Anyone over 6-feet should be Banned from the NBA

We as a society recognize that discriminating against someone based on the color of their skin, or sexual orientation, is flat out wrong. That discriminating on the basis of inborn qualities that cannot be controlled by the individual, is deeply & fundamentally unfair.

Well, what about height?

Is it ok for major institutions in our society to discriminate on the basis of height, when choosing who to hire? I would certainly hope not. Just like racial discrimination, I’m sure certain small amounts of height discrimination are bound to occur. But if we see an organization or institution where such discrimination is glaringly obvious & easily proven, shouldn’t we as a society step in & try to remedy this in the best way we can?

Let’s take a look at the epicenter of height-discrimination: The NBA

  • 42% of American males are 5’9 or shorter. And yet, 0.45% of NBA players fall into this category.
  • 80% of American males are under 6 feet tall. And yet, only 3.5% of NBA players can say the time.
  • 99.9% of American males are 6’4 or shorter. And yet, the average height in the NBA is still 6’7.

Assuming basketball as a sport did not penalize players for their height, we would expect there to be:

  • 360 NBA players under 6 feet in height
  • 90 NBA players over 6 feet in height

What the numbers currently look like:

  • 16 NBA players under 6 feet in height
  • 434 NBA players over 6 feet in height

Under the current NBA rules, the number of under-6-feet people who were denied the opportunity to play in the NBA due to height discrimination: 344

The number of over-6-feet people who became NBA players due to height-discrimination in their favor: 344

That’s right. Out of 450 players in the NBA, 76% of them are only there due to height discrimination. These 344 players are keeping out others who deserve their spot, but were denied this dream due to height discrimination.

Now what if we considered a drastic solution: Ban anyone over 6-feet in height from playing in the NBA.

What the player height distribution would now look like:

  • 450 NBA players under 6-feet
  • 0 players over 6-feet

Compare this to the ideal & fair height distribution:

  • 360 under 6 feet
  • 90 over 6 feet

Net result under this new policy: 90 players would be unfairly locked out of the NBA due to height-discrimination. However, these 90 players only represent 20% of the NBA players.

Hence, by instituting this ban-on-anyone-over-6-feet, we can cut down the number of undeserving NBA players from 76% of the player base, to 20%. This solution may not be perfect, but anytime we can cut down discrimination from 76% to 20%, that’s a huge win worth pursuing.

The argument in favor of instituting this ban seems obvious: Cutting down discrimination by an order of magnitude and making the NBA accessible to the vast majority of Americans. Are there any reasons why we shouldn’t pursue this ban?

1. “Banning tall players would make the games less fun to watch.” Completely bogus. Player height in the NBA is just like Einstein’s famous theory; it’s all relative. If every single NBA player shrunk by 12-inches right before the start of the game, and the basketball hoop was lowered by 12-inches as well to compensate, the audience would never know the difference. The game would play itself out in almost the exact same way, and it would be exactly as enjoyable to watch as it was before.

2. “Shorter people are less athletic than tall people, and therefore, deserve to be under-represented.” Again, completely bogus. For any person not suffering from  malnutrition, his height is 99% determined by genetics, and is absolutely independent of how fit, healthy, agile or dextrous he is. Shorter men are just as athletic as taller men, and would be equally represented in any sport that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of height. Looking at Football (Soccer) for example, a sport that demands just as much athleticism as basketball, statistics show that professional footballers have heights that match that of the general population.

3. “What about people who are stronger or more fit? Aren’t they overrepresented? Should we ban them too?” Of course not. Unlike height, these other qualities like strength & speed can be trained & developed by anyone. Our society rewards people for earned talents, such as educational or technical proficiency, all the time. Height, on the other hand, isn’t an earned quality. It’s more like race, something we are innately born with & cannot alter. Hence why it is immoral to discriminate on the basis of these innate qualities, such as height or race.

