NBA All-Star 2023 – Thank the Elam Ending for the thrilling fourth-quarter end in Salt Lake City

AMONG THE SELLOUT crowd packed into Chicago’s United Center for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, Nick Elam and Jon Mugar could not imagine what they have been witnessing.

The league had determined to make a radical change for the league’s midseason showcase, and the thrill was palpable because the fourth quarter performed out.

“It was legendary,” Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell mentioned earlier this week.

Instead of enjoying till the clock hit zeros within the fourth quarter, the 2 groups of NBA stars would as a substitute play to a ultimate goal rating — a play on the Elam Ending, which had grown in reputation over the prior few years after being utilized in The Basketball Tournament (TBT).

Elam, who initially conceived the thought, Mugar, who agreed to implement it in TBT and TBT co-founder Dan Friel have been invited to Chicago by the NBA.

Elam was giddy. Who knew the concept germinated within the thoughts of a highschool math instructor whereas watching a university basketball recreation almost 20 years in the past would turn out to be a fixture within the G League, a million-dollar event and now one of many NBA’s signature occasions?

“The intensity in the arena for that fourth quarter was just off the charts,” Elam, now an assistant professor of academic management at Ball State University, instructed ESPN.

“It was absolutely amazing to see.”

The NBA will maintain the 2023 All-Star Game on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Salt Lake City’s Vivint Arena. And for the fourth consecutive 12 months, the sport shall be performed to a ultimate goal rating within the fourth quarter.

Here’s the story of the game-changing concept that sparked the brand new All-Star format, its evolution by means of the years and the journey one man has taken to deliver it to basketball’s largest stage.

LONG BEFORE ELAM was reinventing the way in which basketball video games end, he was an obsessed faculty hoops fan from Southeast Ohio, irked whereas watching the ending to Xavier vs. Duke within the 2004 males’s Elite Eight.

Xavier, the seventh seed, had made a Cinderella run to the regional ultimate towards the top-seeded Blue Devils, and whereas Duke’s largest lead — solely six factors — got here with 24 seconds to go, the ultimate moments of the sport have been riddled with intentional fouls and stoppages in play.

“Here’s just this great game — intense, competitive, athletic — and then you get to the final minute or two of the game,” Elam mentioned, “and then just all the life goes out of the arena.

“So my buddies and I, we’re trying round at one another. It’s simply so bizarre that the sport modifications a lot on the finish. It sort of turns into this warped model …

“And that’s when we started throwing around these ideas that were not viable, and it would be something that I would think about every now and then.”



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Those concepts saved creeping out and in of Elam’s head over the subsequent three years. It wasn’t till March 10, 2007 — when Elam was watching an ACC Tournament semifinal recreation between NC State and Virginia Tech — that the thought struck him.

“That’s when the light bulb went on [that] idea that might actually work,” Elam mentioned. “Ever since then, I haven’t been able to get the idea out of my head.”

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Elam’s ideas have developed over time. Initially, he referred to as it — in language solely a math instructor would use — “The Hybrid Duration Format,” and mentioned that the clock needs to be stopped for your complete second half.

He saved fiddling. Elam settled on a extra muted components. Applied to NBA video games, it will see the sport clock shut off when it hits the three-minute mark, with the successful rating tabulated by including seven factors to the main staff’s complete.

“If we’re going to cut out the last three minutes of a 48-minute game, we’re essentially cutting out 1/16th of the game,” Elam mentioned of his components. “Now we need to find some way to get that 1/16th back in there.

“That would correspond to about 112 factors per staff per recreation.”

Elam had fine-tuned his method of fixing basketball. The problem? He needed someone to buy in.

WHEN MUGAR OPENED the email attachment, he had no idea the chain of events he set into motion.

It was the summer of 2016, and Mugar was on vacation after the third edition of TBT — which has now been played nine times — when he pulled up an unsolicited email sent to TBT’s general, catch-all address. It was from Elam, who had spent the past nine years unsuccessfully pitching his new end-of-game idea.

Inside was a PowerPoint titled, “Time’s Up for Basketball’s Game Clock.” It was 67 pages long.

As Mugar kept reading, he waited for something to stop him. Nothing did.

“I grew up enjoying basketball,” Mugar told ESPN. “But now being ready the place I’m placing on an occasion and actually fearful concerning the leisure that you simply’re serving to followers, I turn out to be actually self-conscious of finish of video games that have been in that 4-to-12 level unfold the place it is a march to the free throw line and it was simply completely painful for me to expertise.”

Mugar’s first idea: Change the name from “Hybrid Duration Format” to something catchier and easier to remember: the Elam Ending — a suggestion Elam himself liked.

After consulting with ESPN — TBT’s television partner — and Elam, an agreement was reached. TBT would have a play-in tournament that it called a “Jamboree” the following year, in Philadelphia. The Elam Ending would make its debut.

And, after a few TBT play-in games had interesting endings, the fifth game — between Brothers Dat Ball and ATL Hoops4Hunger — delivered the finish Elam had spent a decade dreaming of, with former NBA guard Josh Selby hitting a runner in the lane to deliver Brothers Dat Ball a 76-75 victory by hitting the target score exactly.

“I used to be flying excessive by the top of that first day, and I knew that someway, someway, this idea was going to dwell on past that weekend,” Elam said.

“The undertaking had a heartbeat.”

Mugar agreed. TBT began using the Elam Ending in all 71 of its games in 2018 and hasn’t looked back. The Canadian Elite Basketball League adopted it in 2020 for all of its games.

The idea’s next step forward came when Mugar received another email at TBT’s generic, catch-all address. This one, though, was not from an unknown commodity.

Instead, it was from C.J. Paul — brother of Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul — who had his own message.

