Elam Ending to once again be used in all TBT 2019 games


By: Josh Brown | @josh_brown31

Don't like late-game fouling? The Elam Ending is for you.

No more deliberate fouling. Greater hope for late comebacks. Every game ends on a made shot.

On Monday, TBT announced that the Elam Ending will once again be used for all games in 2019. The only difference? This summer, the target score will be calculated by adding eight points (instead of seven) to the leading team's score at the first dead ball under four minutes. In addition, if free throws trigger the under-four timeout, they will be taken BEFORE the target score is established.

For those new to TBT, let's take a step back for a moment. Prior to the 2017 tournament, Mensa member and college professor Nick Elam blindly emailed TBT a 67-page document with a way to eliminate endless fouling at the end of games. Under the rule, at the first dead ball after the four-minute mark in the fourth quarter, the game clock shuts off. A target score is set by adding seven points (it has since been changed to eight) to the leading team's score. The first team to reach the target score wins.

Elam began working on the concept in 2004 after becoming frustrated while watching the NCAA Tournament with a group of friends. He noticed that instead of being the most exciting portion of the game, the final couple minutes were often diluted with rushed offensive possessions and endless fouling by the trailing team. For a basketball fanatic like Elam, accepting this status quo was simply not good enough.

Armed with an excel spreadsheet and a desire to change basketball for the better, Elam went to work and began analyzing any game he could get his hands on. The results proved what many already suspected. In the nearly 400 NBA games he logged, the trailing team that resorted to fouling lost over 98 percent of the time. College games saw a similar trend, with the fouling team losing over 96 percent of the time. From there, he spent years coming up with a way to (a) give trailing teams a chance if they played good defense and (b) preserve a more natural end of game. It ultimately became the Elam Ending.

“Like many sports fans, I enjoy playing armchair commissioner and weighing the benefits of possible rule changes,” said Elam in 2018. “No more rushed or sloppy possessions of hopeless heaves by the trailing offense, no more waving the white flag, no more late-game clock controversies and reviews.”

After testing it out at the 2017 Jamboree, TBT decided to implement the rule change for all games last summer. The results were eye-opening. Not only did fans embrace the concept, but it led to a noticeably better end of game experience both on the court and in the stands. 

"The Elam Ending looked great in TBT 2018," said Elam. "It met all of its aims. It addressed the deliberate fouling and the stalling that we see so often late in games. It allowed teams to play at a high level all the way through the end of the game and take their best shot on the last possession of the game. It provided greater hope for late comebacks as long as you can continue to get defensive stops. And it provided more memorable game-ending moments."

"To see this format implemented in such a high-level of play - it's really a thrill for me."

While the Elam Ending certainly met its objectives on the court, it also became a source of discussion and debate in basketball circles around the world. Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey called for the NBA to adopt the Elam Ending. The Ringer speculated how some of basketball's greatest games would have played out under the rule. It was described as the "best thing to happen to basketball this century." Some players and fans described it as the worst thing to happen to basketball this century. All part of the fun.

Only time will tell what the Elam Ending has in-store for TBT 2019. With that being said, we're confident in telling you this: you won't want to miss it.

“I really believe this idea is 'The Big One' and will change the game of basketball forever – simply by preserving the natural style of play that we already love,” said Elam. “We’ll look back on foul-filled endings a few years later and wonder ‘how did we let this go on for so long?’”