The shot clock in basketball is a clock or a countdown timer that provides the amount of time (in seconds) that a team may legally attempt a shot. Once a team has an offensive possession, they have to put a shot before the shot clock expires.
What is a shot clock in basketball?
In basketball, the term “shot clock” refers to the set time in which a team must attempt a field goal. In the NBA, the shot clock starts at 24 seconds. According to the NBA rule book, the shot clock is displayed in seconds with an exception after the clock reached five seconds. By then, it will display tenths of a second, such as 4.9 seconds, 4.8 seconds, and so forth.
The 24-second shot clock was introduced in the NBA in 1954. It was devised by Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone.
Biasone and his team manager Leo Ferris came up with the 24-second shot clock as part of a scrimmage experiment.
FIBA introduced a 30-second shot clock in 1956 but then switched to 24 in 2000.
US NCAA college basketball first worked with a 45-second shot clock, then down to 35, and ultimately to 30 in 2015.
The NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) in the United States does not mandate a shot clock. That decision is up to individual state associations.
When the Shot Clock Starts, Stops, and Resets
These are the things to keep in mind involving shot clocks particularly in the NBA:
- The shot clock starts counting down as soon as the team has gained a new possession of the ball in play. For instance, when a team steals the ball, the shot clock for the team who has possession starts. When a team whose shot clock is near expiration attempts a field goal, missed, and got the offensive rebound, the shot clock resets to 24 seconds.
- When the ball is thrown in, the shot clock starts as soon as someone from the offensive team touches it. That is why we see NBA players constantly let the ball roll until near the half-court to maximize their shot clock. These plays are unofficially called “walking the dog”.
When the team is in possession of the ball, they must attempt a field goal before the shot clock expires. Otherwise, it will be called a 24-second violation and the ball is awarded to the other team.
If a team has possession of the ball and a defensive player pokes the ball free but does not gain possession of the ball, the shot clock does not stop.
If a defensive player poked the ball out of bounds, the shot clock is stopped and the ball remains with the offensive team. The offense only has the remaining shot clock to work with in these situations.
In any quarter, the shot clock will not function if there is a change of possession under 24 seconds left.
The shot clock is reset to 24 seconds only when: a.) there is a change of possession; b.) there is a foul in the backcourt; c.) there is a flagrant foul.
The shot clock is reset to 14 seconds when: a.) the offensive team gets the offensive rebound after a missed free throw; b.) the offensive team gets the offensive rebound after a missed field goal attempt; c.) the offensive team is fouled and the defensive team is not yet in the penalty.
For the shot clock to be reset to 14 seconds, B and C (on the previous bullet) should occur when the shot clock is below 14 seconds.
When a defensive three-second violation occurs, the shot clock will remain the same if it’s over 14 seconds. If it occurs with under 14 seconds, it will reset to 14.
More Shot Clock Facts and Trivia
The shot clock was introduced in the 1950s to make basketball more exciting. As Celtics guard Bob Cousy said, the main strategy before the shot clock era was to get a lead “and put the ball in the icebox.” That means when a team has a lead, they will hold on to the ball for as long as they can and force the opponents to foul in order to regain possession of the ball. Good riddance!
Biasone and Ferris of the Syracuse Nationals thought of the 24-second clock, but it’s not a random number. Biasone explained that he closely observed the box scores of the games he enjoyed watching. He found out that each team roughly takes 60 shots each or 120 shots total. He took 48 minutes (converted it to 2,880 seconds) and divided it to 120. The result is, you guessed it, 24.
The inception of the shot clock is credited to have saved the NBA from inevitable extinction.
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