Designed to preserve a more natural end of game finish, the Elam Ending® calls for the game clock to be shut off in the fourth quarter. A Target Score is set by adding 8 points to the leading team’s score. The first team to reach the Target Score wins. For example, if the score is 80-72, the Target Score becomes 88. The first team to reach 88 wins. Once the game clock is eliminated, trailing teams are allowed to focus on getting stops, rather than preventing the clock from running out. This results in great defense and pure basketball possessions all the way through the end.
After testing the format out in 2017, The Basketball Tournament (TBT) implemented it for all games beginning in 2018. The results were eye-opening. Not only did players embrace the concept, but it also led to a markedly more electrifying and intense experience for fans.
In 2019, NBA All-Star Chris Paul recommended to Adam Silver that they implement the Elam Ending at the All-Star Game. “I’m all about strategy and the way you have to think the game down the stretch,” says Paul. The league adopted the Elam Ending and set its Target Score at plus 24, as a way to honor the late Laker great Kobe Bryant.
As a result, the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago went down in history as one of the greatest ever played, with three quarters of dunks giving way to a shockingly competitive fourth quarter filled with defense, intensity, and even multiple charges! TV ratings, which typically peak in the second quarter of All Star Games, skyrocketed in the fourth quarter, with social media abuzz and fans tuning back in to witness the surprising development for themselves.
Under a timed format, games rarely end with a series of meaningful possessions. The clock typically forces trailing teams to foul, resulting in all-too-frequent parades to the free throw line, with the trailing team rarely coming back to win. The Elam Ending allows teams to play at a high level — both offensively and defensively — all the way through the end of the game. They can’t use the clock as a crutch. It also calls for clutch performers to step up at the end of each game and hit a game winning shot.
Basketball superfan, Mensa genius, Ball State Professor, and Cincinnati Reds Groundskeeper Nick Elam emailed us blindly at firstname.lastname@example.org in August of 2016 with a 76-page Powerpoint deck outlining a rule change proposal he called the “Hybrid Duration Format.”
Nick began working on the concept in 2004 after becoming frustrated while watching the NCAA Tournament with a group of friends. He noticed that instead of it being the most exciting portion of the game, the final couple minutes were often diluted with rushed offensive possessions and repeated fouling by the trailing team. For a basketball fanatic like Elam, accepting this status quo was simply not good enough.
Nick went to work and began analyzing any game he could get his hands on. Over the next ten years, Nick would record over 2,000 college and NBA games. He found what many suspected: the trailing team resorted to intentional fouling at the end of the game in roughly half of all games.
Nick also noted that intentional fouling was only an effective strategy for the trailing team 1.5% of the time! Not only was this strategy painfully frustrating for fans, but it was also nearly completely ineffective. Thankfully, he had an answer.
After receiving his proposal and deciding to implement it in 2017, TBT named it the Elam Ending.