Yahoo Sports – When the fifth edition of The Basketball Tournament tipped off last month, more was at stake than just which team would claim the event’s winner-take-all $2 million prize.
Also hanging in the balance was the fate of a former middle-school principal’s radical attempt to revolutionize the sport of basketball.
Nick Elam, now a Ball State professor, Mensa member and Cincinnati Reds groundskeeper, has long watched with annoyance as entertaining basketball games deteriorated down the stretch into disjointed, foul-laden whistle fests. He studied the most frequently discussed remedies — stiffer penalties for intentional fouls or allowing hacked teams to pick their free-throw shooter — but none offered trailing teams a reasonable alternative to fouling…
Under Elam’s proposal, the game clock disappears at the first stoppage in the last four minutes of a college game and the last three minutes of an NBA game. Officials then establish a target score by taking the score of the team that leads and adding seven points. The game ends whenever one team reaches that number, ensuring that every contest concludes with the winning team sinking a clinching basket or foul shot.
The Elam Ending is the only reason I watched the last few minutes of Thursday night’s TBT matchup between Louisiana United and Overseas Elite. The guarantee that the game would end on a game-winning shot definitely intrigued me. Too bad that shot is not guaranteed to be a half-court heave. In fact, in last night’s Louisiana United vs. Overseas Elite contest the game-winning shot was a free throw.
Slogging through a glorified intramural tournament game (with a gym and crowd comparable to my intramural experiences) for its fantastic finish only to see it fizzle out instead was less than ideal. Still, the idea intrigues me.
Essentially, the Elam Ending prevents the final minutes of a game from becoming a parade to the free throw line. Instead of fouling to get the ball back, the trailing team can’t trade buckets and jack up threes to try to close the gap. When the team that’s leading only needs seven points to win, the trailing team is forced to try to play lock down defense. In theory, that should make the final few minutes a little less painful.
This is not like a shootout, that turns the end of a hockey game into a skills competition. Or college football overtime, which removes special teams from the game. This an attempt to make the last minutes of a basketball game look more like an actual basketball game. Nothing radical about that. It might not produce the Christian Laettner shot at the end of every game, but it would make most games more entertaining down the stretch.
Would I want to see this rule used in the NBA Finals, or the NCAA Tournament? No. But for the NBA summer league, or The Basketball Tournament? Why the hell not. It got me to watch a game from The Basketball Tournament last night, and I know I’m not the only one who watched just to witness an Elam Ending. If it gets more eyeballs on your product, it’s a win.