The NBA has fantastic action for the first 46 minutes of games, followed by an endless barrage of timeouts and intentional fouls. College basketball has similar issues. It’s not just boring, it’s disjointed: The sport becomes a completely different set of skills than what preceded it.
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, influential basketball minds like Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey are interested in a solution akin to what The Basketball Tournament has tried in crunch time:
At the first dead ball under the 4:00 mark, the clock will go dark as officials add seven points to the score of the leading team. The first team to reach that score wins. If Team A leads Team B, 78-70, when the clock stops with 3:58 left, they play until one reaches 85.
This idea is being termed the Elam Ending, named after Ball State University professor Matt Elam, who birthed the idea. Applied to the NBA, the clock would cease at the first break following the 3-minute mark as opposed to with under four remaining.
There are some obvious pitfalls, all of which Lowe mentions in his piece. There would be no more overtime. Although every end of game would feel a little bit like a buzzer-beater, there’s a true feeling of exhilaration when that happens with the clock running out, which would be lost.
In The Basketball Tournament, teams that were up would do things like call timeout quickly after the four-minute mark, or intentionally throw a ball off an opponent and out of bounds in order to trigger the un-clocked period with their current lead intact.
While this is something that even NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe told Lowe is “really interesting,” it’s not something that is on the docket to be tested imminently in the G-League.
That being said, this is the type of story that feels like a trojan horse. Something has to be done to make the end of games as exciting as the rest of the product, and in my opinion this solution would be far more ideal than the way that games currently flounder at the end.