What is an Elam Ending?

William Pitts
Mtn Dew Fans Closer Than Courtside At Courtside Studios During All-Star 2020
Mtn Dew Fans Closer Than Courtside At Courtside Studios During All-Star 2020 / Robin Marchant/Getty Images

All-Star games are places for gimmicks you wouldn't find in any other professional context. Former players drafting their own teams of all-stars in the manner of a schoolyard game, players outright switching teams for one play for the sake of sentimentality, and whatever the heck this was.

Tonight's NBA All-Star Game will serve as the testing ground for another such gimmick - the "Elam Ending", a tweak to the rules of the game set to be used for the first time ever in an NBA-sanctioned competition.

What is an Elam Ending?

The "Elam Ending", devised by Ball State University professor Nick Elam, was first showcased in The Basketball Tournament. At the first whistle after the clock strikes four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the game clock is turned off completely. The two teams then play to a target score - as of 2019, eight points higher than the leading team's score.

Elam and The Basketball Tournament founder John Mugar envisioned the model to reduce fourth-quarter intentional fouls and create more late-game drama.

"If Naismith invented the game 130 years ago with the Elam Ending and someone came along 130 years later and tried to implement the timed ending, it would be like the biggest, most massive failure of all-time," said Mugar to CBS Sports.

Elam Ending Explained

The NBA first reached out to Elam on January 23rd with the idea to apply the rule change to the All-Star game, originally setting the score target at 35 points. The passing of Kobe Bryant later that month led the NBA to set the target at 24 points, in honor of Bryant's jersey number.