Top 10 sports rules named after players

Perhaps no sports league has more minutiae with respect to its rules than the NBA. The growing popularity of the league, combined with the close-quarter combat involving its players, seems to put nearly every play under a magnifying glass.

Recently, commissioner David Stern raised eyebrows when he wondered out loud whether the NBA should go to the international-style enforcement of goaltending rules, i.e., an offensive player may interfere with a ball on the rim (or in the cylinder). If this rule change is adopted, it may take on Kendrick Perkins’ name, since it was the Thunder center’s crucial play in Game 1 of the opening round of playoffs against Denver that sparked the debate. The NBA chided its refs by noting that the late-game tip-in shouldn’t have been allowed, since it was illegal – under the current rules.

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Slideshow: Rules named after players

The NBA by no means is the only league that considers/adopts rule changes after a controversial play or a blatant circumvention of a loophole. Sometimes they involve rules on the playing surface, at other times the governing principles on salaries, eligibility and the whole gamut. These rule changes, when implemented, often take on unofficial monikers in honor of the players who inspired them.

In Deion Sanders’ case, not one, but two rules, are fashioned in Prime Time’s wake. The state of Florida and the NCAA changed their eligibility rules after it was discovered that Sanders had quit going to class but nevertheless played in Florida State’s victory in the Sugar Bowl. After he became a pro, the NFL had a to adopt a rule after the Dallas Cowboys went around the salary cap by signing Sanders to a puny salary but with a large signing bonus that at the time did not count against a team’s cap space.

Then there’s the Lew Alcindor Rule … that would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the man in search of a statue. When Alcindor was a three-time national champion at UCLA, he transformed the game with his majestic skyhooks as well as terrifying dunks on overmatched opponents. The NCAA contemplated removing this weapon from his arsenal and did so after his sophomore season. The no-dunk rule lived on for 10 years, after Alcindor’s graduation and subsequent name change, and engulfed the entire college career of his successor Bill Walton, before it was repealed in 1976.

Most of these rules are named after famous players, but not all. Ever heard of Trent Tucker? He’s the reason why there’s now a rule prohibiting a catch-and-shoot with less than 0.3 seconds on the clock. Tucker hit a 3-point game-winner for the Knicks in a game against the Bulls in 1990 when he caught the ball and let it fly with merely 0.1 seconds left. The Bulls coach at the time fumed to no avail, but more than a decade later Phil Jackson would witness his Lakers winning a huge playoff game against the Spurs when Derek Fisher hit just such a shot with 0.4 seconds left.

These rules, even if some are now defunct, had profound impact on their respective sports. With a collection as diverse as Jennifer Capriati’s quest to play pro tennis as a pre-teen or Bronko Nagurski’s attempt to throw a forward pass, these are our top 10 rules named after players:

The list:

Ricky Williams rule
Lew Alcindor rule
Wayne Gretzky rule
Jennifer Capriati rule
Ken Stabler rule
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Updated Tuesday, May 24, 2011