Have NBA Hoops Always Been the Same Height?

There’s a famous scene in the classic basketball film Hoosiers where head coach Norman Dale (played masterfully by Gene Hackman) brings his team to the site of their state championship matchup. He has the team measure the dimensions of the basketball court, including the height of the basketball hoop itself. He tells the team that they’ll find all the measurements are the same as their home court, despite the size of the gym their playing in. It’s a gripping scene where the legendary coach attempts to lessen the intimidation factor of the big game. 

One of the greatest parts about basketball is that no matter where you’re watching a game — from an NBA arena to a college fieldhouse to a high school gym — the measurements are all largely the same. The hoop is the exact same height no matter where you travel. But has it always been that way? 

What is the height of an NBA hoop?

The height of an NBA hoop — and most regulation-sized hoops — is 10 feet off the ground. This can vary for some youth basketball leagues who may use adjustable rims or hang a makeshift backboard and basket on the front of a regular hoop.

The height of the hoop is so ingrained in the sport, it’s difficult to imagine it ever changing. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been calls to raise the hoop over the years. 

Has there ever been a campaign to raise or lower the height?

There’s certainly never been a serious consideration for lowering the NBA rim. The height of the average NBA player has skyrocketed from 1952 onward.

In 1952, the height of the average player was 6-foot-4-inches. Now? Since about 1987 to the present, it’s been about 6-foot-7. That means that players today have a much easier time playing above the rim.  

Legendary basketball coach Pete Newell suggested in a 2013 New York Times Op-Ed that the NCAA and NBA raise their hoops to 11 feet. The reasoning for this was so the focus of the game would be less concentrated on high-flying acrobatics and more on the fundamentals of the game such as passing, cutting, shooting, and floor spacing. 

In the 2008 Slam Dunk competition, Dwight Howard asked the NBA to raise the height of the rim to 12 feet to prove his dunking ability was about more than his height. This was more of an exhibition than a serious consideration to change the dimensions of the game, however.

It’s likely the NBA hoop will never be raised in the name of encouraging a different style of play. The slam dunk has become one of the game’s trademarks, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone within the league office who wants it to go away for the sake of encouraging better backdoor cuts. But has the NBA hoop always been this high? 

Have NBA hoops always been the same height?

Forget just the hoops in the NBA. Essentially all hoops in basketball have always been the same height. And the reasoning behind this dates back more than 100 years.  

The origin of the universal hoop height dates back to the invention of the game itself. When Dr. James Naismith developed basketball in 1891, he hung peach baskets off the side of a railing. The height of the railing was 10 feet off the ground. The height worked so perfectly that it’s remained the same for the sport’s entire history. 

For whatever reason, 10 feet is and always has been the perfect height for an NBA hoop. It’s taller than all the players, yet not so tall that they can’t use their incredible athleticism to reach it. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.