After breathing new life into the NBA All-Star Game last year, a Ball State University professor’s alternative scoring system will be utilized by the league once again.
The NBA has announced it will use the “Elam Ending” — a scoring format created by and named after Dr. Nick Elam, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Ball State’s Teachers College — as its “competitive format” for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, which will be held March 7 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
“The feedback I received after an entertaining end to last year’s NBA All-Star Game in the moment, as well as online and on social media, was almost all positive, which really speaks volumes,” Elam said. “To get that kind of reaction is great, but the best endorsement of all is the fact that the NBA has decided to use the Elam Ending format once again for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.”
The Elam Ending was designed to eliminate the need for late-game fouling and stalling, which can improve the overall quality and competitiveness of late-game play. Its use was praised by players, league officials and pundits alike in last year’s NBA All-Star Game at the United Center in Chicago, in which Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 157-155 thanks to a game-winning free throw by Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Anthony Davis.
Here is how the Elam Ending format will work in this year’s NBA All-Star Game:
- The two All-Star teams will compete to win each quarter. The fourth quarter will be untimed and the teams will play to a Final Target Score, meaning the game will end with a made basket or a made free throw instead of with the clock running out.
- Each of the first three quarters will begin with the score 0-0 and will last 12 minutes. The winner of each 12-minute quarter (first, second, and third) will be the team that scores the most points within that quarter. At the start of the fourth quarter, the game clock will be turned off and a Final Target Score will be set, which is determined by taking the leading team’s total cumulative score through three quarters and adding 24 points. The 24-point total is in honor of late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who wore No. 24 for the final 10 seasons of his career.
In last year’s All-Star Game, Team Giannis scored 41, 51, and 41 points in the first three quarters for a total cumulative score of 133 points, while Team LeBron scored 53, 30, and 41 points for a total cumulative score of 124 points. Heading into the untimed fourth quarter, with Team Giannis up 133-124, the Final Target Score was set at 157 points. Team LeBron ending up outscoring Team Giannis 33-22 in the fourth quarter to win the game.
“After the game, my brother came down, and he said, this has been the most fun All-Star (game) he’s been a part of,” 2020 NBA All-Star Game captain Giannis Antetokounmpo told reporters. “And I asked him why, and he told me, ‘Because you guys were really competitive. You guys were playing to win.’
“We had a little bit of playoff intensity out there. So I loved it.” continued Antetokounmpo, who has won two NBA regular-season MVP awards. “I hope we can keep the same format for a lot of years, and I think people had fun, we had fun. So that’s what it’s all about.”
Elam started conceptualizing his alternative scoring system as a student at the University of Dayton. It first got attention in 2007 when Elam wrote his book, “Time’s Up For Basketball’s Game Clock,” which detailed various versions of what would eventually be known as the Elam Ending.
Elam spent the next 10 years pitching his hybrid duration format to various basketball stakeholders before the leadership of The Basketball Tournament (TBT) took a chance on the concept, implementing a version of the system in 2017.
The Elam Ending’s success in the TBT led to its implementation in grassroots-level leagues and events in at least 15 states, as well as in Egypt, before it was adopted by the NBA for use in last year’s All-Star Game. It has since been utilized in the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) Canadian Elite Basketball League.
\Elam has since had opportunities to share his research and ideas at national and international conferences, including the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and as a keynote speaker at the Midwest Sports Analytics Meeting. Awarded by Centric with the Indiana Innovation Award in 2019, Elam will be featured in the upcoming Nick Greene book, “How To Watch Basketball Like A Genius.”
Elam was an administrator and math teacher at two Ohio schools before joining Ball State’s faculty in 2017. His research primarily focuses on teacher evaluation systems.