Episode 0 Extra 6: A Better Way to End Basketball Games

Would basketball be the same without buzzer-beaters like Michael Jordan's "The Shot?" (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Basketball fans know how boring a game’s ending can be — intentional fouls can stretch 90 seconds into 10 minutes. What if we could fix it by blowing up the last 4 minutes?

Stephen Dubner and A.J. Jacobs are joined by Nick Elam.

  • Owlyn

    Regarding the Elam Ending… He did not identify the real problem, which is… There are two kinds of basketball games: blowouts, and games that are won in the last 2 minutes. Blowouts are boring, and as for the other type, out of a 40 minute game, nothing matters except the last two minutes. So, my answer to this is to play 20 two minute games instead of one 40 minute game. Rankings are still based on the team’s record, so each team will want to play the hardest they can in every two minute game.

    I can also make baseball WAY more exciting. First, the infielders’ gloves have spikes on the back. To even things out, the hitter gets to run with the bat in hand, but only until he is either safe or out. If, say, safe on second, he surrenders the bat at second base for the rest of his time on any base.

    I have a plan for football, to, but it would require significant stadium renovations, do i won’t go into it now.

    • James Leroy Wilson

      How about 5-minute games, first team to win 5 games wins the contest.

  • David C Albin

    Before the game begins, each team “buys” points with personal fouls that start already assigned to their team’s players of their choice. Now play for five minutes. Done.

  • Sheldon Burke

    The Elam Ending is a good idea, but here’s a better and simpler way to eliminate multiple deliberate fouls by a trailing team in the closing minutes of a game.
    The way closing minutes of games are played can be completely changed. Then a team that’s trailing would no longer commit deliberate fouls, because it would be a senseless tactic that hurts the team. Instead, a trailing team would have only one option: play solid defense by not committing fouls, preventing good shots and trying to get turnovers.
    One new rule is all that’s needed. During then last 2 minutes of the second half and the last 2 minutes of any overtime period, the game clock would stop when a team with a lead has possession of the ball. The game clock would run normally when a team that was trailing has the ball and when the score is tied. The shot clock rule would not change; it would be in effect all the time.
    This new rule would be a radical change. The shot clock and 3-point shot were also radical changes and those changes made basketball more exciting and enjoyable.