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Why A 24-Second Shot Clock?

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Whereas some folks complain that watching a baseball game is like watching 10 minutes of action crammed into two hours, the same can't be said of professional basketball. Thanks to the NBA's 24-second shot clock, when two pro teams face off on the court, the action is usually fast and furious, and triple-digit scores are common. But that wasn't always the case. In fact, prior to the 1954-55 NBA season, there was no 24-second shot clock, and pro basketball games were often a low-scoring affair, about as watching your neighbor clip his toenails. The result was poor attendance and financial woes for many of the basketball franchises. So just when and how was the 24-second shot clock implemented? It all started with a man named Danny Biasone.

Biasone - who at the time was a bowling alley proprietor -- bought the Syracuse Nationals in the early 50s for a whopping $1,000. Wanting to make a healthy return on his investment, he concluded that a shot clock was necessary to force players to shoot at regular intervals and speed up the game -- and hopefully generate more public interest. But why 24 seconds? Biasone figured that the average game contains about 120 shots between the two teams. Since there are 48 minutes, or 2880 seconds, in a NBA game, teams averaged about one shot every 24 seconds. Figuring that players would be forced to shoot before the 24 seconds expired, a shot clock would compel teams to shoot more often and, presumably, score more often.

After watching an exhibition game in which a shot clock was used, a group of club owners were sold on the idea, and it was instituted in regular play at the beginning of the 1954-1955 season. The move proved to be a smart and profitable one. Scoring increased an average of 14 points in one season, and attendance levels skyrocketed. NBA historians now feel that Biasone and his 24-second shot clock idea were two of the most important things to happen to the NBA. *

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