4. “A player’s height is instrumental in fulfilling the job role. Hence why discriminating on the basis of height should be allowed.” This is only true under current NBA rules. Team owners are forced to discriminate on the basis of height when hiring players, because the only players who can successfully fulfill the job role tend to be tall players. However, changing the NBA rules to ban over-6-feet players would resolve this dilemma. A 5’10 player would now be able to fulfill the job role if he trains hard enough, and can thus earn his spot on the team. And the business customers for their part (spectators), would find themselves watching a game that is just as exciting and entertaining as it always was.

5. “This new rule discriminates against people who are tall!” Guilty as charged. But which is worse? Discriminating against 344 individuals for being too short? Or discriminating against 60 individuals for being too tall? Imposing a 6-foot-height maximum rule would cut down discrimination in the NBA from 76% to 20%. Ideally, we should find some way to remedy even this problem. However, just like in the real world, we can never reach an ideal solution. But that shouldn’t stop us from taking steps in the right direction.

6. “What about players who are 5’8 or shorter? Under this new rule, wouldn’t someone who’s 5’11 still have an unfair advantage over them?” This is somewhat true, but isn’t as big a problem. If you look at the list of NBA greats, many of them are multiple inches shorter than their opponents, and yet still outclassed them with other skills. Being an entire foot shorter is a recipe for disaster, but being a few inches shorter still allows for a relatively even match-up. A 5’8 player may be locked out completely by a 6’8 opponent, but he will still be able to compete somewhat evenly against a 5’11 opponent. Once again, this is still not an ideal situation, but that shouldn’t stop us from taking steps in the right direction.

There are millions of children who grow up every year, dreaming of becoming a sports superstar like their idols on television. Most of them will never realize this dream, but every one of them deserves a fair shot at it. Under the current paradigm, 99% of kids will grow up to realize that they will never be given a fair shake in the NBA, simply due to their genetic height. They will grow up to realize, either consciously or subconsciously, that most of the stars making millions of dollars in the NBA, are there only because of a height discrimination system that unfairly rewards them for being born a certain way, while simultaneously locking out millions others for being born in a different way. We may never be able to bring these numbers down to 0. But it’s time we tried.

—————–

P.S. For anyone who’s wondering, I’m half joking, but also half serious.

About OutlookZen

Ex-Journalist & Columnist. Loves exploring the world.
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18 Responses to Anyone over 6-feet should be Banned from the NBA

  1. Mihai says:

    Banning tall players (or making them less represented in NBA) is wrong because:
    1) This is discrimination (as you acknowledged yourself)
    2) The overall strength of the NBA will go down, together with the national team’s. USA’s national team is strong because it has a huge number of capable players.

    A proper solution is dividing players by height, just like boxing does for weight. Such a solution is much more constructive and is sustainable, since, as you said, basketball would be equally enjoyable to watch even if players were shorter.

    • OutlookZen says:

      Regarding point 1, my thesis is that the current system is empirically more discriminatory than the revised system i suggested. Hence, it’s the lesser of two evils.

      I agree that in an ideal world, we could have different divisions with different height limits, to solve this problem. Practically speaking though, the current NBA league and its personalities & teams are so entrenched, and they have so much inertia in their favor, that creating a new league for under-6-footers will likely go nowhere. In sports like boxing, all you need is two great athletes in a weight class, and you’re good to go. In an NBA like league though, you need so much infrastructure in the form of teams, coaches, stadiums and a critical mass of players, just to put together a meaningful competition.

      However you do bring up an interesting point, regarding hurting the national team. If the Olympics agreed to follow these new height regulations as well, that would certainly solve this problem… But that’s likely outside the NBA’s control. I guess the question to ask is: are we willing to put up with a more discriminatory system, for the benefit of our national team and the NBA’s popularity?

