Height may not be a pre-requisite attribute to become a top basketballer – a diminutive stature never held back the likes of Muggsy Bogues – but it can help. So it was with some bewilderment that the American player, David Simon, who stands at 6ft 6in, met the news that he can no longer play in the Korean Basketball League on account of being too tall.
Simon, a 35-year-old journeyman centre who has plied his trade in several leagues in Europe and Asia since leaving the US in 2005, has been told he must leave the KBL next season after league officials decided to impose height restrictions on foreign players. As of next season, which starts in October, one of the two overseas players each KBL team is allowed on their roster will have to be no taller than 6.56ft (which is two metres) and the other no taller than 6ft 1in, according to the Korea Times.
Simon, who plays for Anyang KGC, has become a victim of the league’s push to make the game less reliant on tall players and encourage the recruitment of small, skilful players in a bid to arrest the league’s recent decline in popularity. The Korea Times reported the KBL commissioner, Kim Young-il, said games have become dull in recent years and the new rules were expected to make the competition more exciting by shifting the focus of team’s recruitment.
Simon, who is in his second stint in the KBL and has also played in Bulgaria, Russia, France, Serbia, the Philippines and Kazakhstan, is unlikely to be the only player affected by the ruling; of the 22 other Americans in the league, nine exceed the new height limits.
“Personally, I don’t really understand it,” Simon told the BBC. “Just from the fact that there are only two or three of us that were even over the limit, and then two of us are right there. The tallest guy, Rod Benson [of Wonju Dongbu Promy], he was well over the limit, but besides that, most of the guys there aren’t super small, or there isn’t that much a difference in their skills.”
Simon, who topped the KBL scoring charts during the 2017-18 season with 26.1 points per game and was fourth in rebounds, said he is now likely to leave Korea and search for a new club elsewhere. “I was a bit upset,” he said. “To be that close and not to make, it kind of stinks. It doesn’t look like I’ll be going back there to play unless they change the rules again.”
For the record, the tallest player in the KBL, Ha Seung-jin of Jeonju KCC Egis, stands at 7ft 4in. But being Korean, there is nothing standing in his way to play again next season.