May 26, 2019
Nick Elam, Ph.D.

This particular sample includes each of the 71 games of TBT2018, all of which were played under Elam Ending rules (with Under4:00/Plus7 settings). For context, TBT2018 is also compared to a large sample of NBA and NCAA men’s games played from 2014-2018.

The Elam Ending is designed to eliminate/reduce late-game deliberate fouling by the trailing defense. Only 1.4% of TBT2018 games (1/71) included such fouling, compared to:

  • 43.7% of NBA games (600/1372) included such fouling
  • 58.0% of NCAA games (856/1476) included such fouling

Additional notes about deliberate fouling in TBT2018 games:

  • 0 instances of deliberate fouling by trailing defense as timed portion wound down; 1 instance of deliberate fouling by trailing defense during untimed portion
  • 5 games included deliberate fouling by leading/tied defense to prevent potential game-winning three-pointer
  • 6 games included deliberate fouling by leading defense to initiate untimed portion

The Elam Ending is designed to compel leading offenses to continue playing assertively late in the game. During TBT2018, 64.8% of 4th quarters (46/71) were stalling-free, compared to:

  • Only 1.4% of NBA 4th quarter/overtime periods (20/1468) were stalling-free
  • Only 1.5% of NCAA 2nd half/overtime periods (23/1585) were stalling-free

The Elam Ending is designed to allow trailing/tied offenses to play at their best through the end of the game, rather than being forced into rushed/sloppy/incomplete possessions. During TBT2018, offenses averaged 0.80 points per possession during virtual sudden-death situations (where both teams are within three points of the target score), compared to:

  • Tied/trailing NBA offenses averaged only 0.22 points per possession in true buzzer-beater situations
  • Tied/trailing NCAA offenses averaged only 0.18 points per possession in true buzzer-beater situations

The Elam Ending is designed to provide greater hope for late comebacks, in part by eliminating the need for trailing defenses to foul deliberately, and by allowing trailing offenses to continue playing at their best. Conversely, under the regular format, in games when one team resorted to late-game deliberate fouling, that team ultimately won only 1.0% of NBA games (6/600) and 1.3% of NCAA games (11/856). The Elam Ending does not include a situation where a team would need to resort to fouling, but anecdotal evidence shows how the format allowed for exciting comebacks:

  • ATL Dirty South, trailing Purple & Black 72-64 (playing to 76), end game on 12-2 run to win 76-74
  • Memphis State, trailing Team DRC 78-67 (playing to 83), go on 13-4 run to close to within 82-80 before eventually losing 84-80
  • West Coast Ronin, trailing Peoria All-Stars 79-72 (playing to 84), go on 10-2 run to lead 82-81, before eventually losing 85-82 (had ball with chance to win)
  • Philadelphia Stars, trailing South Jamaica Kings 70-62 (playing to 73), close to within 71-68 (with ball) before eventually losing 73-68
  • PrimeTime Players, trailing Always a Brave 59-50 (playing to 66) at start of Elam Ending, and later trailing 64-57, end game on 11-0 run to win 68-64 (stopping Always a Brave on eight consecutive potential game-winning possessions)
  • Big X, trailing Chattanooga Trenches 77-72 (playing to 80), end game on 9-2 run to win 81-79
  • Gael Nation, trailing Armored Athlete 74-69 (without ball, playing to 75), close to within 74-73 (with ball) before eventually losing 75-73 (after missing four lay-ups during untimed portion)
  • Louisiana United, trailing Overseas Elite 85-78 (playing to 87), go on 8-1 run to tie 86-86 before eventually losing 87-86
  • Sons of Westwood, trailing Team Challenge ALS 79-71 (playing to 86), go on 9-0 run to lead 80-79 before eventually losing 86-80

The Elam Ending guarantees that every game must end with the swish of a net. This provided an appealing variety of game-ending moments during TBT2018:

  • 36.6% of games (26/71) ended with a three-pointer
  • 43.7% of games (31/71) ended with a two-point field goal (jumper, lay-up, or dunk)
  • 19.7% of games (14/71) ended with a free throw

Compared to:

  • 0.8% of games (11/1372) ended with a meaningful made basket
  • 9.0% of games (124/1372) ended with an unsuccessful meaningful possession
  • 90.2% of games (1237/1372) ended with a player running out the clock (or a meaningless shot attempt)


  • 1.0% of games (15/1476) ended with a meaningful made basket
  • 11.8% of games (174/1476) ended with an unsuccessful meaningful possession
  • 87.2% of games (1287/1476) ended with a player running out the clock (or a meaningless shot attempt)

Under Elam Ending, many game-winning shots look/sound/feel like a buzzer-beater, even in games decided by four points or more

Beyond each of these primary aims of the Elam Ending, the format has also been effective in its ability to meet several secondary aims:


  • NBA: Trailing team overtly conceded 77.0% of games (1057/1372)
  • NCAA: Trailing team overtly conceded 67.9% of games (1002/1476)
  • Under the regular format, etiquette compels teams to give up; under the Elam Ending, the proper etiquette is to play to the end


  • NBA: 133 late-game clock malfunctions, errors, and reviews
  • NCAA: 224 late-game clock malfunctions, errors, and reviews
  • TBT2018: 0 late-game clock malfunctions, errors, and reviews
  • Under the Elam Ending, there will never be a game-clock malfunction, operator error, or official review during the final stretch. Period.