  2. currywarriors says:

    this has nothing to do with discrimination. It comes down to what you need to do in order to win a game of basketball. if you could have a center who is 7 feet and just as skilled as the 6’5 ( or in your case under 6 feet) then why wouldnt you pick the 7 footer? you would be crazy to pick the shorter guy. at the end of the day owners, coaches and general managers want to win, and to do that they need the best of the best, and if the best is a 7 footer that is who they will pick, and if its a 6 footer that who they will pick. it has nothing to dow ith discrimination. however this was a good read

    • OutlookZen says:

      Thank you. And yes, I agree. None of the coaches or managers “want” to discriminate. They are simply trying their best to win. Unfortunately, the system is set up in a way that punishes anyone not born with superhuman height. Hence why the solution can only come from a system wide rule change.

      • currywarriors says:

        i respect your opinion however, they are not punhsing any one at all. its how the game is played, and at the end of the day they will choose the players that are better. if you are on the shorter hand it just means you got to work that much harder. If you think that these players should be banned, then where does this end and stop? should we ban all nfl polayers who weigh more then X amount of weight? should we ban all tennis players who have a wing span longer then their proper porportion? should we ban all high jumpers who are taller then the average as well? what about academics? should we ban every person who applys to medical school and law school if there natural I.Q is naturally higher then the average? of course not, that would be foolish of us. at the end of the day its going to come down to how hard you work, if you have poor genetics then you must work harder then every one else, hard work beats talent, or in this case, genetics.

      • OutlookZen says:

        I get where you’re coming from, but can you imagine if anyone said that about gender discrimination or racial discrimination? “If you’re a woman, you simply have to try harder” “If you’re a person of color, you simply have to try harder” “If you don’t like the segregated seating at our restaurant, you can always choose to go somewhere else” Such arguments have always been made, and soundly rejected in favor of anti-discrimination laws.

        It’s also important to note that there is a major difference between strength, intelligence and height. The first two, along with most skills, can be learnt. They can be improved on. Height, unfortunately, is something we can never change by ourselves. It’s more analogous to race and gender. Discriminating on the basis of learned skills is fundamentally different from discriminating on the basis of innate qualities.

        I’ve always been a vocal proponent of changing university admission policies to ensure that the more disadvantaged sections of society have a fair shot as well. Such policies should be extended to the NBA as well, to ensure that the average 5’10 american has a fair shot at being the next NBA star.

  3. currywarriors says:

    you cant control how long your arms are, and in tennis that gives a clear benefit to the players. the same goes for football players ( mainly line backers), no matter how hard i try, i may NEVER be able to put on 50 pounds ( some fat and some muscle), and why is that? my genetics may not allow it. if i have a natural i.Q thats greater then the average, that allows me to make just as much improvment as the next guy. what im trying to say is that you are counting out my reasons yet you arnt making an actual reason for it.

    ive said before, and you keep on ignoring it, the nba isnt discriminating short people at all. if you are good enough to play, then you can play in the nba. However if you arnt good enough, then you arnt going to make it.its not like the nba is saying ” if you are under 6 feet, you are not allowed to play in our league!” that would be discrimination. all because statistics show that the majoirty of players are taller, doesnt mean its discrimination

    also, you said that the game would be just as entertaining with players over 6 feet. sorry but if the tallest player is 6 feet, then that means the center will be that height, which means the point guard would be any where from 5’5-6’0. i dont know about you but seeing a game player with out an actual center or power forward and instead ojust having 5 pgs on the court would be rather boring to watch…

    • OutlookZen says:

      Discrimination does not always come with intent. I suggest reading more about unintentional structural discrimination. By embracing the current system, rules & policies, the NBA is effectively making it extremely hard for the average person with average height to succeed in the NBA. Someone who is born one foot taller will have an exponentially easier time, even if they both put in the same efforts.

      It’s true that such discrimination exists in other parts of life as well, and this problem can never be fully solved. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to do nothing at all. Colleges recognize that kids born into poor families have a much harder time succeeding academically, and hence, promote affirmative-action policies that are meant to help disadvantaged kids. The suggestion I gave is obviously one extreme, but the NBA could pursue other policies to promote fairness, the same way colleges do.

