It doesn’t take a great player to make rules change in the NBA, but quite often, it has to do with someone quite famous, like Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and in more recent years, someone like Kevin Durant.

In the old days, it was more about the big men like Mikan and Chamberlain being too dominant for the sake of some people, and rules were constantly being made to try and stop them, usually unsuccessfully. It took nearly 30 years until Shaquille O’Neal to arrive at the scene and cause another series of rule changes.

George Mikan

Mikan, who played for the Minneapolis Lakers between 1948 and 1956 was the first real dominant player in the NBA, and the first big-man to rule the league in its early days. Because he was so dominant, the league had to make significant changes – the 3 second rule, widening the lane from 6 feet to 12 feet and his presence also helped introduce the shot clock.

Wilt Chamberlain

Maybe the most dominant player in a certain era in NBA history, despite all of Shaq’s claims. Chamberlain was probably even more influential than Mikan in the rules he caused changes in, despite not being as successful when it came to NBA titles. Wilt would throw the ball against the backboard for dunks, so shooters were no longer allowed to cross the free throw line while during free throws; the lane was widened from 12 feet to 16 feet; the offensive goaltending was invented; and to prevent teammates from lobbing him the ball from throw ins over the backboard, the no-inbounding-over-the-backboard rule came to pass.

Board Breakers

Shaquille O’Neal is the most infamours backboard breaker, but Darryl Dawkins was the first who brought a change to the material because of two glass shattering dunks. When Shaq entered the league, it happened again, changing the backboard support and stanchion design, while also not allowing players to hang around too long holding on to the rim. Shaq did also bring on a change in the hack-a-Shaq issue, with teams no longer being able to use that tactic in the final two minutes of games and get away with “only” a regular foul. Zone defense was introduced into the NBA because of O’Neal’s dominance as well.

5-Second Rule

Charles Barkley and to a lesser extent Mark Jackson made it so that the 5-second offensive initiative rule came to be, as the two used to back up and post up on players for most of the shot clock, and the NBA had enough of players not trying to make anything happen.

More Rule Makers

Kevin Durant brought on something called the Rip-Through rule:

an offensive player swings the ball into a defender’s outstretched arm and then attempts a shot once he has created contact, will be considered non-shooting fouls if the contact begins before the offensive player starts his shooting motion. Also, on drives to the basket, a shooting foul will be called only if contact occurs after the offensive player has begun his shooting motion, not after he has initiated his leap toward the basket.

Reggie Miller, besides being an amazing shooter, was quite of a dirty one as well. His leg kicking to create separation and probably bring on a bit of pain was disallowed, with players no longer allowed to kick in an attempt to create contact and get a foul of the play. Allen Iverson created a change to the way NBA players hold the ball with the palming rule.

Rasheed Wallace– The technical foul rule. 16 in the regular season = 1 game suspension, every additional 2 techs = 1 game. 7 techs for playoffs = 1 game, and every additional 2 techs = another game.

Michael Jordan affected the offense, as expected, with the league no longer enabling an entire team to move to one side of the court in an attempt to create better isolation for one player. 

Trent Tucker On January 15, 1990, when Tucker was with New York, with 0.1 of a second remaining in a game against the Bulls, he got off a wild three-point shot before the buzzer and made the basket. The shot counted and the Knicks won. The NBA then established a rule that states that 0.3 needs to be on the clock in order for a player to get a shot off whether they make it or not. Inside of 0.3 seconds, only a tip-in or a high lob will count.

Derek Harper was a bit of a dirty player. He calls himself kinda of a Bruce Bowen type, and his constant hand checking, also using elbows and forearms, eventually led the NBA to disallow, although referees are becoming more and more lenient with that in recent years.