SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — On any given night millions of people will tune in to watch the NBA.
Basketball is among the most popular sports in America. But one rule change in 1954 completely altered the course of NBA history, revolutionizing how the game is played.
That rule was the 24-second shot clock, and what many don’t know is that its roots trace back to Syracuse.
Leo Ferris served as general manager for the NBA’s Syracuse Nationals in the 1950s. He and owner Danny Biasone conceptualized the shot clock, first trying it out in a scrimmage in 1954 at Blodgett Vocational School on Oswego Street. The intrigue of the shot clock spread and the NBA implemented it at the start of the 1954 season.
From that moment on, basketball was changed forever.
The first-ever shot clock used in an NBA game is now displayed at Noreen Reale Falcone Library at Le Moyne College. Library director Igna Barnello said Nationals star Dolph Schayes told her what led Ferris and Biasone to the idea.
“The teams would hold the ball at the end,” Barnello said. “If you had the lead there were no more shots taken. They would hold the ball so the other team wouldn’t score, they just passed and passed and passed, so the game got to be not too interesting at the end if you had the lead.”
In the 1950s, stalling had become a common strategy in the fourth quarter of games. Talented guards like Hall of Famer Bob Cousy helped pave the way for this strategy with their masterful ball handling. The result was a watered-down product that left fans frustrated. The solution?
Force the winning team to shoot.
Barnello said Ferris and Biasone were out to dinner when they came up with the idea. They used box scores from the previous season to calculate 24 seconds as the optimal number for the clock. An NBA game averaged 120 shots. The games were 48 minutes long. Divide the number of seconds in a game by 120 shots and the result was 24 seconds per shot.
Team scoring averages increased from 79.5 points per game in the 1953 season to 93.1 per game in 1954. Attendance grew as the popularity of the fast-paced game attracted attention.
In 2018, the NBA channeled the vision of Biasone once again. They announced another rule change to the shot clock in which it resets to 14 seconds instead of 24 following an offensive rebound. The result:
More shots, more possessions, more points.
Barnello said Dolph Schayes felt the shot clock was integral to the game’s survival.
“He felt the NBA wouldn’t have survived if they hadn’t instituted the shot clock,” Barnello said. “It made the game more exciting.”
Barnello said most are unaware that the original shot clock is at Le Moyne. However, a commemorative shot clock in Armory Square is seen by thousands each day.
It serves as a reminder of Danny Biasone, Leo Ferris, and the city’s monumental role in revolutionizing basketball.