The Basketball Tournament (TBT) has revolutionized how basketball games are decided with the “Elam Ending,” intended to make the ending of games more exciting and prevent the trailing team from repeatedly fouling the opponent intentionally.
At the first dead ball with less than four minutes remaining, the game clock is turned off but the shot clock stays on. A target score — the leading team’s score plus eight points — is then implemented. The first team to reach that score wins the game.
TBT, an annual five-on-five single-elimination tournament, took place this year without fans at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, from July 4-14. Former Towson guard Four McGlynn, who played for Sideline Cancer, embraces the idea and believes it should be implemented in more basketball leagues across the globe.
“I really enjoy it. … It takes away from the traditional strategies of basketball where you foul the worst free throw shooter and you play that whole back-and-forth game that really drags out the game,” McGlynn said on Glenn Clark Radio July 14. “Throughout my career I’ve really benefited from the late-game fouling, being a pretty good free throw shooter.”
McGlynn played two seasons at Towson (2013-2015). He averaged 12.0 points during the 2014-15 season and shot 91.7 percent from the free throw line, the fifth-best percentage in Division I hoops that year. He also played one season each for Vermont and Rhode Island. He last played professionally for CB Myrtia in Spain, averaging 9.5 points during the 2019-20 season.
Many basketball fans and players have embraced the idea of the Elam Ending. TBT implemented the concept in 2017, and it has since been adopted by the National Basketball League in New Zealand. The 2020 NBA All-Star Game featured a modified version of the Elam Ending in order to honor Kobe Bryant. The target score was determined by adding 24 points to the leading team’s score.
“I think what makes the TBT special is they’ve taken this concept and initiated it from the start,” McGlynn said. “… It makes for such a more exciting game and it also shows you how good players are. When you sit there and run late-game situation sets and draw plays up, eight points isn’t that much, so you have to be really strategic with how you draw plays up.”
The idea for the Elam Ending originated in 2004 when Dr. Nick Elam was watching March Madness with his roommates at the University of Dayton. Now a professor at Ball State University, Elam was watching a regional final between Duke and Xavier. Duke won, 66-63. Elam and his roommates felt the energy left the arena late in the game, and Elam thought of the idea to turn off the game clock late.
“I’m a lifelong basketball fan, I really do love the sport so it was always disheartening to me that the end of the game is usually the least exciting part of the game,” Elam said on GCR July 8. “The style of play becomes very warped and just overall the quality deteriorates. … What you get are many great games throughout basketball history that completely fade from memory, they don’t have even one signature moment to carry on.”
TBT was one of the few live sporting events that could be watched on TV in recent weeks. Some notable players with local ties participated, including Baltimore native Jamel Artis, former Towson star Jerrelle Benimon, former Maryland center Diamond Stone and McGlynn.
Artis, McGlynn and Stone played for Sideline Cancer and finished second in the tournament. Sideline Cancer was defeated by the Golden Eagles, 78-73, in the final July 14, and the Golden Eagles split a $1,000,000 prize. But that potential prize wasn’t what McGlynn was thinking about when he arrived in Columbus for the start of the tournament.
“When I came here, that was kind of an [afterthought] because there’s so many great teams and great players,” McGlynn said. “For me I was just grateful for the experience not only to play for the awesome exposure because there’s no other sports on, but to play for Sideline Cancer which is such an awesome organization. … The money wasn’t something I even considered until we beat Overseas Elite and we came back and sat in the locker room.”
Sideline Cancer defeated Overseas Elite, 67-65, to reach the championship game. Overseas Elite won four of the first five TBT tournaments and were led by former NBA forward Joe Johnson. Johnson, a longtime NBA sharpshooter, showed his opponents unexpected respect after the game.
Johnson played in the NBA from 2001-2018. He is most known for his tenure with the Atlanta Hawks from 2005-2012. He was named an All-Star seven times in his career, six with Atlanta. He was a third-team All-NBA selection in 2010, the first Hawk to make an All-NBA team since Dikembe Mutombo in 2001.
“He’s an unbelievably nice person. He came and congratulated us, took pictures with us, wished us the best of luck,” McGlynn said. “You play in the league for 17 years, you don’t have to do stuff like that.”
As other sports try to figure out how to safely return during a pandemic, McGlynn believes TBT showed an effective way to do so. A 64-team tournament was originally planned, but that was cut down to 24. Regular testing was also a priority.
“In terms of safety,” McGlynn said, “I think they did an awesome job here.”
For more from McGlynn, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Elam, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Ben Solomon