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Nothing But Net: Lakers Suspected Foul Play in ’68 Finals

Longtime Uni Watch reader Jerry Wolper spends a lot of time researching his way through old Pittsburgh newspapers. Along the way, he often spots things that would be of interest to Uni Watch, and he recently came up with a doozy.

On April 24, 1968, The Pittsburgh Press ran a UPI wire story about the NBA finals that were then taking place between the Lakers and the Celtics (yes, the finals took place in April in those days). The first two games were in Boston, and the Celtics had won the first one. That set the stage for some gamesmanship during the lead-up to Game 2. As the article explains:

When the teams meet tonight in Boston Garden [for Game 2], there will be new nets attached to the baskets. … The Lakers claimed the strings on the Boston Garden nets were too long and too loose, enabling the ball to drop through quickly so Boston could get its fast break started an instant fast than it normally would with tight nets, which slow the ball down a bit.

Faaaascinating. Granted, I don’t follow basketball as closely as I follow some other sports, but I’d never heard about “loose nets” allegedly being used to gain a tactical advantage.

I don’t think we’ve ever covered basketball nets here at Uni Watch, but it’s definitely a ripe topic. Among the questions that come to mind:

•  How has the net evolved over time? When was the last change or alteration to its basic design?

•  How long is the net supposed to be?

•  Is there any difference between the nets used in the NBA and the ones used in college?

•  Are today’s nets made from natural or synthetic twine?”¨

We can answer some of these questions by looking up the rules. The NBA rulebook, for example, includes Rule II(d), which reads as follows:

Each basket shall consist of a pressure-release NBA approved metal safety ring 18″ in inside diameter with a white cord net 15″ to 18″ in length. The cord of the net shall not be less than 30 thread nor more than 120 thread and shall be constructed to check the ball momentarily as it passes through the basket.

The NCAA basketball rulebook has similar language. Rules 14.1 and 14.3 state:

Each basket shall consist of a single metal ring, 18 inches inside diameter, its flange and braces, and a white-cord, 12-mesh net, 15 to 18 inches in length, suspended from beneath the ring.


The cord of each net shall be not less than 120-thread nor more
than 144-thread twine, or plastic material of comparable dimensions, and constructed so as to check the ball momentarily as it passes through.

I was initially surprised the net can vary so much in length, but that probably allows for the differences in drape and “hang” as a net gets broken in. In other words, two nets made to identical specs could hang at slightly different lengths.

Who invented the basketball net anyway? We all know Dr. Naismith began by using peach baskets, but who decided to add the net? I haven’t seen the net attributed to any particular person, but most sources seem to agree that nets were added in the late 1890s. This page, for example, includes the following:

The rules, of course, began being tweaked nearly from the beginning and the old peach basket was thrown out in favor of iron rims with netting as early as 1893 (though, interestingly, the first netted hoops had a closed bottom, so a long wooden dowel still had to be used to retrieve the ball for around a decade after the net was introduced, until someone finally got the bright idea of just using an open-ended net so that the ball would just fall through, no stick required).

It’s been many years since I last shot hoops, but I played a lot of basketball as a kid — in gym class, on youth league teams, and just messing around outside with friends. I always liked the metal nets often found on playgrounds — the “ch-chink!” of the ball going through the net sounded even better than the “swish!” provided by traditional twine nets, and the ball seemed to get suspended in the metal nets for just a moment longer, which for some reason I found very satisfying.

I’m interested in hearing what you folks have to say regarding basketball nets, so feel free to explore this topic in today’s comments.

Footnote: The Lakers won Game 2. But the Celtics won the series and the title.

(Big thanks to Jerry Wolper for another great historical find.)

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

And we’re back with a Pi Day edition of Collector’s Corner. Let’s start off with this outstanding Buffalo Bills poster. This is obviously O.J., and the eBay listing says it’s from 1974. I seem to remember having this poster prior to ’74, but the Bills didn’t go to that helmet design until that year, so it must be right. Needless to say, a classic example of 1970s NFL artwork.

Now to the rest of this week’s picks (and I’ll have a scoop of vanilla ice cream with that apple pie, please):

•  Jets fans! Hang this 1970s Sears cork board in your home office.

