The idea of removing players from the game after they commit their fourth or fifth or sixth personal foul has been in place for over 100 years. Indeed, disqualification of individual players is today, rather incredibly, the primary and virtually unchallenged method for penalizing fouls all over the world and at all levels of basketball. Yet you and I will likely never learn the name of the person or persons that first came up with the idea.
This is curious. After all, the shot clock had Danny Biasone and Leo Farris, and even the rather more murky-at-the-creation three-point line has multiple named aspirants for Founder status. But who will come forward and claim parenthood for, by far, the oldest feature of them all, the foul-out?
We do know the name in question wasn’t Naismith. In the good doctor’s 13 original rules, a player picking up their second foul was removed from the game, but only until the next basket was scored. That was actually more punitive than it sounds (scoring was infrequent at the dawn of “basket ball”), but the essential point is a player could still come back into the game after he or she had served their penalty.
That idea turned out to be surprisingly short-lived. By 1910, at the latest, officials in some college games were disqualifying players for committing too many fouls. The foul limit has been tweaked over the ensuing 100-plus years, and, when the upstart NBA rolled out in 1946, player disqualifications were part of that league’s original equipment.
The foul-out has been with us ever since. Continue reading