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1950s / NBA Shot Clock Invented 1954
It was the innovation that saved professional basketball: The 24-second shot clock. Coach Howard Hobson came up with with the idea of a shot clock, but it was first used in 1954 in Syracuse, New York. There Danny Biasone, the owner of the National Basketball Association's Syracuse Nationals, experimented with a 24-second version during a scrimmage game. He then convinced the NBA to adopt it. In the pre-shot clock days, the NBA had problems attracting fans and television coverage. This was largely due to the stalling tactics used by teams once they took the lead. Without the shot clock, teams could pass the ball in the front court endlessly without penalty. If the team in the lead chose to stall, the trailing team was forced to commit fouls to get the ball back following the free throw. Low-scoring, boring games with many fouls were common. The most extreme case occurred on November 22, 1950, when the Fort Wayne Pistons defeated the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18. A few weeks later, the Rochester Royals and Indianapolis Olympians played a soporific six-overtime game with only one shot in each overtime. The NBA tried several rule changes in the early 1950s to speed up the game and reduce fouls before eventually adopting Biasone's idea. How did Biasone arrive at the strange figure of 24 seconds? According to Biasone, 'I looked at the box scores from games I enjoyed, games where they didn't screw around and stall. I noticed each team took about 60 shots. That meant 120 shots per game. So I took 48 minutes--2,880 seconds--and divided that by 120 shots. The result was 24 seconds per shot.' When the shot clock first came into vogue, it made players so nervous that it hardly came into play; players were generally taking fewer than 20 seconds to shoot. According to Syracuse player Dolph Schayes, 'We thought we had to take quick shots. But as time went on, we saw the inherent genius in Danny's 24 seconds. You could work the ball around for a good shot.'