Elam Ending in the TBT is just the beginning for a great change to end of basketball games

Which team wins The Basketball Tournament is of no consequence to few – other than those competing for the $2,000,000 first prize.

But I sat and watched three complete TBT games yesterday featuring alums of Ohio State, current members of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and other teams featuring a hodge lodge of former college players whose talent falls just shy of what is necessary to earn millions in the NBA.

The Basketball Tournament is a great event for a variety of reasons, but the chief of which is its lack of history.  That allows it to be nimble in its rules, and only a nimble organization could go rogue enough to implement the Elam Ending.

What is the Elam Ending?  It’s a radical departure from the normal free throw filled death march to the clock hitting zeroes.  At the first clock stoppage after four minutes are left in the game, seven points are added to the score of the team leading to determine the target score at which the game will end.

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The Elam Ending is named after its inventor, a professor at Ball State University whose love of watching basketball was corrupted by the slow pace at the end of games, and his concept is drawing raves at TBT because it solves the following problems:

  • Strategic logic of fouling late.
  • Strategic logic of calling timeouts.

Two things drive basketball fans nuts late in close games (or not so close games) – relentless fouling and incessant use of timeouts.  Free throws are the least interest “action” in a basketball game, and timeouts cause the action to cease entirely.

In the abstract, I was a huge proponent of the Elam Ending because anything is better than the final minute of a game taking 15 minutes, and the silliness of reducing what should be the most interesting part of a game to an endless parade to the foul line insults the intellect of fans,

The reality was even better yesterday.  During one game, the difference between winning and losing came down to next basket wins.  It was thrilling.  In the other games, each ended on a walk off bucket – as is always the case when using the Elam Ending.

There will be detractors, as there always are, who yearn to cling to the status quo.  Short white guys will whine about diminishing the importance of the free throw and statisticians will moan about the changes in the fabric of late game analytics, but the improvement in late game pace and the fun in watching a made basket end every game will be embraced by anyone who loves basketball.

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The Elam Ending doesn’t corrupt basketball in the way purists complain the designated hitter harms American League baseball.  It actually preserves the game as it is intended to be played for all 32, 36, 40, or 48 minutes.

Before you judge the Elam Ending as to radical to be implemented by the NBA or NCAA, take a few hours this weekend to watch TBT games.

Judge for yourself.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.

One thought on “Elam Ending in the TBT is just the beginning for a great change to end of basketball games

  1. Sheldon Burke

    The Elam Ending is a good idea, but here’s a better, simpler and less radical way to eliminate multiple deliberate fouls by a trailing team in the closing minutes of a game. This way would also keep buzzer beaters and overtime as part of the game.
    One new rule is all that’s needed. During then last 2 minutes of the second half and the last 2 minutes of any overtime period, the game clock would stop when a team with a lead has possession of the ball. The game clock would run normally when a team that was trailing has the ball and when the score is tied. The shot clock rule would not change; it would be in effect all the time.


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