History of the Shot Clock

It all started on the back of a napkin. No, seriously - it did. In 1954, Danny Biasone, Emil Bardoni, and Leo Ferris sat in a bowling alley and coffee shop in Syracuse, where they invented the shot clock on the back of a little napkin. It was first designed for the professional basketball league to deter players and coaches from strategically holding the ball and running down the clock. 

After watching a game, the three realized, if a player holds the ball it diminished some of the excitement and would lead to a decrease in ticket sales. Not only that, but they also realized the game lacked skill and athleticism as it placed strategy far beyond physical performance. They determined that for fans to stay engaged and for athletes to develop further, they must attempt to shoot a basket 120 times throughout the game. With only 48 minutes on the game clock, the three concluded the shot clock must be set for 24 seconds. 

After implementing the rule, it took twenty years before the NCAA adopted the same - starting at 45 seconds and slowly reducing it to the 30 seconds it is today. Now, fast forward nearly 50 more years, and the journey of the shot clock continues as it migrates to the high school level. In 2021, a new policy was approved by the NFHS to allow a state-by-state adoption. Only 50 percent of states have approved the policy for the 2022-2023 season, which leads us to believe we are at a great divide. How long will it be before all high schools adopt shot clocks? And why has this topic been so controversial?


Should High Schools Use Shot Clocks? 

The pace of play is an instrumental part of learning the game of basketball. Whether you are using a shot clock or not, coaches must train their athletes to understand tempo. Uptempo requires a strong, athletic basketball team to make quick, forceful plays on offense and often play aggressive defense. Teams who rank higher in skill than athleticism often play at a slower pace and lead with a more neutral defense. Well-coached teams can find a balance between both as they strategically change the tempo to their advantage throughout the game. Setting the tempo doesn’t require a shot clock. However, it can create consistency amongst varying performance levels by challenging players to find their rhythm and flow before the ball must change possession. 

Where the controversy takes place is the counter-attack on the defense. If I have a time restriction on the shot clock and I play defense, why risk taking a more aggressive approach when I can put the risk on the offense? It’s a valid argument, but it depends on the overall time and the score in most cases. If you’re running down the shot clock each time, you’re still limiting the number of possessions, and depending on your players’ effective field goal average, this strategy may or may not work. The policy doesn’t necessarily determine the outcome, as it acts as a boundary. The real controversy lies in the amount of time each player can shoot the ball. 

Should the shot clock be 45, 35, or 30 seconds? We’ve been hearing a lot about this argument lately. Quite frankly, it’s a difficult one to address. It’s not one size fits all. High school players are still developing. Therefore, they chart all over the map in athleticism and skill.  For this to work, we have to find the sweet spot to accommodate the diverse range of players. 

Just like the NCAA, it’s important to remember policies can change. This process will require a bit of trial and error before concluding. What works for a class A state championship team doesn’t necessarily work for schools whose size and selection aren’t as broad. Many state associations have approved the adoption of shot clocks on a limited-use basis. Not all conferences and classes use shot clocks within the association. This has allowed them to have a trial period where only a small percentage of teams are impacted before determining the next steps for the policy.

In addition to the effect on basketball at this level, there is another factor we must consider - cost. Cost is a huge factor as most associations oversee large districts and try their best to attain equity amongst their facilities. The good news is most associations haven’t set any real standards or requirements for the type of shot clocks needed. You have two options to consider, one of which will come with less of a cost burden. 

What Options are Available for Shot Clocks? 

The first is the integrated solution, which runs alongside your game clock system. You will need to contact your scoreboard manufacturer to learn more about the options available for your system. Integrated clocks are the same as those used at the college and professional levels. Any NCAA school using a Precision Time system has to use an integrated manufacturer-provided shot clock. The advantage is the reduced error since they synchronize with game clocks and use the same control device. This solution is the more costly of the two we recommend to high schools. 

Next, you can choose a stand-alone  wired or wireless model. An example of this type  is a Bison Wireless Shot Clock System. If you choose to use a stand-alone model, you will have to manually operate both the shot clock and the game clock, as they do not sync. The good news is these clocks are more cost-efficient for those looking to reduce the expense of installation. 

Adoption of shot clocks at the high school level is gradual, but we believe nationwide adoption is on the horizon. If your main concern is the installation cost, larger studies have shown an increase in ticket sales following the adoption to offset the initial expense. ScoreVision continues to stay up-to-date on the rules and regulations as they evolve. ScoreVision can work with existing customers to install integrated or stand-alone shot clocks from one of our hardware partners. If you are in need of additional information concerning your school and the use of shot clocks, please contact your regional director for more information. 




Imagine ScoreVision in Your School

At this time, we do not provide shot clocks for non-ScoreVision customers. If you’re looking to replace your scoreboard or software provider and still want to know your options, please fill out the form below, and one of our regional directors will be in touch.