Previously skeptical TBT'ers starting to embrace Elam Ending


By: Zach Dupont

The revolutionary concept is starting to grow on TBT players and coaches

If you watched TBT 2018, there are two words that are almost certainly drilled into the back of your brain by now: Elam Ending.

You’ll be hearing it a lot more this summer.

On April 15, TBT announced that the revolutionary concept will be returning for all 2019 games. What does that mean? No more deliberate fouling. Greater hope for late comebacks. Every game ends on a made shot.

For those who are new, it’s quite simple. At the first deadball under four minutes in the fourth quarter, the game clock shuts off. A target score is established by adding eight points to the leading team’s score. The first team to reach the target score wins. So, for example, if the score is 60-56 when the clock shuts off, the teams will play until somebody reaches 68.


The concept was developed by Cincinnati Reds groundskeeper and Ball State professor Nick Elam. After logging hundreds of NBA and college games, he came to an obvious, yet profound conclusion: intentional fouling (a) doesn’t work and (b) is incredibly boring to watch.  From there, he spent years trying to figure out a way to eliminate this archaic late-game ritual. It ultimately became the Elam Ending.

After testing it out at the 2017 Jamboree, TBT implemented it for all games in 2018. That decision was met with backlash from players throughout the TBT universe.


“To be totally honest, I hated to hear they were going to do that.” said Jackson TN Underdawgs forward Tarius Johnson. “I’ve played ball my whole life and to have something different like that to decide a game was really off-putting for me to hear.”

Johnson wasn’t alone in his skepticism. After falling short in the TBT Championship Game the previous summer, Team Challenge ALS guard Marvelle Harris was out for revenge in 2018. The last thing he wanted was a crazy new rule getting in the way of $2 million.



“I didn’t like it at first,” said Harris. “It’s just not how basketball is supposed to be played.”

This sentiment didn’t last for long. After playing in TBT and experiencing the Elam Ending first-hand, something fascinating happened: it started to grow on a lot of players.

“After I experienced it, I came to like it,” said Johnson. “It’s very different. At first I didn’t want change, but man, it’s really cool.”

“I think [the Elam Ending] is really fun,” added Harris. “It gives [trailing] teams a real chance to win.”

In addition to eliminating late-game fouling and providing greater hope for late comebacks, the Elam Ending also ensures that every game ends on a made basket. Not only does this give fans a lasting image from every game, but it allows players to express themselves in a way never before seen in basketball.

“You get to trash talk and celebrate with your guys,” said Harris, who hit two Elam Ending winners last summer. “You feel empowered, even if we were up 20. You channel your inner child - I’m coming at you, you got to stop me… It’s an exciting feeling.”



With that being said, it’s not an easy concept to master. Whether you’re trying to hold on to a lead or fight your way back, the Elam Ending totally changes the way teams are used to playing late-game basketball.

“If you don’t play the Elam Ending the right can come back to bite you.” said PrimeTime Players coach Chris Thomas, whose team overcame a nine-point Elam Ending deficit to beat Always A Brave in a first-round matchup last summer.

“It’s definitely harder,” added Harris. “You can’t control the clock - you want to use as much time as possible - but now you have to score and finish the game.”


While only time will tell which other leagues adopt the Elam Ending, one thing is for certain: we'll see a lot of great basketball under the format this summer.

“[The Elam Ending] had people on the edge of their seats,” said Thomas. “There were some really good endings in these games, and some of these endings wouldn’t have happened  if it weren’t for the Elam Ending.”