Title:
Basketball backboard
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A basketball goal system includes a basketball backboard and support frame. The backboard is preferably constructed from polycarbonate to create a generally unbreakable backboard. The backboard desirably includes one or more protective layers that prevents or reduces degradation of the polycarbonate when exposed to environmental conditions such as ultraviolet (UV) light, temperature fluctuations and moisture. The backboard may be attached to the frame by an adhesive and the frame may be constructed from blow-molded plastic to create a lightweight and durable frame.



Inventors:
Waite, Donald (North Ogden, UT, US)
Earley, Del (Harrisville, UT, US)
Branz, Cody (Roy, UT, US)
Application Number:
10/973024
Publication Date:
06/02/2005
Filing Date:
10/25/2004
Assignee:
WAITE DONALD
EARLEY DEL
BRANZ CODY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B63/00; A63B63/08; A63B; (IPC1-7): A63B63/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAMBERS, MICHAEL S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Workman Nydegger (Salt Lake City, UT, US)
Claims:
1. A basketball goal system comprising: a basketball backboard frame; a basketball backboard attached to the basketball backboard frame, the basketball backboard comprising: a polycarbonate sheet including a front surface and a rear surface; and at least one protective layer covering at least a portion of the polycarbonate sheet, the protective layer providing protection to the polycarbonate sheet from environmental conditions such as ultraviolet light.

2. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, further comprising at least one protective layer on the front surface of the polycarbonate sheet and at least one protective layer on the rear surface of the polycarbonate sheet.

3. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, wherein the at least one protective layer covers substantially all of the exposed portions of the polycarbonate sheet.

4. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, wherein the at least one protective layer substantially prevents degradation of the polycarbonate when exposed to environmental conditions.

5. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, wherein the at least one protective layer substantially prevents the polycarbonate sheet from becoming brittle over a period of at least five years.

6. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, wherein the at least one protective layer substantially prevents the polycarbonate sheet from discoloring over a period of at least five years.

7. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, wherein the basketball backboard has a thickness of between about 2 millimeters and about 4 millimeters.

8. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, wherein the basketball backboard frame comprises a one-piece, unitary backboard frame constructed of blow-molded plastic.

9. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, wherein the basketball backboard frame is constructed from blow-molded plastic and includes a front surface that is spaced apart from a rear surface; and wherein the basketball backboard is attached to the front surface of the basketball backboard frame by an adhesive.

10. The basketball goal system as in claim 1, wherein the basketball backboard includes a protective layer that covers the front surface of the polycarbonate sheet and a protective layer that cover the rear surface of the polycarbonate sheet.

11. A basketball goal system comprising: a basketball backboard frame; and a polycarbonate basketball backboard attached to the basketball backboard frame, the polycarbonate basketball backboard including one or more protective layers on a front portion of the backboard and one or more protective layers on a rear portion of the backboard, the protective layers on the front portion and the rear portion of the backboard providing protection to the polycarbonate from ultraviolet light, temperature and moisture.

12. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the one or more protective layers cover substantially all the front portion of the backboard and the one or more protective layers cover substantially all of the rear portion of the backboard.

13. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the one or more protective layers cover substantially all of the exposed surfaces of the front portion of the backboard and the one or more protective layers cover substantially all of the exposed surfaces of the rear portion of the backboard.

14. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the one or more protective layers on the front portion of the backboard and the one or more protective layers on the rear portion of the backboard substantially prevent degradation of the polycarbonate when exposed to environmental conditions.

15. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the one or more protective layers on the front portion of the backboard and the one or more protective layers on the rear portion of the backboard substantially prevent the polycarbonate sheet from becoming brittle over a period of at least five years.

16. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the one or more protective layers on the front portion of the backboard and the one or more protective layers on the rear portion of the backboard substantially prevent the polycarbonate sheet from discoloring over a period of at least five years.

17. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the basketball backboard has a thickness of between about 2 millimeters and about 4 millimeters.

18. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the basketball backboard frame comprises a one-piece, unitary backboard frame constructed of blow-molded plastic.

19. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the basketball backboard frame is constructed from blow-molded plastic and includes a front surface that is spaced apart from a rear surface; and wherein the basketball backboard is attached to the front surface of the basketball backboard frame by an adhesive.

20. The basketball goal system as in claim 11, wherein the polycarbonate basketball backboard is substantially unbreakable and does not substantially degrade when continually exposed to outdoor environmental conditions over a period of at least five years.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to and the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/514,719, entitled BASKETBALL BACKBOARD, which was filed on Oct. 27, 2003; and claims priority to and the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/539,258, entitled BASKETBALL BACKBOARD, which was filed on Jan. 26, 2004. The disclosures of each of the foregoing applications are incorporated by reference in their entireties.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to basketball goal systems and, in particular, to basketball backboards for basketball goal systems.

2. Description of Related Art

As the game of basketball continues to increase in popularity, a large number of people have purchased basketball systems for use at their homes. Such basketball systems typically include a support pole, which is held in a fixed position while playing the game of basketball, and goal assembly that is attached to the upper portion of the support pole. The goal assembly, which is suspended a given distance above a playing surface, typically includes a basketball backboard frame, a basketball backboard, and goal or rim.

Conventional basketball systems designed for use at home often include basketball backboard frames that are constructed from metal or steel and include a number of individual sections that are joined together. The metal frame is typically attached to the support pole by a support structure that includes two or more elongated arms. The basketball backboard, which may also be referred to as a rebound member or basketball backboard panel, is often attached to the metal support frame by one or more screws or bolts.

Basketball backboards for use with home basketball systems have previously been constructed from solid materials such as wood. Disadvantageously, wooden basketball backboards deteriorate over time, especially when used in outdoor environments because the backboards are constantly exposed to harsh weather environments such as rain and snow. Basketball backboards for home basketball systems have also be constructed from injection molded plastic. Injection molded plastic backboards, however, are relatively flexible and that often causes poor rebounding characteristics. In particular, when basketballs strike injection molded plastic backboards, the backboards typically flex and that causes basketballs to bounce off of or rebound in inconsistent and unpredictable manners. In addition, different portions of injection molded plastic backboards may flex or bend different amounts. For example, portions of injection molded plastic backboards that are supported by a frame may flex or bend significantly less than portions of the backboard that are not supported by the frame. Accordingly, basketballs may rebound differently depending upon which portion of the backboard it strikes.

Conventional injection molded plastic backboards typically require strengthening ribs and other complex structures in an attempt to strengthen the backboards. These strengthening ribs and other structures, however, disadvantageously increase the weight and cost of the backboard. Additionally, known basketball backboards may be constructed using a structural foam material with an internal cellular structure and a hard external shell. Undesirably, this type of backboard typically requires a multiple step manufacturing process that increases the time and cost to manufacture the backboard.

One feature of home basketball systems that is becoming more popular is the use of transparent or clear backboards so that the backboards resemble those used in professional and collegiate games. In particular, most professional leagues and major colleges use tempered glass backboards to allow spectators to view the game through the backboard. Tempered glass backboards are generally one-half (½) to three-eights (⅜) of an inch thick and the tempered glass is very heavy. Thus, a large support frame, support structure and support pole are required to position the glass backboard above the playing surface. In addition, tempered glass backboards are also very expensive and the glass can be undesirably scratched, damaged and/or broken.

In order to create a look similar to the tempered glass backboards used in professional and college games, transparent or clear backboards are now being used in connection with home basketball systems. For example, known home basketball systems may use a metal basketball backboard frame and backboard consisting of a planar acrylic sheet that is attached to the front surface of the metal frame. Disadvantageously, the outer edges of the acrylic backboard are often exposed and not supported by the metal frame. This may allow the edges of the backboard to be broken or damaged when struck by a basketball or other objects. Acrylic basketball backboards that are damaged or broken are often very difficult and expensive for the consumer to fix or replace.