•  Speaking of the Jets, reader Andy Harris passed along this vintage photo of Jets coach Weeb Ewbank and former Mets skipper Casey Stengel celebrating the Mets’ 1969 World Series win.

•  How about this Mickey Mantle pocket watch?

•  Here’s a nice-looking Kansas City Chiefs stadium blanket. Listing says it’s from the 1960s, but since it says “National Football League,” probably more like early-’70s at the earliest.

•  Here’s another NFL blanket — this time from JC Penney — but this one goes on your bed.

•  Nice-looking 1970s Pittsburgh Pirates enamel belt buckle.

•  This (Sears?) ad from 1974 shows the Dolphins’ Dick Anderson and a future NFLer in uniform.

•  Take a close look at the cover art on this 1960s “Pro Tips” booklet, featuring some of the big pro football stars of the era.

•  Here’s a variation on the classic Baltimore Colts prancing horse logo on a 1960s decal.

•  Look at the treatment the wings got on this Eagles youth helmet, made by Rawlings, from the 1960s.

•  This 1960s NFL St. Louis Cardinals Technigraph plaque is still in good shape!

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jersey contest usa

Contest reminder: In case you missed it over the weekend, Phil is running a contest to design new World Baseball Classic jerseys and caps for Team USA. All the details are in this post. Get your designs in to by this Friday, March 17, midnight Eastern. Get crackin’!

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Click to enlarge

KRC update: The latest installment of Key Ring Chronicles is about a guy with three metal items on his key ring, each from a notable juncture in his life. Check it out here.

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The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: All Hiroshima Carp players will wear Hiroki Kuroda’s No. 15 on Saturday. … Yesterday Paul was wondering what cap Hank Williams was wearing in this photo. It was a Nashville Volunteers cap (from Ronnie Poore). … Today, 32 companies supply MLB with bats, up from only five manufacturers two decades ago (from Tommy Turner). … “Dodgertown was built on the site of a former U.S. Naval Air Station in Vero Beach, Florida in 1953,” says Mike Clary. “The dugouts at Holman Stadium weren’t completed in time for the opening of spring training games.” … Giants OF Michael Morse appears to be taking pants-hiking lessons from teammate Hunter Pence (from Chris Mayberry and @SheilaWSF).

NFL and College Football News: Are you a designer looking for a new gig? Always wanted to live in Cleveland? The Browns are looking to hire a graphic design coordinator. Cue the joke about a helmet design (from @LouiseBrooksFC). … Virginia Tech will have two single-digit defensive tackles next season: Tim Settle with No. 4 and Ricky Walker with No. 8 (from Andrew Cosentino).

Hockey News: Lightning goalie Peter Budaj has a new mask design featuring his alter-ego: Ned Flanders dressed as Thor. … The Milwaukee Admirals will wear first responders jerseys on April 1 (from Chad Jorgenson). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Here’s a good film from 1951 about the jobs NHL stars held during the summer (from reader Jet). … During the 1965-66 and 1966-67 seasons, the Bruins scrapped their black home jerseys and wore gold instead. Kenny Kaplan remembers that they often chose to wear their white jerseys at home. … The Devils will wear their green-trimmed throwbacks on March 16 — the day before St. Patrick’s Day. … Here’s a shot of a Canucks player spray-painting his stick black. “It’s believed a black lower section makes it harder for a goalie to track the pucks,” says @TheGoalNet45.

NBA News: During the 1960s the Celtics switched from a radial wordmark across the chest to a more horizontal one. In 1968, Larry Siegfried still had the old version (from JP Baillieul). … A Bucks blogger took a look at the team’s uniforms from the last two decades. … The Raptors wore MLSE Launchpad warm-up tops last night. That refers to a Toronto youth sports facility (from Zach Loesl).

College Hoops News: Here’s the court design for this year’s Final Four. … Instead of Valparaiso, a Vanderbilt logo was used during a PTI segment on Bryce Drew’s legendary game-winner in 1997 NCAA Tournament (from Chris Fyfe). … In the same vein, instead of a Mount Saint Mary’s University logo in this graphic, ESPN showed Mount St. Mary’s College (look between Minnesota and Nevada). Here is the correct logo (from Ed Kalas).

