As connoisseurs of history, we sometimes find styles, habits and turns of phrase from the past that we wouldn’t mind bringing back to the present, Doc Brown-style. This time around, we’re dusting off basketball in a cage.

The NBA’s in trouble.

It’s not just the newly resolved labor troubles, or the Christmas games, or the Kardashian marriages. We’re talking about something deeper. The game has lost its way. It’s time to get back to how basketball was meant to be played.

Inside a 12-foot cage.

It’s an antiquated blood sport we’d like to dust off.

Let’s turn back the clock to 1896, when the Trenton Masonic hosted the world’s first professional basketball game. There was no dribbling, little to no foul-calling and instead of stopping the game for every out-of-bounds call, the entire game was played inside a cage, leaving players open for hockey-style body checks. The nets were knit shut at the bottom, so the ball had to be poked loose after each successful score. The final tally was 15-1.

Beyond the score, it was a slower, more physical game—more attuned to position than momentum. Without a fast break, every yard of the court mattered, and without dribbling, players had to make each pass count.

Sounds like fun, right?

Naturally, we don’t imagine the old rules will sweep the NBA anytime soon—but if it’s just your local pickup game, there’s nothing stopping you from indulging in a little nostalgia. The biggest trick is finding the right ball. The authentic version is above, but it can be tricky to find. Your best bet is finding one on eBay—although if someone sweet-talked the folks at Lemon Ball into making one, we’d be very impressed.

But first it’s time to work on your jump shot.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom