Well, the rim hasn't moved, but the forest around it has. And that forest has become more specialized than ever. That is, the rim's accessibility to all the freakishly tall men and jumping phenoms has made it into something not even close to what Naismith had in mind.
We don't need to honor that inventive man by adhering to all his wishes - ol' Doc didn't think about backboards, goaltending or even dribbling at the start - but we should acknowledge one key principle of his game: The rim was supposed to be something that was essentially out of reach, at which players shot the ball, not jammed it through from above.
The idea that basketball in 1891 should have any bearing on basketball in 2011 is hilarious. There was no "key principle" against dunking; if that's true, then "no teleportation" is a key principle of today's game. It's roughly equivalent to calling for the end of overhand-throwing pitchers. On the other hand, maybe the idea just seems crazy because we hate change. If the rim were nine feet, we wouldn't want to change it to ten. Let's see what Telander's experts have to say:
‘‘In the early 1930s,'' the legendary Kansas coach Phog Allen said years ago, ‘‘I foresaw that the influx into the game of more and more big men would ultimately make a travesty of basketball. Actually, I had a 7-footer in 1927. I was convinced that eventually 12-foot baskets would be necessary.''
Said former University of Tennessee center and longtime Bulls center Tom Boerwinkle after playing a preseason college game in 1967 on 12-foot baskets: ‘‘Usually I block six or eight shots a game, but I didn't have a chance tonight because of the higher arc.''
Those quotes are over 40 years old, and one of them came from the protege of James Naismith. This article isn't about change. It's about going back to the way basketball was played when the author was a kid. Having an aesthetic difference is fine as long as you don't attribute your preferences to a systemic problem. After reading his column, I was surprised that Telander doesn't mention the WNBA, since it plays the type of game he's interested in: no dunking, shorter rim (in relative terms), still a high quality of play. I searched his archive and found the last time he mentioned the league:
The whole WNBA just seems too much like a bad men's game to be of much interest to many of us.
The NBA has become a dunkfest and it's time to raise the rims [Chicago Sun-Times]
Clean and sobering thoughts on decline of sports [Chicago Sun-Times]