Grab Bag: Drexel lacrosse has a new St. Patrick’s Day helmet (from Jackie Treehorn). … Roman Mars, host of the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible, ranked government logos from best to worst (from Adam Herbst). … A few golfers at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week will have Palmer’s colorful umbrella logo on their clothes and equipment. … New logo for the Aldi supermarket chain.

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What Paul did last night: Last night I saw Uncertain, a documentary about the tiny town of Uncertain, Texas (yes, that’s really its name), and three of its more interesting residents.

It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long, long time — spectacularly beautiful, evocative, thought-provoking, and very entertaining. The three main characters are all seeking some sort of redemption — sometimes for things they’ve done, sometimes for things that have been done to them. While each of them is a familiar type (an ex-con, a directionless kid, etc.), none of them is a cliché. The cinematography is spectacular (miles better than what you see in most documentaries), and the pacing and editing are superb. Uni Watch’s highest rating.

As of today, Uncertain is only playing in NYC and London. But over the next week or so there will be screenings in Nashville, Chicago, Seattle, and Corpus Christi. If you live in or near those cities, I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Here’s the film’s website, the review that prompted me to see the film, and the trailer. Don’t miss.

Comments (67)

    I’m pretty sure Bryce Drew coaches at Vanderbilt, that’s probably why they used their logo.

    It happened in 1998, so the 1997-98 season. I remember that day. I was living in Mississippi at the time.

    Funny, I move south and a team I formerly lived an hour away from beats the local guys.


    The Vandy logo was not an mistake. go to the 19:57 mark here link and you hear Kornheiser say “happy anniversary vandy head coach Bryce drew for the game winner he sank as a valpo player”.

    We always had the Red, White & Blue nets in our driveway as a kid. Always liked the brightness the colors added. Also when comparing how high one kid could jump versus another the colors helped compare height.


    Right, the red, white and blue nets always seemed to be in the driveway hoops, while the playground always had the metal nets.

    As NCAA Floors go, this year’s final four is one of the better ones. Hopefully they’re improved the ugly one they’ve been using for the earlier rounds.

    As a 7 years old I got a table hockey game in 1968 with all 12 teams. It completely be-fuddled me why the Bruins jersey was gold and not black. My older brother later informed me, the game came with an out-of-date uniform for the Bruins, which was unfortunate as the Bruins were the glamour team of that era. (i.e. the Orr/Espo era)

    Looked back at the Bruins’ uniform history and found something I did not realize. I found it fascinating that they were born in 1924, but did not wear a primarily black jersey until 1948. Of course, first-year jersey was brown. Back in the days when NHL teams commonly had 1 jersey, the Bruins wore a predominantly white one with black and yellow trim.


    I agree about earlier rounds. One of my favorite things about NCAA tourney as a kid was being to instantly identify with a venue because of its unique court design.
    In recent years every early round venue has looked the same. Too vanilla for my tastes.

    Totally agree. It was always fun when I was younger to flip through the games and see the host schools court. Though I do find myself trying to guess the hosts now. It isn’t always easy to make out the small logo they put out there and it’s not always the obvious choice based on the city.

    Hey NFL, color at home, white away

    According to this article, Michael Morse decided to try to revive his career while at Hunter Pence’s wedding.


    Did Holman Stadium in Vero Beach ever have dugouts? My impression was one of the endearing features of the park was that the players sat on benches exposed to the elements – just like the fans.

    What always bothered me about Holman Stadium was the lack of an outfield fence. Did a player ever collide with one of those palm trees while tracking a fly ball?

    The chain nets would scuff the balls eventually. Always liked longer looser nylon nets that only “checked” the ball minimally, as opposed to shorter but tighter ones that held the ball too long. On our playgrounds, the natural twine nets would tear and eventually we would be playing with no nets at all. Only thing worse than a “silent swish” was being under the basket and having the ball bean you on the head.

    “Checked”. Does that term have anything to do with saying “check” and holding the ball for a second (or whatever) when playing pick-up games?

    Pardon my ignorance about anything basketballwise. I have never been a big follower or player. I just remember a few times when playing people doing the “check” thing.


