During the 1954-1955 National Basketball Association season, there was an invention that changed the game, helping to shape it into what we know today. Before the 54-55 season, scoring in NBA games was low. Instead of continuing to score, teams would run out the clock after securing a lead. Shot attempts were down, and games were being won 19-18, unheard of in today’s game. Danny Biasone, founding owner of the Syracuse Nationals, and Leo Ferris, one of the NBA’s founders in 1949 and National’s General Manager, invented the 24 second shot clock following the 1953-54 season to try to speed up the game, to prevent teams from stalling during games and increase scoring.
Why 24 seconds? Ferris did the math by scouring box scores to get the average number of shots two teams would take during a game, which turned out to be 120. He divided that number into 48 minutes, or 2,880 seconds (the length of a game), and ended up with the magic number of 24.
The shot clock debuted in the National Basketball Association on October 30th, 1954 during a game featuring the Rochester Royals and the Boston Celtics. The Royals went on to win 98-95.
As fate would have it, the Syracuse Nationals would go on to win their first, and only, NBA championship that season, defeating the Fort Wayne Pistons in Game 7 of the finals 92-91 on April 10th, 1955.
You can learn more about the history of the 24 second shot clock and Ferris’ work on the project from WBUR Boston’s, It’s Only A Game. The interview features former Post Standard journalist, Sean Kirst.