The basketball courts in Pyongyang look like basketball courts in Australia or Europe or the USA. At both ends there is a ring with a net and a backboard. The rectangle court is marked down the centre and two arches rise from its baselines – the three point arc.
But in North Korea, the so called Hermit Kingdom, basketball has an entirely unique set of rules, where extra points are handed out for slam dunks and for swishes.
As a huge NBA fan, I’ve become accustomed to some amazing basketball – slam dunks, blocks, alley oops and three-after-three-after-three. There are some aspects of the game that drag on in the NBA (that final two minutes can go forever and referrals? Please!) but it looks like North Korea may have solved these issues.
If you’re not aware, Kim Jong-un and his late father Kim Jong-il were pretty big basketball fans. It’s said that Kim Jong-il had regulation courts put into all his mansions and that his favourite player was Michael Jordan. This love of basketball eventually extended to getting one of Jordan’s Chicago Bulls team mates over to North Korea for an exhibition match in 2013: Dennis Rodman.
Rodman has a reputation for being a little out there, so eyebrows were raised when he went on that diplomatic / basketball tour back in 2013, but those eyebrows weren’t raised too high.
Apparently, the exhibition match ended in a 110-110 tie.
It wasn’t that that caught my eyeballs necessarily though – it was a report from way back in 2006 when Kim Jong-il was in power that has the interesting tidbits.
In North Korea, basketball has its own set of rules.
Slam dunks aren’t worth two points – they’re worth three. If you shoot a ball from behind the three-point arc and it doesn’t touch the ring, you don’t get three points, but four. If you’ve been sent to the free throw line and you miss – well you actually lose a point.
Perhaps the best rule though is that, in the final three seconds of a game, any basket is worth eight points which means a lot of games are winnable. In essence, stay within a few points and anyone can win (well, sort of. I mean you probably can’t win if the bloke on the other team is the Leader of your country and likely also holds the record for most points scored, most rebounds, most assists, most slam dunks, most cartwheels, most three pointers, most four pointers, most triple-doubles, most quadruple-doubles, most quintuple-doubles and most MVP awards)!
No word on whether or not the NBA ever looked at such drastic changes.
The report itself also details Kim Jong-il’s love affair with the NBA and the North Korean player Ri Myung-Hun, who stood at over 2.35 metres tall. With that kind of height Ri was definitely tall enough to make an NBA team, but the US Government prohibited North Koreans from working in the US. Strangely enough, in 2000, the US declared that he would be allowed to play, but Kim Jong-il felt slighted already and refused to let Ri leave the country.
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