  • Under the regular format, some of the lengthiest final stretches have little drama to offer, as trailing teams foul repeatedly and widen their deficit in the process
  • Under the Elam Ending, games with quick final stretches are normally blowouts, or relatively close games where the leading team gets hot (and likely would have won anyway)
    • TBT2018: In 14 of 71 games, the untimed portion lasted 1:45 of “game time” or less; the average margin of victory in these games was 18.1 points, with only one such game decided by fewer than 8 points
  • Under the Elam Ending, games with lengthy final stretches are almost always games where the drama is building – the leading team is not getting to the finish line, and the trailing team is gaining on them
    • TBT2018: In 12 of 71 games, the untimed portion lasted 4:00 of “game time” or longer; seven of these games came down to a virtual sudden-death situation


  • NBA: 194 uncontested lay-ups allowed
  • NCAA: 261 uncontested lay-ups allowed
  • TBT2018: 2 uncontested lay-ups allowed


  • NBA: 129 instances of fouls-to-give disadvantage
  • NCAA: 64 instances of fouls-to-give disadvantage
  • TBT2018: 0 instances of fouls-to-give disadvantage
  • Under the Elam Ending, having fouls-to-give always works in a trailing team’s favor (as it should), and can make the final minutes of timed play especially exciting


  • Under the regular format, many players foul out while committing a deliberate foul, and/or during overtime


  • Rolled inbounds passes
  • Vacating the free throw lane
  • Throwing the ball directly into the air to exhaust time

By any measure, the Elam Ending was effective in meeting its aims at TBT2018. And some things can’t be measured. Check out some of the additional on-air feedback about the Elam Ending from TBT2018 broadcasters:

Dan Dickau: “The Elam Ending provided what TBT organizers wanted – that was excitement at the end of a game”

Brian Bedo: “I love it. It takes away some of the anticlimactic finishes we see…I love just trying to evolve and change some things”

Rich Zvosec: “All of a sudden you get to the Elam Ending and the defensive intensity increases”

Chris Vosters: “The advantage of the Elam Ending is that you have to play to win; you have to continue to execute your offense you cannot milk the clock”…Robbie Hummel: “I think that’s the best part about (the Elam Ending); How often in sports – whether it’s basketball or football – you kneel the clock out, you put the ball in the freezer. It can be one of those deals where at the end of the game you don’t see much action. Now, it’s forcing you, you have to go win the game and I think that’s what’s beautiful about the Elam Ending”

Jen Hale: “Everybody here has loved it so far”

Jen Hale: “We have had so much fun with a new twist this year, the Elam Ending. It has made the last four minutes of so many games incredibly exciting”

Dan Dakich: “It is an absolute blast…it makes you make basketball plays, and I think it’s the next big thing in basketball”

Dan Dakich: “It is the best innovation…I’ve seen in basketball since the three-point line”

Tim Scarborough: “All of a sudden with the Elam Ending the drama has entered the building”

Tim Welsh: “This is where the Elam Ending brings you to the edge of your seat”

Tom Hart: “This is a fantastic rule and a revolutionary way to end a basketball game”

Dan Bonner: “From what we have seen (the Elam Ending) has really made the end of the game cleaner”

Eric Duick: “You’ve always got a winning shot, and when there’s $2 million on the line, just think of the added pressure”

Richie Schueler: “Love it, baby. You wanna end deliberate fouling in basketball? You wanna end games in a more natural, exciting, and fun way? It’s the Elam Ending”

Tracy Murray: “I think there’s more pressure on the team that’s ahead”

Dan Dakich: “What a great ending. The Elam Ending is absolutely fantastic!”

Tom Hart: “A fantastic ending. The Elam Ending pays off again”

Fran Fraschilla: “Who said there’s no buzzer-beaters in the Elam Ending?!”

Dan Dakich: “This is what makes this ending so good – it makes you play basketball! It makes you make decisions in the most crucial part of the game…What does it take out of basketball? Nothing”

Fran Fraschilla: “This is the beauty of the Elam Ending – every game will end on a made basket, every possession matters”

Bob Rathbun: “Great action, and a thrilling ending”