Elam Ending & The Basketball Tournament by Chris Filios

elam ending

Elam Ending & TBT

Basketball is back. Just not the NBA, not yet at least. Our first live basketball in months is The Basketball Tournament. 24 teams. $1 million dollars. This is year 7 of the event, and probably the most unique. Due to the current climate, the tournament is being played at 1 site with no fans. Single elimination. Winner takes all. 

Despite all the challenges of holding a basketball tournament, it has not stopped from producing quality, competitive, and dramatic basketball. While there are many exciting and interesting aspects to TBT, the most talked-about one may just be the “Elam Ending.” 

What is the “Elam Ending?” 

For those of you who don’t know or aren’t familiar with it, the “Elam Ending” is an alternative finish to a basketball game created by Ball State University professor, Nick Elam. He came up with the idea while watching a college basketball tournament game. The game he was watching was taking forever to finish with all the fouls and stoppages. He thought that there had to be a better way to finish the game quickly without losing the drama. Since 2018, TBT has been using the Elam Ending in all their games. 

How it works… 

At the first dead-ball whistle after the time goes below four minutes in the final quarter, the clock gets turned off. At that point, a target score is set, equaling the leading team’s point total plus eight (changed from 7 to 8 in 2019). Then, the first team to hit that target score wins. 

Why use the Elam Ending? 

  • It helps eliminate all the fouling at the end of games. 
  • People love it. It has been widely popular in basketball circles
  • It has produced drama in games while keeping the flow of the game for the most part. 
  • It is straightforward. First to get a set number of points. No worrying about time and score. 

Why to not use the Elam Ending? 

  • For many purists, the first argument would be that it is a drastic change from our current game. 
  • While it does eliminate some fouling late in the game, it does not remove all of it. There will still be fouling. 
  • There are less drastic ways of making changes to the game to speed things up at the end of a game. 
  • In most cases, the outcome of the game is not changing. The majority of the games are still being won by the team leading with 4 minutes to go. By pausing and changing how the game will finish (moving from clock to set points), it can be seen as kind of deciding the winner halfway through the last period. 
  • May create an even wider gap between the unification of rules throughout basketball. It is most likely that all levels of basketball would adopt the rule, so now it becomes one more difference in the rules between levels and organizations of basketball. 

For me, I think it is a great out of the box idea that should and can be used situationally. Should all basketball adopt it at this point? I don’t think so. As I stated above, I believe there are more practical ways of speeding up the pace at the end of basketball games- for example, fewer timeouts, elimination of 1 & 1 and move to double bonus, and limited substitutions would be great starts. I also believe that time and effort should be spent on trying to unify the rules throughout basketball. There are already so many differences between levels and organizations of basketball, we should first try and make those all the same before making any other changes: 

  • Quarters, not halves. Men’s college basketball is the last holdout. 
  • Shot clock at all levels 
  • Eliminate the 1 & 1. Straight to double bonus. 
  • Less timeouts. No live-ball timeouts. 

These are just a few that we can get started on. 

I would like to see it tested more widely though. I think there is an opportunity to study it on a larger scale- AAU tournaments, select preseason and postseason college tournaments (NIT, CIT, etc), possibly NBA summer league, as well as continuing to use it at the TBT. 

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