    No – just a way of describing the ball slowing slightly as it went through the net. However, in playing half court you would always “check” by handing the ball to your opponent, and he would give it back when he was sure everyone was set and knew who he was guarding. No official in-bounding in pick-up games. just take it at the top of the key.

    My favorite basketball nets were the red, white, and blue ones. I liked the different visual it offered, and I kinda think the plain old white was a bit boring. I haven’t thought about this until this morning, but I’m kinda surprised that in the post-black and white TV era we haven’t moved to team-colored basketball nets. I realize that the rule says “white,” but that’s a simple enough change.

    The Lakers had the opposite situation in the 1970 Finals. The nets in LA were link, but the nets in New York were link.

    Thanks for this. After seeing today’s story on nets I was racking my brain trying to figure out who used to have really short nets back then. I figured it was a team I saw a lot on tv but didn’t think it was my favorite team the Lakers. I checked pictures of UCLA in college, and the Celtics in the NBA.

    That is what came to mind as well. But, I love the shorter nets. I love the sound of the swish and look of it.

    Thanks for noticing that, Mike. Whenever someone replays Game 7 of the 1970 Finals (the Willis Reed-on-one-leg game), I always notice those short nets.

    The post about basketball nets today sparked all sorts of memories for me. Growing up in the mid-90s my dad purchased a basketball hoop for the family and I remember changing the net a few times (harsh Michigan winters). One of the toughest decisions for a young 10-year-old mind at the time was what NBA logo net to get, it was either Huffy or Spalding that had nets you could buy at the sporting goods store sporting an NBA team’s colors as well as their logo.
    We had a Pacers one, although we were not Pacers fans haha, that was blue and yellow and had the “P” logo on the front. The closest I could find is this Kansas State one on eBay link

    The MSG nets in the early 70’s were about half the length of a regular net. The Knicks were accused of the same thing.

    The MSG nets seemed really tight causing the basketball to almost stop for a second. Always bugged me. I never thought about how it might slow down the game or the strategic aspect. I always preferred the long nylon nets and the “swish” sound. As a kid, I would buy a new net for my driveway goal and stretch it until it reached an acceptable amount of looseness.

    The fourth thing is actually a screwdriver. All the extensions fit different sized screw heads.

    No, that’s one of the three things discussed in the KRC entry.

    I believe Susan was referring to the cylindrical item in between the paw print and the key. Not sure what that is. Mini-flashlight? Whistle?

    Ah, now there’s an interesting thing to have on a key ring. Jon, if there’s a good story behind it, you should contribute to Key Ring Chronicles!

    I remember some Tennessee high schools in the late 80’s and early 90’s had longer nets that would get tangled in the rim after a made shot. This allowed the team extra time to set up their full-court press.

    On the Bruins wearing gold at home: I have no pictures, but I remember the Blackhawks wore their home red sweaters those years when playing in Boston. Of course, color vs. color in the B&W TV era didn’t pop as much.

    Wow, taking a closer look at that Chicago newspaper, its quite amazing how things have changed over the last 50+ years. The NBA barely is mentioned, page 2 has the standings – an 8 team league back then. Hockey on the first page. The Steelers announce a new coach, on the first page, but not a big story. Thanks for posting

    The net discussion made me think about when I played in high school. Some nets were fast; others slow. Often times the home team took advantage of the type they had.

    This also made me think of something else basketball related. With the advent of breakaway rims, a new factor was thrown in the mix- how loose a rim could be set to aid shooting. Some gyms had rims that were notoriously tight. Others were like sewers, with everything falling in eventually. At the school I work at, ours were on the tight side. I wanted to see if they were too tight, so I researched how to measure the rebound factor.

    Turns out there is a device that clips on to the rim with a weighted sleeve that is connected to a sensor to measure the rebound energy. The NCAA measures this in each gym twice a year- before the season and before playoffs. The acceptable range of “rebound absorption” is between 35-50%, with only a 5% differential between rims on the same court.

    I rented one of these for my school, and we were right in the middle of the range. I always thought we had tight rims compared to other schools, so I guess they are too loose.

    Here’s a link to the device. It’s very simple to use, although hardly anyone I ran into ever heard about it before. Even the shop where I rented it from had to call the ,manufacturer to get it for me.


