The “Charles Barkley Rule” was the catalyst for the evolution of centers and power forwards.
In the late 80s and early 90s, Charles Barkley was one of the most dominant power forwards in the NBA.
He was only standing at 6-6, but he possessed the strength and explosiveness of a 7-foot center.
He also had footwork like a guard.
Recognizing his gifts, his main move was to back down his defender until he got close to the basket, then used his smooth footwork to slash to the rim for an easy bucket.
Barkley would make the defender absorb all of his weight and force before posterizing the poor fella.
He would often get an easy dunk (or layup) out of this or just get fouled.
He got so good at this move that in his fourth NBA season, he was averaging 28 points on 58.7 percent shooting. Then a few years later, in 1993, he won the MVP award.
Noticing how effective this play was, opposing coaches started to implement it.
This is one of the reasons why centers and power forwards dominated the 90s.
They were allowed to take advantage of smaller, weaker defenders in the post; they were able bully ball their way to easy buckets.
After years of allowing the play, the NBA, one day, decided that it was hurting the game (or their pockets… I’m not entirely sure) and created a rule to prevent players from backing their opponent down too long.
They believed that this play was allowing teams to stall the game. And even though it may have been a good strategy in certain situations, it was boring the fans.
The NBA brass believed that fans wanted to watch a game that had more ball movement and shot attempts -not a big guy backing down to the basket on every possession.
The Implementation of the ‘Charles Barkley Rule’
So in 1999, the NBA implemented the 5-Second Back-To-The-Basket Violation (or the Charles Barkley Rule).
"They changed the rule because he was so good."
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 27, 2022
With this new rule, players were only allowed to back down a defender for 5 seconds if he is in between the free-throw line and the basket.
“An offensive player in his frontcourt below the free throw line extended is not allowed to dribble the ball with his back or side to the basket while being actively guarded by an opponent for more the 5 seconds.”
How Did The 5-Second Back-to-the-Basket Rule Evolve The Game?
This new rule, obviously, changed how bigs played. They had to be more strategic and aware of their post play.
They also had to improve or develop new skills, such as better post-up moves, passing, and jump shooting, so that they can prevent themselves from violating the rule.
In my personal opinion, this is probably why Dirk Nowitzki was such a sought-after player.
When he started to blossom, almost every team wanted a player like him.
He was able to shoot, and more importantly, Nowitzki had scoring moves that allowed him to post-up above the free-throw line.
However, I will add that even with this rule, big men still found ways to dominate in the post.
It wasn’t until the mid-2010s-ish that NBA centers and power forwards had to start developing a guard game to be key contributors for their team.
I’m not entirely sure why, but I think the game of basketball just evolved because of the success of the Golden State Warriors.
Charles Barkley, like George Mikan, was so dominant that the NBA had to create new rules to make the game harder for him (and those emulating his style).
And because of that, he revolutionized the game of basketball and helped evolve it to what it is today.