Why are US and International Basketball Court Lengths Different? Answer: Handball

The FIBA World Basketball Championships are coming up later this month. The game is similar to the US version, but one difference is the court length.

FIBA: 28 Meters or 91 Feet, 10.36 Inches
US: 28.65 Meters or 94 Feet

Did you ever wonder why? Through some logical deduction, I’ve concluded that the answer is a combination of the metric system and Team Handball. This became apparent to me from Handball matches I’ve seen on TV and from the many courts around Paris that I’ve played on for basketball matches. At all of these gyms, the baseline for the basketball court fits exactly on the 6 Meter Handball line on both sides the gym. I thought to myself, “Gee, how come that never worked out for me the many times that I made lines for a Handball court.”

Well the answer, of course, is that the dimensions for US basketball courts are different from International Rules Basketball courts.
And if you do the math: 6 meters + 28 Meters + 6 Meters = 40 Meters (the official Handball length court) you get that perfect match with the Handball 6 Meter Lines and the FIBA Basketball baselines.

I don’t think that this happened purely by chance. According to Wikipedia, International Handball matches were first played in 1925 and Basketball followed up in 1932, so Handball probably set it’s court length first. When FIBA codified the dimensions of the basketball court, they copied a lot of the American lengths despite their less than ideal Metric equivalent. For the length of the court, however, somebody probably figured out that if they cut out .65M they would not only have a nice round number of 28M they would also have a symmetrical, less line-cluttered floor for gyms that are used for both handball and basketball. Just a theory, but unless someone has a better one, I’m sticking to it.

2 thoughts on “Why are US and International Basketball Court Lengths Different? Answer: Handball

Comments are closed.