Sam Maller | Asst. Photo EditorBasketball
Shot clock originated in Nationals to remedy basketball’s slow pace
Twenty-four seconds to shoot. It’s a number ingrained in basketball lexicon. It originated in Syracuse, by way of former Nationals’ owner Danny Biasone.
The game was in trouble during the early 1950s. It was boring and slow-paced, because when teams got ahead they held the ball and it became a foul-shooting contest.
So in 1954, Biasone looked at records from the 1953-54 season. In games that he enjoyed watching, the teams averaged about 60 shots a game, which meant 120 shots per game with two teams. And 48 minutes translates to 2,880 seconds. Divide 120 into 2,880, and you get 24. That was it.
“When you think about innovation that was to save a sport, I don’t know for basketball what else there would be,” said Basketball Hall of Fame curator and historian Matt Zeysing. “As far as the game not really existing, or not staying one of the big four probably wouldn’t be the case without the 24-second clock.
“And while seemingly simple and such an intrinsic part of the game at this point, it really saved basketball.”
Dolph Schayes reaches toward his wrist and rolls off a gold-banded watch. On the front is a light blue face with red numbers on it, a replica of the 24-second shot clock. On the back of the face reads “Dan Biasone, Hall of Fame, 2000.”
Schayes had the watches created in Biasone’s honor. They cost maybe $35 apiece and are run by a little battery on the inside. Twelve years, and Schayes has changed the battery twice.
It’s a metaphor to the duration of the shot clock. More than 50 years later, those 24 seconds remain.
“It’s still 24 seconds,” laments Schayes. “It never changed. That’s amazing. Everything has changed. The whole world has changed. But the 24-second clock is sacred.”
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