Conventional acrylic basketball backboards are often attached to the backboard frame by one or more fasteners such as screws or bolts. Disadvantageously, the openings in the acrylic sheet for the screws or bolts may create stress points or concentrations that reduce the strength and/or structural integrity of the backboard. The acrylic basketball backboards may also be attached to a frame by double-sided adhesive tape. The double-sided adhesive tape must securely bond the backboard to the frame. The double-sided tape must also allow impact energy from the basketball striking the backboard to be transferred to the frame, and the tape must have sufficient flexibility to dissipate the impact energy from the backboard to the frame. If the attachment of the basketball backboard to the frame is too rigid, then the backboard can fracture. On the other hand, if the attachment of the basketball backboard to the frame is too loose, then the backboard may dislodge or separate from the frame and it may fall to the playing surface.

It is also known to use acrylic basketball backboards in connection with basket ball backboard frames constructed from injection molded plastic. Conventional injection molded plastic frames may include separately molded front and rear sections that are connected together to form the frame. In particular, the front and rear sections of the frame may include alignment features that allow the sections to be attached in the desired manner and a slot or opening is disposed between the front and rear sections. The acrylic basketball backboard is inserted into the slot to form the basketball goal assembly. The injection molded plastic frame typically requires structural foam or fiberglass-reinforced plastic to provide the required strength to support the acrylic basketball backboard and provide the proper rebound performance.

Disadvantageously, conventional acrylic basketball backboards may crack, break, fracture and/or shatter if subjected to very large impacts or forces. In order to help prevent the acrylic basketball backboards from undesirably breaking, various types of modifiers have been added to the acrylic. In addition, the inks used to apply graphics to the acrylic backboard and the lights used to cure the backboard have been changed in various attempts to prevent the backboards from breaking. The acrylic backboards, however, may still break if subjected to very large impacts or forces. The processes used to attach the acrylic backboard to the frame have also been modified in order to help prevent the backboards from breaking. For example, different types of adhesives and bonding processes have been used to attach the acrylic backboard to the frame. Conventional acrylic backboards, however, may still undesirably break if excessive forces are applied to the backboard.

In order to increase the strength of conventional acrylic basketball backboards, the thickness of the acrylic may be increased. Undesirably, this increases the costs and weight of the backboards. In addition, a larger and more complex backboard frame and support structure may be required to support the heavier basketball backboard, which may further increase the cost of the basketball goal system.

Additionally, known basketball backboards constructed from acrylic or other types of plastic often deteriorate over time. In particular, conventional plastic backboards may deteriorate over time because of exposure to sunlight. The sunlight may cause the plastic backboards to discolor or become brittle over a period of time such as four to five years, and these effects may be even more pronounced after five to six years. In addition, environmental conditions such as temperature and moisture may degrade the acrylic and other types of plastics conventionally used to construct basketball backboards. Disadvantageously, the brittle plastic backboards are more likely to break or fracture. In addition, the discoloration of the backboard may change the appearance of the basketball system and may be aesthetically unpleasing.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

A need therefore exists for a basketball backboard that eliminates or reduces some or all of the above-described disadvantages and problems.

One aspect is a basketball backboard that may include a generally planar front surface. The basketball backboard may also include a generally planar rear surface and the backboard is preferably sized and configured to be attached to a frame and/or support structure.

Another aspect is a basketball backboard that may be constructed from polycarbonate, which is a family of thermoplastics characterized by high-impact strength and lightweight. Preferably, the backboard is constructed from a transparent polycarbonate sheet with a protective layer on both sides of the sheet. The protective layers may advantageously prevent and/or reduce degradation of the polycarbonate from environmental conditions such as ultraviolet (UV) light, temperature and moisture. Significantly, this creates a basketball backboard with excellent impact resistance and weathering properties. While both sides of the polycarbonate sheet desirably include a protective layer, only one side of the basketball backboard may include a protective layer if desired.

