The Elam Ending Fundamentally Changes Basketball For The Better

by Tucker Kennedy-Studach

About The Author

He has passions that range from sports and adventuring, to playing video games and watching too much TV, as well as everything in between. When he's not lazy, something happens...

AUGUST 3, 2018

The Basketball Tournament, established in 2014 has become somewhat of a reprieve from the lack of quality sports in mid-summer, even if only because of the radical way in which its games end. However, that ending may be able to do more than just entertain summer couch-potatoes, it could revolutionize an entire sport.

In TBT, games don’t end when the clock reaches zero, rather when said clock reaches 4 minutes in the 4th quarter, a “target points-total” is set when the first game stoppage occurs (time-out, turnover, any whistle, etc) and the clock turns off. The new goal is determined by taking the leading team’s score and adding an arbitrary seven; whoever reaches it first, wins. This is called the Elam Ending, named after its creator, Nick Elam, a professor at Ball State University (no pun intended?). The Elam Ending is really the only significant change from what is otherwise the NCAA rules.

The Elam Ending is also really the only thing that makes TBT actually worth watching; in a way it forces good quality basketball. Typically if a game isn't a complete blow-out, the losing team will foul in order to stop the clock and extend the game in hopes of making a comeback. The ensuing mess is a sorry excuse for basketball, strategy, and just flat out sucks to watch. The underlying problem with the current format is that it’s not just ugly, but rarely does the losing team ever complete the comeback to win. So instead of enjoying ourselves, we either watch as: A) our team scratches and claws (literally) to get back in it competitively; or B) our team is harassed at every turn and we sit on our hands until it ends anticlimactically; or C) we don't pay attention at all… because as casual onlookers it's really hard to watch bad basketball. Any which way you put it, it sucks.
This is why the Elam Ending is more than just different; it fundamentally changes the way the games are played towards the end. With the clock shut off, and a set point-total to be reached, both teams are behooved to play at a high level, defending with energy and executing with precision on offense. Instead of trading whistles and freethrow attempts for quick, bad quality jump shots, the game plays out like it’s suppose to.

Where I’d Like To See It Go From Here

    As a former high school basketball coach I can say wholeheartedly that there’s a lot of bad, bad basketball out there. Kids pick up poor basketball habits at an early age just by playing AAU, watching the NBA, or playing video games. Unless someone instills good habits in those kids, the bad ones stick around and have a lasting effect. I’m not going to stand on a box screaming “DOOM” but there is fact-based evidence that youth sports provide more support in molding who people are: work-ethic, honesty/integrity, and teamwork. I would like to see the OSAA (Oregon School Activities Association) and other state’s equivalence, take a serious look at implementing the Elam Ending at the high school and lower levels. I know groups like KidSports and the YMCA have more freedom to change rules, but I believe they won’t unless the next level up decides to and applies some pressure. The highest level of basketball, and the one entity capable of initiating sweeping changes, won’t, because the NBA has much more pre$$ing matters to attend to. As “molders of people” the onus is on the OSAA and others to make these changes, to foster the highest level of quality and competition.