-tipped and the game was on. I assumed it was the right call. Then it got me to thinking.This is the only time all game that this particular part of a basketball game is used.(Unless there is overtime).

The jump ball being a storied part of Dr. Naismiths game has been basically reduced to a coin flip. When the game was invented a jump ball ensued after every made basket. Talk about slowing the game down. But now, the jump ball is just a ritualitic formality. So, with that being said, lets do something about the jump ball. Other aspects of the sport have been modified : shooting ( 3 point shot), the clock (24 or 35 second ), timeouts (commercial TO’s), player control fouls ( semi circle under the hoop) and fouls (8 1–1 10 2 shots). so why not the jump ball.

I think the jump ball should be approached 2 different ways. 1) Eliminate it completely from the game by having the visiting team make the call on a coin flip to determine posession. once posession is determined give the coin flip winner the right to differ to the second half like they do in football. Or 2) Incorporated it back into the game, which i am in favor of. But not to the fullest extent that it was before arrow switching.Sort of a hybrid incorporation. I wasnt sure that i wanted it back until i was watching an NBA game on tv when ther was a tied up ball with 20 seconds left and one of the teams leading by 2. one player ws 6' 8" and the other 6' 2". Sure enough the smaller player beat the taller player to the tap to one of his teamates making it a pivital play in his teams victory. Even before the tap, players were jostling for postion hoping to determine where the ball might tapped. I think even one of the coaches called timeout to set his “jump ball” strategy. It was great. And it affected the outcome of the game.

So, keep the opening tap in high school and college basketball, however, actual jump balls will only be allowed in the last 2 minutes of each half, therefore keeping the game flowing.Existing rules on jumpballs will stay the same up to the 8th grade level.

I don’t know if my idea about the jump ball is the answer as to instilling it back into the game, but I’m open to any way of working it back in. Either that or a coin flip and let the jump ball go by the way of the 4 corner offense before ther was a shot clock.

Mark Mitchen

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