Yet another aspect is a basketball backboard that may be constructed from polycarbonate with a protective layer on both sides of the polycarbonate. For example, the basketball backboard may be constructed from Lexan® Excell® D, which is available from the General Electric Co. In particular, Lexan® Excell® D is registered trademarks of the General Electric Co. and it is available from GE Plastics of Pittsfield, Mass. Lexan® Excell® D is a transparent polycarbonate sheet with proprietary UV protection on both sides of the sheet. Because the UV protection is provided on both sides of the Lexan® Excell® D sheet, it provides excellent durability to outdoor weathering. Additionally, the Lexan® Excell® D is resistant to discoloration and yellowing over time. Further, in contrast to conventional polycarbonate, it does not become brittle or more easily broken over time. Thus, Lexan® Excell® D may be used to create basketball backboards that are long-lasting and do not deteriorate over time when exposed to the environment.

Still another aspect is a basketball backboard that may be constructed from polycarbonate with a protective layer on both sides of the polycarbonate, such as Makrolon® SL2, which is available from Sheffield Plastics of Sheffield, Mass. Desirably Makrolon® SL2 includes UV protection that provides excellent durability when used outdoors.

Of course, other polycarbonate sheets having the same, similar or different properties than Lexan® Excell® D or Makrolon® SL2 may be used, and the sheets may have a protective layer on a single side or both sides of the sheets, if desired. Desirably, the protective layers provide weather and/or UV protection to the polycarbonate, which may prevent or reduce degradation of the polycarbonate from environmental conditions. Significantly, the protective layers may prevent the polycarbonate from be coming brittle, discolored or otherwise changed from its original configuration and characteristics.

A further aspect is a basketball backboard that may be generally unbreakable. Preferably, the basketball backboard is constructed from polycarbonate materials such as Lexan® Excell® D or Makrolon® SL2. Significantly, the generally unbreakable backboard provides for long use of the basketball goal system and virtually eliminates the need for repair or replacement of the backboard. Advantageously, the polycarbonate backboard is approximately thirty (30) times stronger than conventional backboards constructed from acrylic.

Yet another aspect is a basketball backboard that may be lightweight. For example, because the backboard may be constructed from polycarbonate with a protective layer on each side and the polycarbonate backboard is much stronger than a conventional acrylic backboard, the polycarbonate backboard may be thinner than the acrylic backboard. For example, the polycarbonate backboard may have a thickness of 2 mm, 3 mm or 4 mm. Thus, the polycarbonate backboard may weigh less than the acrylic backboard that has a larger thickness. The lightweight backboard may be easily transported and it may allow the overall weight of the basketball goal assembly to be decreased, which may decrease shipping costs. Additionally, the lightweight basketball backboard may allow the basketball goal system to be easily constructed and assembled. Further, because the basketball backboard may be lightweight, it does not require a large support structure to position the backboard above the playing surface.

Advantageously, basketball backboards constructed from polycarbonate materials such as Lexan® Excell® D or Makrolon® SL2 may be very strong, rigid, lightweight and durable. This may allow the basketball backboards to withstand repeated impacts with the basketball or other similar objects. The strong and rigid backboards may also allow a basketball system with good rebounding characteristics to be constructed. In addition, because the backboard may be constructed from generally unbreakable polycarbonate, that may prevent the backboard from being cracked, damaged or broken. Thus, repairs and/or replacements of the backboard may be reduced or eliminated. Further, the generally unbreakable backboards are unlikely to be damaged or broken during shipping. Thus, the generally unbreakable backboards may save the manufacturer costs.

Yet another aspect is a basketball backboard that may be constructed in a wide variety of desired configurations, shapes, sizes and designs. Significantly, the basketball backboard may be durable, weather resistant and generally temperature insensitive. In addition, the outer periphery or exterior of the basketball backboard may have a wide variety of desired shapes and sizes. For example, the outer periphery may have a generally rectangular configuration with generally parallel disposed upper and lower surfaces. The outer periphery of the backboard may also be curved or have other desired shapes and configurations such as a curved or fan-shaped upper portion and a generally straight or planar lower portion.

