History of the Shot Clock
Posted Oct 22 2001 6:58PM
The 24-second shot clock is used to time possessions by the offensive team. If a team does not attempt a field goal within 24 seconds of gaining possession of the ball, a violation is committed and possession is awarded to the other team. The clock is also reset anytime the following occurs: illegal defense violation, personal foul, fighting foul, kicked ball, punched ball, ball hits the rim of the team which is in possession.
Danny Biasone, the late owner of the Syracuse Nationals, invented the shot clock following the 1953-54 season to try to speed up the game and prevent teams from stalling. The lack of pace in NBA games in the early 1950s was widespread, typified by a game between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers on Nov. 22, 1950. The Pistons defeated the Lakers 19-18 in the lowest scoring game in NBA history. Each team had only four baskets, and Fort Wayne outscored Minneapolis by the underwhelming margin of 3-1 in the fourth quarter.
Former Boston Celtics All-Star guard Bob Cousy was legendary for his ability to stall with the ball. "That was the way the game was played -- get a lead and put the ball in the icebox," said Cousy. "Teams literally started sitting on the ball in the third quarter. Coaches are conservative by nature to begin with, and it didn't make much sense to play a wide-open game.
Biasone chose the unusual number of 24 seconds by figuring that the average number of shots two teams would take during a game was 120. He divided that number into 48 minutes or 2,880 seconds, the length of a game, and ended up with the magical number of 24.
The 24-second shot clock debuted in the National Basketball Association on Oct. 30, 1954 as the Rochester Royals defeated the Boston Celtics, 98-95, in what would have been the seventh-highest scoring game of the previous season.
During the first season with the 24-second clock, NBA teams averaged 93.1 points per game, an increase of 13.6 points per game over the previous season. In 1954-55 the Boston Celtics became the first team in NBA history to average more than 100 points for an entire season; four years later every team in the league bettered that plateau.
Said Cousy: "Before the new rule, the last quarter could be deadly. The team in front would hold the ball indefinitely, and the only way you could get it was by fouling somebody. In the meantime, nobody dared take a shot and the whole game slowed up. With the clock, we have constant action. I think it saved the NBA at that time. It allowed the game to breathe and progress.
Said Maurice Podoloff, the NBA's first president: "The adoption of the clock was the most important event in the NBA."