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NBA Fix #2 - The Challenge

Here’s a way to decrease bad calls without adding too much time to the game.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the calm before the storm— the last couple weeks of super slow NBA news time before training camp hits— so that means we have the time, space, and freedom to basically jabber about whatever we want. It’s in that vein that we created the NBA Fix series, in which any of our writers are free to talk about a fix they’d like to see in the NBA, whether it’s realistic or not.

Xiane led it off in Part One, and now, for our second installment in the NBA Fix series, I’d like to propose a system to challenge a call by the officials.

While I certainly realize part of the allure of the NBA is it’s fast-paced action, and many of the complaints about the NFL (which has the most notable challenge system in sports) is how much the game has slowed down (partially due to instant replay), there’s simply no excuse with modern technology to have some of the officiating issues still present in the Association.

The Houston Rockets have notably been the victims of some excruciating officiating these last several seasons, most notably at the hands of the Golden State Warriors (what team hasn’t, to be honest). It’s been bad enough at times to cause fans to suspect point shaving and financially-motivated game fixing, and as tin-foil-hat as that all sounds, the ghost of the Tim Donaghy scandal still looms as a dark cloud anytime there’s a missed or suspect call.

The speed of the NBA also seems conducive to more bang-bang judgement calls than any other sports, and the penchant for even good officials to occasionally get these wrong certainly doesn’t endear them to fan bases and conspiracy theorists.

One way to help with that is by instituting a challenge system, and what I propose is actually quite simple and similar to the NFL challenge system.

Each team will get two challenges per half that they are permitted to use. Any play can be challenged. Ref called an inadvertent foul? You can challenge it. The Warriors ran their 10th straight uncalled moving screen? You can challenge it. The officials missed a ball out off the other team and called it on you instead? Challenge it.

In order to make a challenge, the challenging team must call time out. Get it right, and the time out comes back to your total. Get it wrong, it stays used up. Whether correct or incorrect, two challenges is still the maximum per half.

Where the proposal differs from the NFL is in the final minutes of a game. In the NFL, a challenge replay can only come from the replay official in the booth after the two-minute warning.

In this proposal for the NBA, a coach will be able to issue a challenge in the final three minutes (after the mandatory timeout). However, the most challenges a team can use in the final three minutes is one. Meaning, if you haven’t yet used any of your challenges, you forfeit one of them in the final three minutes.

The other caveat is that for a challenge in the final three minutes, you MUST use a timeout. That means even if the challenge is a correct one, the challenging team will still be docked a timeout. With NBA rules currently limiting team timeouts in the final three minutes after the final mandatory one to two apiece regardless of how many were used the rest of the game, this stipulation will help mitigate flippant use of the challenge and continue in the spirit of the 2017 rule changes which sought to shrink game running times.

Game time is down to 2 hours and 15 minutes on average, and if you set a maximum 60-second limit on all challenges, this would add a maximum of eight minutes of running time per contest if all challenges were used, or up to 2 hours and 23 minutes on average, and still squarely sitting in a 2.5-hour TV time slot.

It’s not a perfect solution, but the NBA continues to have the most questions about officiating of any major sport, and this proposal could help with that perception.


Would you like to see some type of challenge system instituted to the NBA?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Yes, getting the calls right is the most important thing
    (72 votes)
  • 15%
    No, it’ll slow the game down too much
    (13 votes)
85 votes total Vote Now