What is a trapezoidal lane?

Every four years I’m reminded of several oddities that are associated with Olympic (and international) basketball. The most bizarre to me is the strange, non-rectangular key on the court (or lane, or paint, according to your basketball jargon preferences). Anyway, it looks like this:

According to the NBC Olympics site, this strange lane is called a trapezoidal lane. For whatever reason I’ve always thought it was strange visually (but then again, I was raised on ACC hoops and Jordan’s 1990s glory days), but I missed the explanation for why it exists.

A blog entry I read detailed that it was a way to equalize the height of players on the international stage. Making the lane wider closer to the basket means a tall center will have to move further to avoid a 3-second call, which in theory, gives shorter teams a chance to compete with those brimming with taller players. Its intent is that “big men” can’t lurk under the basket for extensive periods. The trapezoidal lane should force them to be more mobile, while giving teams with good perimeter shooting some unknown advantage. Despite these intentions, this obstacle has done little to avoid the Redeem Team’s Olympic-long dunkfest. Apparently we won’t be seeing the trapezoidal lane for much longer, and international hoops will be moving in favor of the NBA (aka non-eye sore) styled rectangular lane starting in 2010.

I still think international hoops have this different lane for the sake of being different, and apparently, so does that blog’s author. I extend my kudos and agreement.


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Filed under Olympics, sports

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