NBA Players Who Broke the Backboard: Remembering the Players Who Shattered the Glass

The shattering of NBA backboards by powerful dunks was once an iconic sports moment, highlighting the impressive athleticism of players like Shaq and Dawkins. NBA adaptations, including breakaway rims and penalties, have halted backboard destruction since 1993, leaving fans to anticipate the potential return of this legendary feat.

The net for an NBA basket stands at an impressive 10-feet tall above the quart, also known as about two of me, but that would be more about 11-feet. The fact that there are people on this planet that can jump that vertical is impressive, let alone dunk a basketball.

In my opinion, whether in movies or real life, the shattering of the backboard is one of the most cinematic things that can happen in sports. Much like a 63-yard feel goal, or the boards breaking in hockey , the shattering of the backboard is absolutely impressive.

When the backboard of an NBA backboard breaks, it can be called backboard shattering, breaking, or smashing. This only happens when a player dunks with enough power to break the tempered glass. This can be called a foul.

First NBA player to break the backboard

On November 5th, 1946, Chuck Connors became the first player in NBA history to break the backboard on a net. Sadly, it did not happen during the game, but during warmups. Connors was a 6’5” 190-pound center who was playing for the Boston Celtics at the time. Funny enough, Connors is actually more famous as an actor than he ever was as a professional basketball player.

What is funny about the incident was that Connors was performing routine warm up drills when he hit the front of the rim and board shattered. The reason for this happening was due to the arena workers did not properly assemble the backboard.

Connors lived one impressive life, playing basketball for Seton Hall, serving in the military, playing in the NBA and MLB, before becoming an actor.

Notable NBA players who smashed the backboard

There have been many famous NBA players who broke the backboard during games, Shaq being arguably the most famous to do so. In Shaq’s most famous incident of breaking the backboard during a 1992 games versus the nets, he not only pulled the rim from the backboard, shattering it, but the shot clock also fell on him as well.

He also did it in college playing for LSU.

I always love to talk about my hometown 76ers, and Darryl Dawkins was infamous for abusing the Dawkins started his NBA career famous, becoming the first player in NBA history to be drafted directly out of high school. Dawkins was picked 5th overall in 1975. He abused his first backboard in 1979 in a game versus the Kansas City Kings. He went up for a dunk and gravity didn’t just bring the ball back down. He would go on to do it again three weeks later.

Dawkins’ and Shaq would make even the toughest backboard quake in their boots.

Dawkins career was certainly legendary, and he was an even better person off of the court. Dawkins tragically passed away from a heart attack in 2015 in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Michael Jordan also had a pretty famous destruction story. Nothing quite like Shaq tearing half an arena down, or Dawkins being a menace to any and all backboards. During the 1980’s the NBA took a trip to Italy for some Nike exhibition games. Jordan went up and a shower of glass came down with him all over the court and three of the other teams players.

Its actually one of the more visually appealing shattering videos that I have seen.

How the NBA adapted to players breaking the backboards

Nowadays, the NBA has been fighting back against players breaking the backboards. Some players can be fouled, others can be fined up to $5,000, even up to suspensions if it is intentional. This is all because of the massive delay it causes to the game.

Some claim that Darryl Dawkins is the reason that the NBA had to make changes to the way the rims and backboards were designed. Such as the implementation of breakaway rims, these rims would bend instead of ripping off or breaking the glass. While Dawkins was no longer able to destroy the rims and backboards, his dunks were still legendary.

The 1990s also saw some major backboard shattering incidents, leading to the NBA increasing the bracing on the entire design. This also saw the NBA implementing technical fouls for intentional breaking of the backboard.

The backboard has not broken since 1993.

The legacy of the backboard breaking

The backboard sadly has not been broken since 1993, even though Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man did do it in 2012.

With the implementation of new designs and reinforcements, the NBA was able to stop players from destroying the glass like they used to. Another reason for the lack of destruction in the NBA is the implementation of new rules, dissuading NBA players from pulling off this iconic stunt.

The biggest legacy of the backboard breaking comes from Dawkins uncanny ability to do so regularly.


The backboard shattering during an NBA was probably one of the coolest things that could happen in sports, and has become a long missed iconic moment. Players such as Michael Jordan surely left us with some memorable moments of raining glass, but Dawkins was the pioneer of shattering glass during an NBA game.

Sadly all good things eventually must come to an end, and the NBA put an end to this iconic sports moment, the glass doesn’t even really break in hockey anymore, another casualty of time. The fact that this hasn’t happened in some time only means that when it happens again, if, it will be spectacular.

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