Another aspect is a basketball backboard that may include a polycarbonate sheet with a generally flat, planar front surface. The backboard is preferably constructed from a generally clear or transparent material to allow light to be transmitted through the backboard. The backboard may also contain designs, graphics, or other printed materials on either or both sides of the backboard. Also, if desired, the backboard may be constructed from polycarbonate materials that are generally translucent, colored, tinted, or opaque.

A further aspect is a basketball goal system that may include a basketball backboard frame and a basketball backboard attached to the basketball backboard frame. The basketball backboard may include a polycarbonate sheet including a front surface and a rear surface; and at least one protective layer covering at least a portion of the polycarbonate sheet, the protective layer providing protection to the polycarbonate sheet from environmental conditions such as ultraviolet light. Desirably, the at least one protective layer may substantially prevent degradation of the polycarbonate when exposed to environmental conditions and the at least one protective layer may substantially prevent the polycarbonate sheet from becoming brittle over a period of at least five years. In addition, the at least one protective layer may substantially prevent the polycarbonate sheet from discoloring over a period of at least five years. Further, the basketball backboard frame may be constructed from blow-molded plastic with a front surface that is spaced apart from a rear surface and the basketball backboard may be attached to the front surface of the basketball backboard frame by an adhesive.

These and other aspects, features and advantages of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments and appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The appended drawings contain figures of preferred embodiments to further clarify the above and other aspects, advantages and features of the present invention. It will be appreciated that these drawings depict only preferred embodiments of the invention and are not intended to limits its scope. The invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a portion of a basketball goal system, illustrating a rim or hoop, a backboard, a backboard support frame and a support structure;

FIG. 2 is a front view of the exemplary basketball goal system shown in FIG. 1; and

FIG. 3 is a rear view of the exemplary basketball goal system shown in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention is generally directed towards a basketball backboard. In order to assist in the description of the basketball backboard, words such as top, bottom, front, rear, right and left are used to describe the accompanying figures. It will be appreciated, however, that the basketball backboard can be located in a variety of desired positions and have a variety of sizes and configurations. In addition, the basketball backboard may be used in connection with a wide variety of basketball goals and basketball systems. A detailed description of the basketball backboard now follows.

As shown in FIG. 1, an exemplary embodiment of a portion of a basketball goal system 10 includes a backboard 12 and a support frame 14. The basketball goal system 10 may also include a basketball goal or rim 16 and a support structure, such as a support pole, to support the rim above a playing surface. The basketball goal system 10 may be part of a portable basketball system that is sized and configured to be relatively easily moved or a permanent basketball system that is intended to remain in a fixed position.

As seen in FIG. 1, the backboard 12 preferably has a generally smooth, planar outer surface so that a basketball bounces or rebounds off the backboard in a consistent manner. The backboard 12 is preferably constructed from plastic, such as a polycarbonate sheet, that has sufficient thickness so that it will not break during an ordinary game of basketball. The backboard 12 is preferably constructed from a polycarbonate sheet because it is lightweight, easy to manufacture and allows the basketball goal system 10 to be easily assembled. In addition, the backboard 12 is preferably constructed from a clear, transparent or generally translucent polycarbonate material so that light can pass through the backboard. This creates a basketball goal system 10 that is similar in appearance and characteristics to that used in professional and major college basketball games. One skilled in the art, however, will realize that the backboard 12 can be constructed from polycarbonate materials that are colored, tinted, or opaque. One skilled in the art will also realize that the backboard 12 can be constructed from other materials, including other types of polycarbonate materials, with suitable characteristics.

