Elam Ending gives TBT'ers a new perspective on basketball


By: Gabe Maturo

The Elam Ending brings TBT'ers back to basketball roots

The goal for any team in the Elam Ending is simple: do whatever is necessary to reach the target score.

The first dead ball after the 4-minute mark in the fourth quarter triggers the start of this innovative new end-of-game format. The target score - the winning team’s score plus eight - is set and the Elam Ending is under way.

There is no clock.

There is virtually no intentional fouling (non-shooting fouls in the bonus result in one free throw and possession of the ball).

There are no games that end with teams dribbling aimlessly at half court.

The Elam Ending is basketball in its true form. Get stops. Get buckets. Be the first team to the target score.


“It’s all about the game,” said Brotherly Love big Samme Givens, who has three career Elam Ending game-winners. “It’s about valuing each possession. It becomes all about the game instead of running against the clock. You have to make quality plays and efforts on both ends in the Elam Ending.”

“It allows you to focus on the game itself and make sure that you do the right things to win. It’s just playing basketball.”

“When you gotta put the ball in the basket to win the game, it’s different than just throwing the ball around, fouling, shooting free throws, and running the clock out,” said Sideline Cancer guard Mo Creek, who hit an off-balance three against Overseas Elite to send his squad to the TBT 2020 Championship Game.


For the losing team, this means that no matter what the score is, you are presented with a chance to gain momentum, come back, and win the game without worrying about running out of time.

On the winning side, this means that you can’t just dribble out the clock. You have to keep playing if you want to come out with a win.

“It gives you a further goal that you have to reach,” said Givens. “It gives you something that you have to achieve instead of just racing against time.”

“If you’re watching a blowout game that doesn't have the Elam Ending, you can just turn it off because a team could run out the clock,” said Sideline Cancer guard Marcus Keene, who hit two Elam Ending game-winners this summer. “But if you have the Elam Ending, then you keep the game on because you never know what could happen when there’s no clock.”


Although there is no buzzer beater, clutch shots are still an entity in the Elam Ending. For a lot of guys in TBT, hitting an Elam Ender provides the same feeling as hitting a buzzer beater.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Creek. “It’s like hitting a big shot when you’re playing on the playground. When I hit the Elam Ender, I felt on top of the world.”

“It’s a game-winner,” added Keene. “As soon as you hit that target score it’s over, it’s like hitting a buzzer beater.”

“In the Elam Ending, you can hit a game-winner every game, because in a real game, a buzzer beater will only happen if it’s a close game or if it’s tied. But in the Elam Ending, you could hit a game-winning shot every time, even if you’re up 20.”


For some players in TBT, playing in the Elam Ending brings back feelings of playing pick-up basketball.

“It’s just like playing on the playground and you’re down 17-10, you can still come back and win since there’s no time,” said Creek. “With the clock, sometimes you don’t have the time to come back and win.”

“It showed me a different facet of playing basketball at an extremely high level,” added Givens. “It brought it back to playing a game of 21.”

This pure, simple, and awe-inspiring version of late game basketball may be just what the sport needed in an era of uninspiring finishes. 

“You have to play defense,” said Givens. “You gotta get stops and make plays to win. That’s what you play basketball for. With the Elam Ending, it allows you to go out there and make plays and it puts the onus on the athlete to make plays and not the clock.”


The Elam Ending provides fans, players, and coaches with a new way of thinking about basketball.

The basketball universe is now debating which shots, defensive schemes, and possessions to value most during the Elam Ending.

Players, like most of us, also wonder “how would NBA games be different if they used this format?”

“There’s been a couple of NBA games where it’s been close and one team made a run, but it was too late,” said Creek. “I thought: What would have happened if they shut the clock off? What happens when you shut the clock off and everybody has to play basketball?”

“I think about how certain NBA teams would react to star players and how they would plan to stop them in Elam so that they don’t hit the target score too fast,” added Keene.

The league gave us a small glimpse of what this could look like. This February, the NBA All-Star Game adopted the Elam Ending for the first time. 


Not only did we get a fantastic finish, but the Elam Ending was met with almost universal rave reviews.

“It’s all about the game,” said Givens. “It’s about us getting buckets. It’s about us getting stops. It puts the onus on the players to make plays and get stops.”

“You’re taking the core of the game, which is to make buckets and get stops, and you’re emphasizing that at the end of the game with the Elam Ending.”