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In some old gyms, there isn't enough given space out of bounds for players to inbound, so there has to be space laid out inbounds instead.

Rules Oddity: Inbounding in Small Gyms

Millions of people watch basketball, but millions of people don’t know the rules of the game inside and out. I would consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable about the game, but there are details I wasn’t aware of until the basketball officiating class I’m taking.

After going through the first part of the rule book, a very interesting rule I had never heard of intrigued me. Rule 1 covers the court and equipment for the game, and Section 2 of the rule focuses on the sidelines and end lines. Article 2 explains what to do if there is not the required three feet of space out of bounds off of the boundary lines:

“If, on an unofficial court, there is less than 3 feet of unobstructed space outside any sideline or end line, a narrow broken line shall be marked on the court parallel with and 3 feet inside that boundary,” the rule states. “This restraining line becomes the boundary line during a throw-in on that side or end, as in Rule 7-6. It continues to be the boundary until the ball crosses the line.”

Nowadays, this is almost never going to come up. You won’t walk in many modern gyms and find one of the sidelines or end lines less than three feet from a wall or bleachers.

But many years ago, it wasn’t that rare for an end line to come up very close to a wall, making a rule like this very necessary. Otherwise, a player inbounding the ball would have little to no space to stand, and it would make getting the ball in play very difficult.

It’s not very common, but there are still gyms around America where you can see this dotted line. After reading this rule, I realized I remembered noticing lines like that very occasionally at old courts and not knowing what they meant. Now thanks to actually reading the rules, I do, and you’re ever in a gym with walls on top of you, you know how it should be handled.

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