On this day 67 years ago, the NBA added the shot clock to its game, changing basketball forever.
When Did the NBA Add the Shot Clock?
The NBA added the shot clock on April 22, 1954, in an attempt to save its product.
At the time, basketball had become too low scoring and too focused on killing the clock to keep people entertained. In 1950, the Fort Wayne Pistons defeated the Minneapolis Lakers, 19-18, in the lowest-scoring game in NBA history, a not-so-shining example of what the league had become. The problem persisted into the 1950s and became untenable in the 1953-54 season. When teams held a lead in the fourth quarter, they would have a guard dribble around until they were fouled. Minutes would pass on the clock in between shot attempts.
“The game had become a stalling game,” Danny Biasone, the owner of the Syracuse Nationals, said in an interview. “A team would get ahead, even in the first half, and it would go into a stall. The other team would keep fouling, and it got to be a constant parade to the foul line. Boy, was it dull!”
Biasone knew something had to change, so he devised a solution: a 24-second shot clock. Biasone offered his idea up at the annual owners’ meeting in New York. But where did 24 seconds come from?
“I figured out we were averaging about 60 shots a game per team,” Biasone told Charles Paikert of the New York Times in 1984 about why he settled on 24 seconds for the shot clock. “Twenty-four fits into the 60, so if each team used up 24 seconds for a shot, they would average 60 shots. But the exact number wasn’t important. My idea was to keep the game going, to speed it up.”
The longer story of how the shot clock came about is more special and incredible, and Seerat Sohi of Sports Illustrated explained the birth of the shot clock in depth in 2017.
The shot clock was implemented the following season with the Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics experiencing the first game with the major rule change on Oct. 30, 1954 in Rochester, New York. More than 1,500 fans watched the Royals win, 98-95, behind 25 points and 11 rebounds from guard Bobby Wanzer. Rochester held a 17-point lead in the third quarter, and had the game been played one season earlier, the Royals would have likely wasted many minutes intentionally doing nothing. But with the inclusion of the shot clock, they had to keep playing basketball, opening the contest up to an exciting late-game comeback attempt.
The rest is history as the shot clock is now a staple of the NBA and many other levels of basketball across the world. Biasone’s contributions to the game earned him a posthumous induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2000.