    Hey – sometimes its obvious when you are going to see a lot of “long rebounds” when the rim is super-tight. Less shooter’s bounces. True also in parks and schoolyards way before the advent of collapsible rims.

    In tonight’s NCAA opener – Clark Kellog remarked that the facility at Dayton had “shooter’s rims”.

    The park where I grew up playing basketball has something I’ve never seen anywhere else: “permanent” nets made out of cables.
    On the one hand I like the idea of low maintenance (and hard to steal) nets. However, there’s no satisfying swish when your shot hits nothing but net. It doesn’t move at all. It’s definitely better than no net at all so I can’t complain too much.

    By the way, Paul…just read yesterday’s piece a short while ago. I always look forward to your travel stories!

    Not sure if this has already been covered… the purpose of the net is listed in the rules, to “check” the ball as it passes through the hoop. It’s not supposed to catch the ball until it’s passed all the way through. The purpose is to make it easier to tell if a ball passed all the way through the hoop by stopping it long enough for someone to notice it stopped. If the net’s too short the ball will stop partway through, not all the way through, and the basket doesn’t count until the ball passes all the way through. If the net’s too long, it’s a defensive advantage as otherwise noted in the comments.

    While watching way too many games on TV over the years I have seen a number of arenas that have nets that hardly move at all. Especially on shots that bounce a few times on the rim and drop through softly – the ball seems to drop through unmolested. Can’t always tell it went through.

    Interesting that while both the NBA and NCAA require an 18″ ID metal hoop, a 15″-18″ long net, and use the exact same language about momentarily checking the ball as it passes through, the NBA uses cord with a smaller thread count, which I assume means that they are thinner cords than the NCAA.

    Thought I’d share this here…with fellow Uni-Watchers…
    I am the PA Announcer at Scottsdale Stadium, where the Giants have spring training.
    On Sunday, the Giants hosted the Reds and as is typical, the Reds brought some players from minor league camp. When they made some defensive changes late in the game, I saw that a guy wearing #7 was playing left field, so I announced the player who was listed as #7 on the roster. Unfortunately, I announced the wrong #7 as one of the minor leaguers was also wearing #7.
    I wonder how often things like this happen in spring training as teams use players that are not familiar to broadcasters or announcers.

    There was a period where I’d visit a friend in Florida every March, and we’d go see a couple games. I’d keep score, and it was always fun to try to figure out who the unlisted guys who got in the game were, or where in the batting order the four substitutes went. So I definitely sympathize with you.

    I used to do PA at my son’s hockey games. One afternoon a player from the opposing team wearing #5 was penalized and there was no #5 on my roster for that team. I got the timekeeper on the walkie-talkie to get the player’s name… and she wouldn’t give it to the timekeeper. So I announced “penalty to visitors, #5… two minutes, tripping.” The player’s mother went shrieking to rink management about “unfair” announcing since I hadn’t given her little snowflake’s name in the penalty announcement. Another time ?i read the wrong snowflake’s name for a penalty and that mom went to rink management and complained. I finally told the rink manager I was hanging up my microphone – not worth the headaches from the spoiled hockey parents. Good thing #7’s mama wasn’t there at your game in Scottsdale.

    I had a parent once correct a pronunciation at a Juco football game.
    The roster had the player’s name spelled incorrectly.

    Josh – they wrote about your “mistaken identification” in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer.

    I distinctly remember Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV and Loyola Marymount during the Hank Gathers/Bo Kimble days complaining that opposing teams would tighten up the nets to slow down their fast break.

    That’s funny because I heard that in the Showtime years the Lakers were accused of the opposite but by a different tactic. They would try to use balls with higher pressure so they got long rebounds to start a fast break – and opposing teams would do the opposite to try and slow them down.

    On a related note to that old Lakers/Celtics picture. I’ve noticed that the two Celtics players (one of them Bill Russell) are wearing shorts with different trim. Russell is wearing the one with double green trim, and the one contesting the shot, a single green trim. Has this been mentioned before?

    That JCPenny’s NFL blanket – they also sold bedspreads and curtains with the same pattern – my brother and I had those.

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