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The Elam Ending

One man’s dream is to change the game of basketball forever.

Nick Elam, creator of the Elam Ending, poses for a photo March 28, at the YMCA of Muncie. Rylan Capper, DN
Nick Elam, creator of the Elam Ending, poses for a photo March 28, at the YMCA of Muncie. Rylan Capper, DN

MUNCIE, INDIANA. — Ball State University has been home to game changers on every level. 

From David Letterman to Jim Davis, these halls have seen it all. Tucked away inside the 9th floor of the Teacher’s College is a game changer like no other. 

Nick Elam is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Ball State and is also the father of an idea that has taken the world of basketball by storm, the Elam Ending. The ending came to Elam in 2007 and looks to change the way the game of basketball is played, forever. 

“In a nutshell, the Elam Ending is a format where you play most of the game with a game clock, and you play the last part of the game without one,” Elam said. “It was thinking about all these different flaws that we see late in basketball games, realizing that they were attributable in some ways to the game clock and then thinking, ‘Well what would happen if you just got rid of the play clock at the end of a game and played to a target score instead?’”

With such a groundbreaking idea, even Elam himself wasn’t fully sure that his idea would work.

“I was skeptical,” Elam said. “I thought there must be some fatal flaw that I must be overlooking, but I actually convinced myself that the idea had merit.”

Once Elam convinced himself that his creation did in fact have merit, he began the long journey of attempting to prove to the rest of the basketball world that it did too. Changing one of the world’s most beloved games is no easy feat, but for Elam it was all about persistence.

“What I didn’t know at the time in 2007 is that it would take 10 years of outreach to people to finally see it implemented in 2017,” Elam said. “The whole time I felt like I was one day away from a major breakthrough.”

That breakthrough came in 2017 as The Basketball Tournament, TBT, a summer basketball tournament, implemented the use of the Elam Ending, and it didn’t stop there.

“A huge breakthrough was in 2020 when the NBA wanted to implement the idea at the All-Star game,” Elam said. “This idea of seeing the greatest players in the world, all on one court, playing under this format that I had devised was just an honor beyond what I can describe.”

Elam’s basketball ending doesn’t come without its critics as some feel the ending isn’t truly basketball. To that, Elam has just one thing to say.

“I love the game,” Elam said. “I think basketball is a beautiful, wonderful game. I think this is just a way to make a great game even greater.”

Elam’s idea continues to be used by the NBA in the All-Star game and in their G-League Development League. Elam says that this is a very real step along the path of cementing his Elam Ending, as the official ending of basketball, everywhere.

Contact Andy Newman with comments at asnewman2@bsu.edu