77- Game Changer

Regardless of how you feel about basketball, you’ve got to appreciate the way it can bring groups of strangers together to share moments of pure adulation and collective defeat.

That moment when time is running out, the team is down by one, a player arcs the ball from downtown just as the buzzer sounds—and sinks it. It’s exhilarating. It’s heart breaking. And most of all, it’s good design. But it’s not the way basketball was originally designed.

During pro basketball’s infancy in the 1950s, nothing forced a player to shoot the ball. If a team was winning, and they wanted to keep their lead, the team could literally hold on to the ball for ten minutes and run the clock out.

But in 1954, Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone had crunched some numbers, and he believed that some simple arithmetic could save basketball.

Reporter Eric Mennel, from the radio show BackStory with the American History Guys, spoke with Dolph Schayes—who played on the Syracuse Nationals both before and after the advent of the shot clock—about how Biasone’s contribution to the game shaped basketball into what it has become today.