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“C.J. mentioned, ‘Chris and I are large followers of the occasion. We’d like to get entangled someway,'” Mugar said.

Paul himself would later coach a team in TBT, and became a fan of the Elam Ending.

“It’s enjoyable as a result of it is technique,” Paul told ESPN. “You received to consider the technique … it is not all that fouling.”

Just like that, the Elam Ending found a place in the NBA.

THE ALL-STAR GAME’S popularity has waned at times in recent years over a lack of competitiveness, with the game devolving into a series of rarely contested dunks and 3-point shots. As a result, the league has made several changes to up the stakes for the players, including having captains draft the teams — on Sunday, the captains will draft live before the game for the first time — and the teams playing for charity.

But in the buildup to the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago, Chris Paul — then in his role as President of the National Basketball Players Association — reached out to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and told him to check out the exciting finishes to TBT games.

“The [TBT] championship recreation was in Chicago a couple of years in the past and I referred to as Adam [Silver] earlier than the championship recreation,” Paul said. “I mentioned, ‘Watch this recreation, as a result of the Elam Ending [and] TBT has been actually enjoyable to observe.’ It’s a dope means for the sport to finish.”

Silver tuned in and liked it enough to give the target score a chance. (The NBA doesn’t call their finish the Elam Ending, as the TBT has the phrase trademarked.)

The NBA uses a slightly different format — 24 points are added to the winning team’s total to start the untimed final frame — but the result was an epic fourth-quarter battle that wound up being decided by an Anthony Davis free throw.

“I did not end the sport [in Chicago],” said Mitchell, who will be a starter at this weekend’s All-Star Game in Salt Lake City. “But simply to have the ability to see these guys on the ground, the extent of competitiveness and you will see it once more this weekend.”

“I believe it was innovation to the sport, to be sincere,” said Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, who was on the court for those final moments in 2020. “Especially for the followers for it to be extra aggressive. When you bought the 24 greatest gamers, you wish to see who’s the perfect.”

The success of the target score’s debut got the league thinking: Would there be other spots to implement it around the NBA?

“I believe we have been lengthy targeted on potential improvements, new guidelines that may enhance the standard of play, enhance participant well being, enhance fan engagement, and the thought of enjoying a basketball recreation to a rating versus with a clock is definitely not a brand new idea,” Evan Wasch, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball and strategy, told ESPN.

“Probably 99% of video games performed on the historical past of the Earth have been performed to a goal as a result of that is how pickup and playground and YMCA ball is performed. So we perceive there’s tradeoffs between enjoying a recreation to a quantity versus a clock.

“Obviously the use of the Elam Ending in TBT was one of the first higher profile events to use the hybrid model, and Chris Paul had seen that, brought it to some conversations we had had around how to reinvigorate All-Star a little bit, and so we thought that was a nice place to test it.”

Wasch was talking in December on the G League Showcase in Las Vegas, the place the NBA had utilized the ultimate goal rating for each recreation performed there as a part of the event format of the week — after having carried out a goal rating for extra time video games within the G League this season, as nicely.

“I was trying to figure out, ‘Why won’t this work?’ Once we got into the summer of 2007, I convinced myself that the idea really had some merit.”

Nick Elam

It’s not the primary time the NBA has used the G League as an thought incubator to attempt new concepts. Some of them — the coach’s problem, the transition take foul and the 14-second shot clock reset — have been included into the NBA recreation. Others, like utilizing the FIBA goaltending rule, the place the ball could be touched anytime after it hits the rim, or capturing one free throw to attain two factors, haven’t.

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One factor that will not be coming to the NBA, nonetheless, is the identify Elam Ending, because the league has as a substitute leaned towards a extra descriptive solution to describe the change.

“If you say, ‘We’re playing to a target score,’ the name itself describes what we are doing,” Wasch mentioned. “We thought that would be [an easier] entry into a new and what could be seen as a radical concept by traditional basketball fans.

“We’ve put our personal stamp on this to do the [entire] fourth quarter. It’s slightly completely different. … We did not assume ‘Elam Ending’ would essentially resonate with that broad a fan base.”

It remains to be seen which path the target score will ultimately take. Not everyone, though, is a fan of such an idea.

“I prefer it for the All-Star Game,” Mitchell said. “I do not know concerning the precise recreation.

“I think with the clock and you have to manage the game, think things out, I think it’s one of those things that has been part of the game for 75 years, so I don’t think we should change it.”

“I don’t like that idea,” Embiid mentioned, of implementing it outdoors of the All-Star Game. “I prefer that there’s some type of time, and you go from there.”

For his half, Mugar has turn out to be an evangelist for the ubiquity of the goal rating end taking root. He’s seeking to flip custom — that the sport has at all times been performed a method, so why change it? — on its head.

“If the game of basketball were invented with the Elam Ending and someone came along 75 years later and proposed playing down to 0:00 on the clock, it would last maybe one game and be completely demolished by absolutely everybody,” Mugar mentioned.

“They see the march of the free throw line. They’d say, ‘This is a disaster. It doesn’t work.’ So by flipping it and inverting it, I think that’s how I’m really able to convince myself that it will be the future of basketball.”

Whether it’s the future or just a enjoyable quirk that has infiltrated components of the game, the thought has come a good distance from when Elam was watching foul-heavy faculty basketball video games almost 20 years in the past.

“I was trying to figure out, ‘Why won’t this work?'” Elam mentioned. “Once we got into the summer of 2007, I convinced myself that the idea really had some merit. I thought that it was necessary, I thought it was sound, I thought it had the potential to be very cool.

“Then the actually robust half began of making an attempt to persuade folks within the basketball world that the thought had advantage. What I did not know is that it was going to take 10 years to get the thought carried out, however I’m glad I caught with it.”

ESPN’s Nick Friedell contributed to this report.