The backboard 12 is preferably constructed from a polycarbonate sheet with a protective layer or coating on at least one side that protects the polycarbonate from damage. For example, the protective layer may prevent or reduce degradation of the polycarbonate from environmental conditions such as ultraviolet (UV) light, temperature and moisture. Advantageously, this creates a basketball backboard 12 with excellent impact resistance and weathering properties. Desirably, the backboard 12 includes one or more protective layers that cover both sides of the polycarbonate material. It will be appreciated, however, that the backboard 12 may include one or more protective layers or coatings on one or both sides of the polycarbonate and the layers or coating may cover all or a portion of the polycarbonate. It will also be appreciated that one or more protective layers could be disposed on the polycarbonate sheet and other types of layers, such as intermediate layers, may also be disposed on the polycarbonate sheet. Further, it will be appreciated that the protective layers may be directly or indirectly disposed on the polycarbonate sheet.

Desirably, the basketball backboard 12 is constructed from Lexan® Excell® D (which are registered trademarks of the General Electric Co.), which is available from the General Electric Co., and in particular, from GE Plastics of Pittsfield, Mass. The backboard 12 can also be constructed from polycarbonate materials such as Makrolon® SL2, which is available from Sheffield Plastics of Sheffield, Mass.

In greater detail, Lexan® Excell® D is a polycarbonate sheet with proprietary UV protection on both sides of the sheet. Because UV protection is provided on both sides of the Lexan® Excell® D sheet, it provides excellent durability to outdoor weathering. Additionally, Lexan® Excell® D is resistant to discoloration and yellowing over time. Advantageously, because Lexan® Excell® D is available in transparent, colored, tinted and configurations, the backboard 12 can be clear, tinted or colored, as desired. The backboard 12 may also contain designs, graphics or other materials that are printed or silk-screened on either or both sides of the backboard. Significantly, the designs, graphics and other materials may be directly printed or silk-screened onto the Lexan® Excell® D polycarbonate sheet. Preferably, the designs, graphics and other materials are printed on the Lexan® Excell® D using Nazdar 3400 series ink, but other suitable types of inks may also be used. Significantly, this ink tends to adhere better to the polycarbonate backboard than a conventional acrylic backboard. It will be appreciated that the backboard 12 may also include one or more stickers, labels, decals, and the like, and the backboard may be treated or cured as desired.

In addition, the protective layer or coating on both sides of the Lexan® Excell® D polycarbonate sheet desirably helps prevent degradation of the polycarbonate from exposure to environmental conditions such as light, temperature and moisture. In contrast, conventional polycarbonate materials, when exposed to UV light, temperature variations and moisture, significantly and rapidly degrade. In particular, conventional polycarbonate materials often discolor and become brittle over a period of time such as four to five years. This may allow the polycarbonate material to fracture or break. Accordingly, conventional polycarbonate materials are unsuitable to be used as basketball backboards because the polycarbonate will degrade, discolor and become brittle. The Lexan® Excell® D polycarbonate sheet with a protective layer on both sides, however, does not discolor or become brittle. Therefore, the backboard 12 is preferably constructed from Lexan® Excell® D because it does not discolor and it retains its strength and structural integrity.

Makrolon® SL2 is also a polycarbonate material and it may have properties similar to Lexan® Excell® D. For example, the Makrolon® SL2 is a polycarbonate sheet that may include a protective layer on both sides of the polycarbonate sheet. In addition, a backboard constructed from Makrolon® SL2 may be tinted, colored, transparent, etc., and designs, graphic, printed material, labels, stickers, decals, etc. may be positioned on one or both sides of the backboard. A backboard constructed from Makrolon® SL2 also does not degrade when exposed to environmental conditions such as UV light, temperature fluctuations and moisture.

The basketball backboard 12 is generally unbreakable because it is preferably constructed from polycarbonate materials, such as Lexan® Excell® D or Makrolon® SL2. The generally unbreakable backboard 12 provides for long use of the basketball goal system and virtually eliminates the need for repair or replacement of the backboard. The generally unbreakable backboard 12 is also very unlikely to be damaged during shipping and/or assembly. Advantageously, the polycarbonate basketball backboard 12 is very strong and durable. In addition, the backboard 12 is high-strength, rigid and lightweight. Significantly, the strong and sturdy basketball backboard 12 can withstand repeated impacts with a basketball or other similar objects. Further, the strong and rigid backboard 12 allows a basketball goal system 10 with good rebounding characteristics to be constructed.

