What defines the athletes considered to be among the greatest of all time? In many cases, we are using numbers to illustrate someone's superiority, including the titles won. However, in the case of Diego Maradona, or any athlete rarely playing for the top teams, we have to use other criteria. This includes their overall impact and how they improved sides with their presence and leadership. Nevertheless, we all forget that the best proof for the athlete's dominance comes when the rules change to stop them. This is why we're naming these guys, ranking them on our top ten list based on how significant were the adjustments made to make them less efficient.
10. Michael Jordan
We all know about the illegal defense, but be honest and tell us, have you ever heard about the illegal offense rule? In the eighties, playing D was pretty straightforward, as you had to stick to your man. However, this also let Michael Jordan and the Bulls exploit the rule to the point of ridiculousness! In MJ's early years, before he became a myth, the Bulls were a one-man show, so everyone helped him score.
What happened is that the Bulls would send three players beyond the three-point line, meaning that the defenders had to follow them or be punished for the illegal defense. This made the paint empty, so MJ pretty much played one-on-one, regularly scoring against his helpless opponents. However, this practice was banned before the 1987-88 season by introducing the illegal offense. As you can imagine, this rule stayed obscure, and with the introduction of zone defense, it became pointless.
9. Martin Brodeur
Of all the rule changes, this one is among the most unfair! Martin Brodeur is one of the best NHL goalkeepers ever, but his puck-handling skills were also tremendous. With his pinpoint passing so effective, he also served as a third defenseman. This was proven highly useful when the puck was behind the net. In that case, Brodeur would pick it up and send it forward, unlike any other goalie.
The NHL decided to restrain him, so in 2005, they introduced the trapezoid area behind the net, restricting his movement. Brodeur has often spoken against this, and he was right. Instead of encouraging other goaltenders to get better, the league decided to punish him only because he was more skillful. Do you agree that hockey would be more exciting with goalkeepers more involved?
8. Wayne Gretzky
When you have a terrific individual in your team, you should create as much space for him as possible. As the best hockey player ever, Gretzky hugely benefited in four-on-four situations, scoring in bunches. This meant that some of his teammates purposely caused trouble, provoking penalties. While the crowd loved it, the NHL decided to do something about it.
Hence, since the 1985-86 season, double fouls wouldn't cause ejection in a five-on-five situation. Even though everyone was unhappy with this change, it lasted for seven seasons. Of course, this never stopped Gretzky, who still dominated, even though he never won the title in his last 12 seasons on the ice.
7. Ingerman Stenmark
No one was such a dominant figure in skiing as Ingerman Stenmark in the seventies and the eighties. With 86 wins, he is the best in history, far in front of the second-placed Marcel Hirscher. However, despite skipping the downhill discipline, he won three World Cups in a row.
To stop him, a super giant slalom was introduced in 1983. This meant that a slalom specialist like Stenmark would have a much harder time winning the season, and indeed, he never did. Interestingly, the Swede rarely competed in super giant slalom and downhill as he was afraid of high speeds. Furthermore, already mentioned Hirscher has 67 wins, with 63 in slalom and giant slalom. Still, that didn't stop him from winning eight World Cup seasons!
6. Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal was such an anomaly that the NBA had to adjust rules because of him several times. However, not all changes made were going against him. It all started in his early years in Orlando Magic when Shaq demonstrated his power in a unique way. While others have broken backboards before, O'Neal managed to destroy the whole construction of the basket twice!
As this caused long delays and potential injuries, the league made the frame stronger and forced arenas to have a backup hoop. Much more importantly, Shaq was the reason for the NBA to finally allow zone defense, as he was so hard to guard otherwise. Finally, as O'Neal was a poor free-throw shooter, coaches used "Hack-a-Shaq" tactics, fouling him heavily in the game's last minutes. Yet, the NBA decided to punish this practice, so purposely fouling a player without a ball in the last two minutes of the game meant giving away the ball and two free throws.
5. Bob Gibson
Bob Gibson was a terrific MLB pitcher, spending his entire 17 season career with the St. Louis Cardinals. His talent is unquestionable, as he won two World Series while being an All-Star nine times. However, his most extraordinary moment came in 1968. That year, he had a 23-9 overall record, including a 15 straight game. What's much more impressive was his 1.12 ERA, a record that's practically impossible to break.
