In the beginning, NBA had a problem to attract the fans to the games. Low pace of the games, dominance by similar players and no 3-point line caused low interests in the media and in the public for the NBA. Without the shot clock, the team that leads in the game can stalk the game and hold the ball and pass it infinite times. The only thing that opposite team can do is to foul them. Very low-scoring games with many fouls were common, which bored the fans. The most extreme case is a game between Fort Wayne Pistons and Minneapolis Lakers in 1950.
Fort Wayne Pistons won this game with the results 19-18 with only 13 field goal attempts. One more drastic example happened a few weeks after this game. The Rochester Royals and Indianapolis Olympians played a game with six overtimes, with only 1 field goal attempt in each overtime. So, the NBA needed to do something to return the audience to the games. They invented a 24-second shot clock. How they choose a 24-seconds version? Credits for this invention goes to Danny Biasone, Syracuse Nationals owner, and Leo Ferris, Syracuse Nationals General Manager.
“I looked at the box scores from the games I enjoyed, games where they didn’t screw around and stall. I noticed each team took about 60 shots. That meant 120 shots per game. So I took 48 minutes – 2,880 seconds – and divided that by 120 shots. The result was 24 seconds per shot.”
They were big mathematic lovers. They combined one passion with the other – basketball. This all lead to a 24-shot clock. When it was first introduced in the NBA, players were so nervous, so they ended up attacks within the 4 seconds.
“We thought we had to take quick shots – a pass and a shot was it – maybe 8–10 seconds… But as the game went on, we saw the inherent genius in Danny’s 24 seconds – you could work the ball around [the offensive zone] for a good shot,” said Dolph Schayes, a Syracuse star.
But after a while, players get used to it and begin to create tactics and more meaningful attacks. In the last pre-clock season (1953–54), teams averaged 79 points per game, but only after four years it went up to 107 points, which is more than today. The invention of the shot clock increased the scoring and also increased the attendance in the games by 40%.
This was one of the most important rules that were invented and thanks to this and couple of other rules NBA reached the popularity it has today.
Boston Celtics all-star player Bob Cousy explained everything:
“Before the new rule, the last quarter could be deadly. The team in front would hold the ball indefinitely, and the only way you could get it was by fouling somebody. In the meantime, nobody dared take a shot and the whole game slowed up. With the clock, we have constant action. I think it saved the NBA at that time. It allowed the game to breathe and progress.”