  4. HBB says:

    Basketball is inherently flawed in this way; it’s simply not a ‘fair’ competition. When it was invented I don’t think anybody could have foreseen it becoming such a widely played/lucrative sport.

    I agree with the previous poster who said that, ideally, there would be height classes much like Boxing is divided into weight classes. As far as I know nobody has tried this yet. I’d probably go out of my way to support a local U6′ pro team if they had one, even though I’m more of an ice hockey person.

    Funnily enough though, by your logic in this article black players should also be banned from NBA competition seeing as white/Asian players are severely underrepresented according to the demographics 😛

    • Aaron says:

      I really think it’s awesome that people are thinking like this and beginning to voice these types of opinions because I am right there with you. The world is plagued with discriminatory thought processes, organizations, and even cultures as a whole and we need to start waking up to the reality that we are in this together and our purpose as the human-race is to achieve greatness as a unit, not individuals.

      However, in the case of the NBA (or any professional sport), you’re fighting the wrong battle. Sports are a form of entertainment. We, the viewers, want to see the most physically gifted, and talented individuals, performing maneuvers that we could only dream of imitating. Sporting events are quite literally art galleries. Galleries that exhibit the physical, pinnacle of human form. When get a glimpse of our full potential as a species it gives us all hope. It inspires us to accentuate our own strengths, and to work harder in our own everyday lives. Not to mention the fact that 50,000 people aren’t going to pay top dollar to watch a hugs and kisses, PC party of a basketball game. If we want to do that we can go to the park and watch the kids play for free.

  5. Aaron says:

    I really think it’s awesome that people are thinking like this and beginning to voice these types of opinions because I am right there with you. The world is plagued with discriminatory thought processes, organizations, and even cultures as a whole and we need to start waking up to the reality that we are in this together and our purpose as the human-race is to achieve greatness as a unit, not individuals.

    However, in the case of the NBA (or any professional sport), you’re fighting the wrong battle. Sports are a form of entertainment. We, the viewers, want to see the most physically gifted, and talented individuals, performing maneuvers that we could only dream of imitating. Sporting events are quite literally art galleries. Galleries that exhibit the physical, pinnacle of human form. When get a glimpse of our full potential as a species it gives us all hope. It inspires us to accentuate our own strengths, and to work harder in our own everyday lives. Not to mention the fact that 50,000 people aren’t going to pay top dollar to watch a hugs and kisses, PC party of a basketball game. If we want to do that we can go to the park and watch the kids play for free.

    • OutlookZen says:

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that professional basketball should definitely be focused around entertainment. If watching 7 feet tall basketball players is indeed more enjoyable for spectators, as compared to 6 feel tall basketball players, than the current system should indeed stay as they are.

      However, I don’t think this is really the case. When watching a basketball game, you can notice the players’ relative heights, but it’s very hard to tell how tall someone is in an absolute sense. If instead of having ten people on the court who were 7 feet tall, we instead had ten people on the court who were 6 feel tall, and the rims were lowered by 1 foot as well, I don’t think anyone would find the game any less entertaining to watch.

  6. GreatPost says:

    Building upon your thoughts, I would like to propose a different solution: height classes. Basically there would be three classes:
    – Less than 6′
    – Less than 6’5
    – Free Height

    Just like martial arts have weight classes to make things fair, basketball should have height classes likewise.

  7. hieu says:

    I think a better solution may be to set an average height for the team on the field. There is some technical problem with substitution but let’s not discuss about that. The average height should be at somewhere around the population average height (which also has some technical details because different countries has different average heights). In this way, if a team has a very tall guy, then it has to compensate with some short guys.

  8. Paul Z says:

    Really enjoyed this post. Thanks

  9. Newt says:

    Rajiv Prabhakar interesting blog, Im going to write an essay against it if you dont mind.

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