The MLB reacted immediately, so they lowered the mound height to only 10 inches from the previous 15. This wasn't all, as the strike zone's height was scaled down. While Gibson (who died in 2020) was never explicitly named the only player who caused these changes, they are widely known as "Gibson rules." This hurt his performance immensely, leading to a 2.18 ERA in 1969.
4. Ray Mancini
While many athletes can be proud that they caused the rule changes, the former boxing lightweight champion of the world, Ray Mancini, is not among them. Nicknamed "Boom Boom," he was a heavy hitter like Mike Tyson, winning 23 of his 29 fights via knockout. Nonetheless, his punching power was simply too dangerous for the professional boxing rules in the eighties. In 1982, Mancini faced South Korean Kim Duk-koo in a title defense fight. In a brutal spectacle, the champion was dominant, with the challenger suffering from heavy blows. Finally, it was all over in the 14th round, as "Boom Boom" won by TKO.
Unfortunately, a few seconds after the end, Kim fell into a coma and died only four days later. Also, both his mom and the match referee later committed suicides, while Mancini fought the depression. This tragedy made all the boxing organizations limit the title bouts to 12 rounds. Plus, fighters need additional medical checks before stepping into the ring.
3. George Mikan
Before George Mikan, everyone thought that the big men have no chance to be great at basketball. However, this first NBA giant was incredibly skilled and agile, easily overpowering everyone. His massive dominance was the reason for some substantial rule changes that stand even today! Because of his size, Mikan could easily block downward path shots, so the NCAA needed to introduce the goaltending rule.
The NBA found another way to make him less dominant under the basket, as they've increased the free throw lane's size. However, none of that stopped him from becoming a superstar and one of the best in history. While some also credit him for the three seconds rule, that honor goes to Leroy Edwards. Interestingly, after his playing days, Mikan helped implement a 3-point line.
2. Michael Schumacher
Many will argue that Michael Schumacher is not the greatest Formula 1 driver ever. Nonetheless, no other racer was punished so much because he was unstoppable. After a few painful seasons, the German won the title for Ferrari in 2000 and kept it going for the next four championships. Schumacher was the sole reason for constant changes in qualifying formats and the tire rules, and it's impossible to list them all.
None of that helped, so the desperate F1 leadership decided to change the scoring system so that the second-placed driver in the race would receive eight points, only two less than the winner. Finally, the team orders were banned for a decade because of him, even though they were legal before and since. Some other legends like Fangio or Hakkinen hugely benefited from this, but it became a problem only when "The King of Spa-Francorchamps" was at his peak. Even outside Formula 1, no other racing driver was so brutally punished for his greatness.
1. Wilt Chamberlain
While Mikan looked like a superhuman, Wilt Chamberlain caused even more nightmares to the NBA. Chamberlain was the reason for the offensive goaltending rule, introduced in 1956. To handicap him further, the lane area was widened in 1964.
Furthermore, the NCAA also had to adjust rules because of the record-scoring Wilt, including free throws. At the time, he would shoot the ball, jumped behind the lane, and then slammed it. Because of this, players taking free throws now can't move until the ball hits the rim. However, the most bizarre rule change meant that inbounding the ball over the backboard was made illegal!
As we can see, mainly the basketball stars forced the rule changes, and many others deserve honorable mention, including Charles Barkley, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, or Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. While the rules of professional sports are well-defined, there'll always be people inspiring the change. However, it's hard to believe that they'll be as massive as provoked by these famous athletes on our top ten list!
Can you remember some other rule changes attributed to a single athlete or a few of them? Were they unfair, or do you think they improved the game? Tell us in the comments down below!
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Deacon Blue Says:
Shaq was such a monster - only a few players like Dennis Rodman knew how to handle him.
August 05 at 01:52:40 PM
The change made against Brodeur is very unfair, I didn't know about that. As for Michael Schumacher - Formula 1 sometimes changes the rules to make the playfield more even, but this was way too much.
July 12 at 01:15:34 PM