Because the basketball backboard 12 is constructed from a strong; durable, and high-strength material, the backboard can be constructed from a relatively thin sheet of polycarbonate material such as Lexan® Excell® D or Makrolon®b SL2. For example, the backboard 12 may have a thickness of about 0.060 inches, 0.079 inches (2 mm), 0.090 inches, 0.093 inches, 0.118 inches (3 mm), 0.150 inches, 0.156 inches (4 mm), or 0.1875 inches. It will be appreciated that the thickness of the backboard 12 may be larger or smaller depending, for example, upon the size and/or intended use of the backboard. Advantageously, the relatively thin sheet of material allows the weight of the backboard 12 to be reduced, which may allow manufacturing costs to be decreased and it may allow the backboard to be more quickly and easily assembled. The lightweight basketball backboard 12 may also allow the overall weight of the basketball goal system 10 to be decreased, which may lessen shipping costs. Further, because the basketball backboard 12 is lightweight, it does not require a large support structure to position the backboard above the playing surface.

Additionally, the basketball backboard 12 can be constructed in a wide variety of desired configurations, shapes, sizes and designs. Thus, for example, the backboard 12 can have generally rectangular, square, fan-shaped, curved, rounded or other suitable shapes. Significantly, the basketball backboard 12 is durable, weather resistant and generally temperature insensitive.

Significantly, basketball backboards 12 constructed from polycarbonate sheets such as Lexan® Excell® D or Makrolon® SL2 are approximately thirty (30) times stronger than standard acrylic sheets used to constructed conventional basketball backboards. In particular, basketball backboards 12 constructed from Lexan® Excell® D were tested with a Gardiner Impact Machine, but the backboards were unable to be cracked or broken. In addition, other types of testing were unable to crack or break the backboard 12. In contrast, backboards constructed from conventional acrylic may be cracked or broken under similar testing situations and configurations.

The basketball backboard 12, however, does not have to be constructed from Lexan® Excell® D or Makrolon® SL2. It will be appreciated that the backboard 12 may be constructed with other polycarbonate sheets having the same, similar, or different properties than Lexan® Excell® D or Makrolon® SL2. Desirably, however, the backboard 12 includes one or more protective layers that reduces or prevents degradation of the polycarbonate when exposed to the environment.

As shown in FIG. 1, the basketball goal system 10 may include a support frame 14 that is sized and configured to support the backboard 12. The support frame 14 is preferably constructed from a lightweight material, such as plastic. Desirably, the support frame 14 is constructed from blow-molded plastic to create a strong, lightweight and durable frame. In greater detail, the support frame 14 is preferably constructed using a blow-molded plastic process, and the frame includes two opposing walls or surfaces that are separated by a given distance in order to create a strong and sturdy structure. In addition, the interior portion of the support frame 14 is preferably generally hollow. Advantageously, this creates a support frame 14 that is lightweight, strong, rigid, and it can withstand repeated impacts with a basketball or other similar objects. It will be understood that the support frame 14 could also be constructed using other processes, such as injection or rotary molding, and the frame could be constructed using any suitable materials with suitable characteristics.

The support frame 14 is also preferably constructed from blow-molded plastic because it can easily be formed into any desired size and configuration. In addition, the support frame 14 is preferably constructed from blow-molded plastic because it is durable, weather resistant and generally temperature insensitive. Advantageously, if the support frame 14 is constructed from blow-molded plastic, it generally will not corrode, rust or otherwise deteriorate over time.

