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The Elam Ending Would Rob Basketball of Its Drama

Yes, the end of games have problems, but the Elam Ending would take away what makes the game special.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Purdue vs Rutgers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, there’s been a rush of basketball pundits longing to change the game.

After a rash of review stoppages and too many foul shots when teams are late in the game, which admittedly slows basketball finales down, lots of people want to install the Elam Ending into pro and college basketball games.

For those that don’t know, The Elam Ending was created by Nick Elam and used in the TBT tournament this summer.

To boil down what it is, the ending means at the final TV timeout (with approximately 4 minutes left in the game), the clock would go away. Instead, seven points are added to the leading team’s score and that becomes the target score. So, if Rutgers would leading 67-64 at the 4 minute mark, to win both the team that got to 74 first would walk off with a victory. That would be it. It would just... end.

A lot of people are fans of this idea. It would force teams to run their offense and/or D up. The defense would have to get stops instead of intentionally fouling to try and extend the game. It’s an interesting idea... until you start to think about... you know, basketball.

I don’t like this idea.

It’s almost like saying, we’re going to play every game as first to 80. Maybe some would like to watch that, but not me.

To me, fouling is a part of the game. It may not work every time, if you’re trying to come back. It might not work the majority of the time. But when it does work, it gives us classics.

I don’t want to lose overtimes and classic endings, and with the Elam Ending, that’s what you would sacrifice.


Because there’s no clock.

You’d lose this:

And, you’d lose this:

And you’d lose this:

And with four minutes left in the classic 2011 double-OT game against Florida at the RAC, it was 59-57 Rutgers with four minutes to play. Guess what? Florida would have won that game 69-66.

Look, there’s something to be said for desperation. A ticking clock is the best way to create suspense when watching a basketball game. The term buzzer beater sends chills down my spine. Those plays don’t happen with an Elam Ending. Instead, Duke or Valpo or Rutgers would have taken their time, brought the ball up the court and run their offense. Maybe they hit a shot, maybe they don’t.

But it wouldn’t be a classic heave.

All sports have their quirks that some don’t like. Basketball has fouls at the end of the game (which by the way, the losing team would just start doing before the 4 minute timeout). Baseball has shifts. College football has 8 billion bowl games and a flawed playoff system.

But, some would argue those flaws are part of the charm. Think of the home crowd. When a team is shooting foul shots right into the student section, that’s when the noise really gets going. The Riot Squad amps it up to 11 and the RAC becomes akin to a 747.

You want that kind of earsplitting noise to go away? The atmosphere is half the fun.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t watch sports to see a skills competition. I hate the Slam Dunk Contest and the Home Run Derby.

I want my sports to have suspense and drama. I want to be watching from behind the couch, biting down my nails. I want to see toughness and grind it out defense and hard fouls. I want to see players leaving it all on the court and playing with a chip on their shoulder.

The charm of the NCAA Tournament would be ruined with a walk-off idea. I want more basketball, not less. To me, while you’re waiting during those foul shots, the drama is ratcheted up. Your heart is hammering in your chest. The blood is pumping.

That’s what makes sports amazing.

The Elam Ending has its charm in a three-on-three tournament or a game for evaluation purposes only.

But when there’s stakes on the line?

Give me the real thing... give me a clock. Any day of the week.

So maybe stop worrying about how long things take, and worry about the excitement of the experience. Instead of just wanting the game to be over, enjoy it for what it is.

Because I want more basketball...and more desperation shots... not fewer.