SEOUL: South Korea’s basketball league has scrapped a controversial height limit that kept its tallest foreign players off the court, less than a year after it was introduced, officials said Wednesday.
The Korean Basketball League (KBL) was subject to worldwide mockery last year when it banned foreign players taller than 200cm (six foot six inches) in a move to protect local, mostly shorter athletes.
The regulation enraged many fans as it forced existing players out of their teams — many of them league favourites, including top scorer David Simon, a 201cm American.
Hundreds signed a petition submitted to the presidential office, protesting the rule. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported players had tried lifting weights and jogging before their measurements, hoping that dehydration would make them shrink.
Some recruits kneeled in happiness when they measured below the two-metre limit, while others were sent to pack their bags.
But those players were now welcome to return, a KBL official told AFP, as the league has decided to lift the controversial ban to “allow autonomy of the teams”.
“We felt that the ban was outdated and there were many complaints about the league restricting the freedom of the teams,” the official said.
“In the past, a player couldn’t sign a contract if he didn’t meet the requirement but now he can whether he is tall or short,” he added.
Each team is allowed two foreign players, but under the previous regulation, one had to be under 1.86m and the other under two metres.
The decision to scrap “all height restrictions” was reached at a board meeting on Monday that also lifted bans against overseas recruits who played more than 10 NBA games in the last three seasons.
The revisions will come into effect starting the 2019-2020 season.