The support frame 14 is preferably constructed from lightweight, blow-molded plastic because weight reduction of the basketball goal system 10 is highly desirable. For example, many home basketball systems are marketed directly to consumers in retail stores. Thus, the purchaser may be required to bring the basketball system to a register to be purchased, load the system in a vehicle, and assemble the system at home. If the basketball backboard 12 and the support frame 14 are heavy, that increases the weight of the basketball goal system 10 and the overall weight of the entire basketball system. The heavy basketball goal system 10 may require a heavier and more complex support system, which further increases the overall weight of the basketball system. A consumer may be reluctant to purchase and assemble a basketball system that is too heavy.

Advantageously, constructing the support frame 14 from lightweight, blow-molded plastic also decreases shipping costs, whether shipping the system from the manufacturer to a retailer or consumer. Conventional basketball backboard frames constructed from pieces of metal that are welded together, in contrast, are heavy and the extra weight increases shipping costs. The blow-molded basketball frame 14, however, is lightweight and it allows for the overall weight of the basketball goal system 10 to be decreased. The lightweight backboard support frame 14 also simplifies the attachment of the basketball goal system 10 to the support pole or other support structure because the lighter weight goal system is easier to manipulate and control during the assembly process. Advantageously, because the support frame 14 is lightweight, the pole and/or other support structure do not have to support a heavy basketball goal system 10. This allows the pole and/or other support structure to be constructed from lighter weight materials.

The backboard 12 is preferably attached to the frame 14 by an adhesive, such as disclosed in assignee's co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/228,325, entitled System and Method for Bonding an Acrylic Surface to a Frame, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety. It will be appreciated that the backboard 12 may also be connected to the frame 14 using a snap fit, an interference fit, a friction fit, and the like. It will also be appreciated that the backboard 12 may be connected to the frame 14 using one or more fasteners, connectors or other suitable devices or means.

As known to those skilled in the art, the height of the basketball goal system 10 may be adjustable and a counterbalance or counterweight may be used to support the goal system at the desired height. Significantly, because the backboard 12 may be constructed from a thin sheet of polycarbonate with one or more protective layers and the support frame 14 may be constructed from lightweight blow-molded plastic, a smaller counterbalance or counterweight may be used to support the basketball goal system 10. Additionally, as known to those skilled in the art, the counterbalance may consist of a spring or piston that may be attached to various portions of the basketball goal system 10. The lightweight backboard 12 and the support frame 14 may allow a smaller spring or piston to be used. The smaller spring, counterbalance or counter weight may further decrease the overall weight of the basketball system.

The support frame 14 is also preferably constructed from blow-molded plastic because it allows multiple features to be formed in the frame. For example, various support and mounting structures may be created in the frame 14 during the blow-molding process. In particular, one or more holes used to mount a basketball goal 16 to the support frame 14 may be created during the blow-molding process. Thus, a drilling step can be eliminated from the manufacturing process. Also, the support frame 14 may include one or more depressions 18 that are sized and configured strengthen and/or to increase the rigidity of the frame. These and other features formed during the blow-molding process save time and manufacturing costs. In addition, these features are preferably integrally formed in the support frame 14 and the features may be simultaneously created during the blow-molding process. Because these features may be simultaneously formed during the blow-molding process, this may save costs because the overall manufacturing cost of a product generally increases with each additional manufacturing step.

The support frame 14 is also preferably constructed as a unitary, one-piece structure. Advantageously, this further decreases manufacturing costs and time because one or more components do not have to be assembled or fastened together. In addition, the one-piece structure allows a strong and sturdy support frame 14 to be manufactured. It will be appreciated that the support frame 14, however, may be constructed by one or more components that are fastened together by any suitable means.

The support frame 14 may also be constructed using other suitable materials, such as metal or wood, and could be constructed using other suitable processes. Further, the support frame 14 may have a variety of other sizes, configurations and designs depending, for example, upon the size and configuration of the backboard 12 and/or support system.

Although this invention has been described in terms of certain preferred embodiments, other embodiments apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art are also within the scope of this invention. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is intended to be defined only by the claims which follow.





 
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