Share “Shattered: How to break a backboard”

BY DAVID UBBEN Modified: January 7, 2010 at 9:47 am •  Published: January 7, 2010
NORMAN — It’s an exclusive club. And when its members join, they do it with a highlight that basketball fans can’t wait to see.

Only the most powerful dunkers can turn the backboard into a shower of broken glass. They become immortalized, too.

When Oklahoma State’s Bryant "Big Country” Reeves did it in practice before the 1995 Final Four, CBS sportscaster Billy Packer scurried onto the floor to collect a few of the pieces, hopeful that they would become rare memorabilia in the years that followed.

Shaquille O’Neal once tore an entire goal down and awed a Meadowlands crowd as the shot clock crashed onto his head.

On New Year’s Eve in Spokane, Wash., Oklahoma freshman Tiny Gallon joined the fraternity of backboard breakers. He shattered the glass on a failed alley-oop but succeeded in achieving some celebrity status.

In less than a week, Gallon’s botched slam has attracted nearly 2 million views on YouTube.

Gallon, at 290 pounds, is among the majority of backboard breakers who are closer to 300 than 200.

Are basketball mammoths yanking on the rim the only reason why it sometimes rips right off? Or is entry to the backboard-busters club reliant on a failure of engineering?

"We’ve watched it several times,” said Laura St. George, the vice president of sales at Gared Holdings, a sports equipment company that provides basketball backstops for college venues and, until 2008, the NBA.

"It looks like the rim pulls the backboard out, and it looked like a 180 rim. Those rims don’t have the lifetime span of normal rims most places use now.”

The 180 Degree rim breaks away to the side and front, but original breakaway rims only do so at the front. The older rims are attached to the glass using a four-corner mount, which uses four bolts attached to the four exterior corners of the rim’s frame.

Since the arena in Spokane only hosts a handful of basketball games each year, it did not have an updated, sturdier direct-mount system, which attaches to the goal with two bolts on the top two corners, as well as a large metal beam that’s driven through the glass.

On a direct-mount, any stress from a dunk is distributed through the beam onto the rest of the system.

On a four-corner mount, the glass still bears some stress from a dunker. When that stress becomes too severe, it becomes a must-see clip like Gallon produced last week against Gonzaga.

Though neither is prone to easy breakage, the four-corner mount breaks with greater frequency than a direct mount.

"It was very hard to tell from the few pictures and the short video that we saw. We’re only guessing at this time that the four-corner mount contributed to the breakage,” said Dimitrios Koukoulomatis, the president and owner of Gared Sports, a leader in sports equipment.

"If, for some reason, a couple bolts were loose, it may have made that board break at a lower rate or lower force.

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