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Tip-Off Timer: 24 Seconds to Shoot

Oct 3, 2009 – 10:00 AM
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Tim Povtak

Tim Povtak %BloggerTitle%

Tip-Off Timer counts down the days until the first game of the 2009-10 season. On Saturday, there are 24 days remaining.

Through the years, NBA rules have been constantly fine-tuned, reviewed every summer and often adjusted slightly in an effort to make the game more appealing, like a gradual, evolutionary process.

Almost none of the changes alone have dramatically altered the game – except for one.

The 24-second clock. It changed everything.

It is the greatest rule change in basketball history, turning a game going nowhere into a burgeoning funspot, setting the stage for the greatest athletes in the world to excel, turning basketball from the tractor pull it had become to the ballet that it is today.

You can compare it to football when the forward pass came to be.

"The single most important rule change in the last 50 years,'' said Boston's legendary Red Auerbach long before he died.

Born in 1954, the rule was the brainchild of Danny Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals, who was watching professional basketball struggle to create interest in a game that he loved.

It was 24 seconds to shoot.

Before the rule, the game had become dull because whatever team was leading usually turned to stall ball, finding a ball handler to dribble around until he was fouled. The game became foul shooting and rough stuff – boring to watch.

It first made the great Bob Cousy famous -- because he could handle it like no one else -- but even he admitted that freezing the ball with the lead wasn't very exciting.

There were games when free throws outnumbered field goal, games that finished 32-29, games that lacked any semblance of the wide open of today.

The 24-second clock changed it. It was either shoot or lose possession of the ball. In the first shot-clock season, teams averaged 93.1 points, an increase of almost 14 points per team, per game.

The NBA has made other notable rules changes through the years. It widened the lane to open the game. It outlawed zone defenses, which promoted athleticism. It added the 3-point shot, which has been thrilling to watch.

But nothing changed it like that magical 24 seconds to shoot.
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