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"Before the clock, there was no game at all," Schayes said Saturday at the unveiling of a monument in downtown Syracuse to the 24-second clock. "It would get into the second half, and the team that was ahead would just kill the ball, and then you'd have to foul. Then they would foul you, and the game would deteriorate. The game stunk! It was a march from one foul line to the other. Something had to be done."
It was — on a sweltering day in August 1954. Biasone, one of the NBA's founding fathers as owner of the Syracuse Nationals from 1946-63, and Ferris, his general manager, introduced their 24-second version in a scrimmage in a small gym at Biasone's alma mater — Blodgett Vocational High School in Syracuse.
Among those in the stands were renowned coaches Red Auerbach and Clair Bee. They watched as Schayes, star of the Nats and the league's first true power forward, and a handful of other NBA players tried to get off decent shots.
Biasone and Ferris arrived at a 24-second limit by dividing the number of seconds in a 48-minute game (2,880) by the average number of shots taken in a game (120). Biasone, who scribbled his ideas on napkins and the backs of bowling sheets, theorized that teams would use the entire time to shoot, so he figured they would still average 60 shots but play a faster game.
League officials were quickly sold on the idea, first suggested by former Oregon and Yale coach Howard Hobson, and turned the shot clock into a rule. The players adjusted in a heartbeat, drawing new fans to a league that had been fighting to survive. Scoring jumped by almost 14 points a game in the 1954-55 season.
There would be no more games like the one in 1950 that saw the Fort Wayne Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18. Or one three years later in which the Nats took just three shots in the fourth quarter. And adept ballhandlers like Boston Celtics (news) guard Bob Cousy would no longer take more than 30 free throws in a game.
"Michael Jordan and the 24-second clock were made for each other," said Schayes, now 76. "Without the 24-second clock, would there have been a Michael Jordan? Would there have been a John Havlicek? Would there have been a Bill Walton? Of course not."
Havlicek and Walton were there Saturday to pay homage.
"This game would have perished a long time ago," said Havlicek, who starred for the Celtics three decades ago.
"It was the most important rule in the history of basketball," said Walton, who starred in college at UCLA in the early 1970s and won NBA titles with Boston and Portland. "I've always been the biggest fan of the 24-second clock. This is one of the most important days in the history of the game because it credits the evolution, it credits the teaching, it credits the chance for people's dreams to come true."