Shattered: How to break a backboard

BY DAVID UBBEN Modified: January 7, 2010 at 9:47 am •  Published: January 7, 2010
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Bu
t this is all speculation. We don’t have enough information to be able to tell.”

John Shivel, a spokesman for Spalding, the manufacturer of the backboard Gallon broke, said in an e-mail: "Until we have a complete analysis of the situation, we are unable to offer comments.”

Even on severely outdated goals — those without breakaway rims — shattering a backboard is a unique feat.

"Occasionally, we’ll hear about a board that has broken, but it’s very, very infrequent,” said Joe Connerley, the chief engineer at Gared Sports. "Most of the time, it’s in arenas where larger players play. You don’t really hear about it in high school, and most of the ones we hear about are when the board is four-corner mounted.”

Gared Sports says none of its pro backboards have shattered during a game. Goals cost between $6,000 and $12,000, but most come with lifetime guarantees.

The NCAA requires teams to use half-inch, tempered glass.

"I don’t know of anybody who has even attempted to approve anything different than that,” Connerley said.

Another sports equipment company, Schelde, makes a "Dunk Proof” backboard that attaches the rim to the backstop without going through the glass. Fox Sports Network accepted that challenge on its show, "Sports Science.”

Amar’e Stoudemire dunked 50 times on the Schelde-mae goal without breaking the backboard, once applying 1,000 pounds of pressure. Show producers dropped a piano on the rim that tore apart the system’s metal pivot with 6,000 pounds of pressure. The experiment brought the goal to the ground but left the backboard still intact.

"Failure usually results from microscopic flaws or cracks in the glass, which can be built up by repeatedly ‘fatiguing’ the glass,” said OU physics professor Stu Ryan. "My guess is that backboard had many stresses, including players hanging on the rim, each of which contributed some microscopic cracks before it finally failed.”

Gared Sports has a pair of new products that would help avoid two of the problems encountered in Spokane.

The Gared Retention System is a goal with a tacky sheet across that glass that would retain the glass shards if a backboard shattered, preventing possible injury to players and damage to the floor. The other is a quick connect/disconnect backstop that can replace the old basket in around five minutes, eliminating the 50-minute delay caused by Gallon’s slam.

So with manufacturers trying to prevent the fraternity’s "board-busters” population from growing, Gallon might be one of its final additions.

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