Ask most avid basketball fans to name the birthplace of the game and they will tell you Springfield, Massachusetts home of the game’s inventor Dr. Naismith and current home of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Probe deeper with a question of where the sport of basketball really developed and many will point to the basketball Holy lands of Indiana where Rev. McKay transported the game of basketball to barns throughout the state and Hoosiers became a household name, and decades later French Lick Indiana would produce Larry Bird. The true answer to where the today’s professional basketball game was born is Syracuse, New York.
The most significant impact in the game of basketball to date, has been the institution of the 24 second shot clock.
Long before Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse University’s Basketball team to an NCAA championship, even before Coach Jim Boeheim would master the Cuse’ Orangeman through three decades of prominent collegiate basketball prowess, there was history in the making. Before the “Dome’, home of University’s football and basketball program packed out 30,000+ fans per game, the Onondaga War Memorial played host to some of the greatest rivalries in basketball history. George Mikan’s Minneapolis Lakers, Bob Cousy’s Boston Celtics put on a show against the hometown Syracuse Nationals.
Students of the game may recall Professional Basketball once holding court in upstate NY as the Syracuse Nationals, were led by the NBA’s first true big man Dolph Schayes and the NBA’s first African-American player Earl Lloyd, along with Hall-of-famer Al Cervi. Few fans however know that Syracuse gave basketball the 24-second shot clock.
Prior to 1955 basketball games were played often at a snails pace, with scores such as 19 to 18 in a 1950 Minneapolis Lakers’ win over the For Wayne Pistons. Bob Cousy would also stall the game with his dazzling dribbling holding the possession until the final buzzer.
“It was – on a sweltering day in August 1954. Danny Biasone, one of the NBA’s founding fathers as owner of the Syracuse Nationals from 1946-63, and Leo 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. 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). Ferris, 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. Biasone implemented the concept.” (http://jpollard.homestead.com/LeoFerris24-SecondClock.html)
“The 24-second shot clock is used to time possessions by the offensive team. If a team does not attempt a field goal within 24 seconds of gaining possession of the ball, a violation is committed and possession is awarded to the other team. The clock is also reset anytime the following occurs: illegal defense violation, personal foul, fighting foul, kicked ball, punched ball, ball hits the rim of the team which is in possession.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syracuse_Nationals)
The 1954-55 season brought the 24 second shot clock and the first NBA championship to Syracuse with a 92-91 win in game 7 of the Finals against the Fort Wayne Pistons.
March 26, 1963 the team was sold and moved to Philadelphia Pennsylvania and became the Philadelphia 76ers.
42 years later on the same date (March 26) I joined a small crowd of 50 people in down-town Syracuse along side members of the Ferris family, and NBA legends Dolph Schayes, Bill Walton, Earl Lloyd, and John Havliceck, as we counted down from 24 and unveiled a special monument honoring the most significant contribution to the game of basketball, the 24 second shot clock.