The why of the 24-second shot clock

More useless knowledge that I found in my daily readings. Apparently, basketball used to be a slow-paced boring game (and yes, I know for some it is now a moderate or fast-paced boring game – this is for the folks that like the sport). When professional basketball leagues first played, a team could hold the ball as long as desired – typically until fouled or a realllllly wide open easy shot was seen. As the NBA was facing serious economic issues from declining attendance, a rule few changes were implemented. One of these was the 24 second shot clock.

This sped up the game, and attendance quickly recovered, growing significantly over the next couple of seasons. Scoring also went up, as the option was now try to score or just lose the ball.

The solution to this dilemma [ed. note – of declining attendance] was another rule change, one which might seem simple and obvious to today’s fans, but which was revolutionary for professional basketball at the time. Danny Biasone, the owner of the NBA’s Syracuse Nationals franchise, argued that the league needed to place a limit on how long a team could hold the ball, thereby preventing one side from stubbornly hanging onto the ball until they were fouled (or until the clock ran out) and forcing both teams to play the game at a faster pace. The implementation of this change — what Taylor described as “the single most important innovation in basketball since James Naismith invented the game” — was the 24-second clock. From 1954 onwards, every time a team gained possession of the basketball during a game, they had to attempt a shot within 24 seconds or turn the ball over to the other team — no more hanging on to the ball for minutes on end to run out the clock or force the other side to commit fouls.

The new rule was implemented a little crudely at first (typically by giving a recruit a stopwatch and having him stand on a sideline and yell “Time!” whenever 24 seconds elapsed during a possession), but by the end of the season all the teams in the NBA had set up 24-second shot clocks around their courts that made the timers visible to players, officials, and fans. The innovation was an immediate and obvious success: In 1953 and 1954 combined, only three times did a team score as many as 100 points in a playoff game; in the 1955 playoffs alone, one or both teams scored 100 points or more in over half the contests (eleven out of twenty-one games), and over the course of those two years attendance at NBA games jumped by 50 percent.

Not everyone was a fan of the rule change, but professional basketball is still around today, so enough people supported it.  Read the full article for more details.

[tags]Basketball, 24-second shot clock, Sport history[/tags]