From the comments: how to restructure basketball (and other sports?)

Kevin Erdmann writes:

I think basketball would be vastly improved if after the 3rd quarter, we just added 20 points to the higher score, and said, first team to that score wins.

Or, for that matter, make it score based instead of time based. It’s halftime when one team gets to 30, and the game is over when one team gets to 60.

It gets rid of all the fouling and time outs at the end of close games, and it means that it doesn’t serve any purpose for the winning team to drain the clock. And, it means that a team that falls far behind has more of a chance to catch up – like in baseball.

Of course this would not maximize ad revenue, which tends to increase with close games as the number of timeouts rises.  Furthermore perhaps people do not enjoy the outcome as much if they do not have to wait a bit for it.  Nonetheless an interesting idea.


The beauty of baseball and tennis: as long as the game/match is still being played, either side can win.

Yes, but they are both super-boring. For tennis they should find a way to make the game much much shorter....

Most professional matches are 3 set format and last less than 2 hours (easy wins are about an hour). Longer matches are more even and more likely to be exciting.

You are probably right, but as non-fan what stands out for me are the grand slam tournaments. There it takes a little bit longer :D

I would bet that's because they're on TV.

Each team should be allowed to throw one punch in the last 60 seconds. That would keep viewers around even during blow-outs.

Hahaha! Very cynical, but you are right. In fact, there might be a sudden viewership spike at the end of games.

Another plus: the game would always end with a triumphantly made basket.


And I hate ideas for "improving" basketball.

Just offer teams a fresh shot clock and a safe inbound into the backcourt instead of the 1-1 or 2 shot penalty. Problem solved.

No way - this wildly increases the incentive to foul.

He said offer not require. The fouled team chooses, and this would obviously decrease incentive to foul at the end of the game. The only question is how long do you give teams to decide whether to take the fresh shot clock or the free throws? There are already way too many stoppages in basketball, which is actually a much bigger problem that needs to be solved. There should be one timeout per team for the entire game, just like hockey.

The fact that this subject is being discussed shows that basketball really isn't much of a spectator sport and for a number of reasons.

It's the opposite of that.

College basketball is the worst, the final minutes taking 30 minutes to an hour as the team behind in the score fouls on every possession hoping to gain if the other team misses free throws. I'd adopt rules intended to discourage fouls at the end of the game, such as awarding two shots and the ball (similar to a technical foul). But I'm aware of unintended consequences. Like in nascar and on the PGA tour. In nascar, they adopted rules intended to make every car go the same speed, so a 500 mile race (like yesterday's Daytona 500) is like watching a freight train for three hours. Moreover, with the cars running so close together there is always a wreck near the end of the race which takes away the excitement of the finish (it happened yesterday). On the PGA tour, long hitters like Tiger Woods converted what had been long courses, such as Augusta National, into pitch and putt contests. The tour's response was to lengthen courses, which gave the long hitters an even greater advantage, so much so that on the longest courses and in the "majors" there are only a handful of players who have a chance to win. As for baseball, does anybody actually stay beyond the sixth inning. After a few cups of beer and a hotdog, which is the primary reason for attending a baseball game, I'm ready leave.

Close games do not increase ad revenue by generating more time outs. The ads are paid for in advance for a specific number of television breaks. If more breaks are generated, the ads run free. That is why, in sports with overtime or extra innings, TV will often stay with the game during a time out.

>>make it score based instead of time based. It’s halftime when one team gets to 30, and the game is over when one team gets to 60. It gets rid of all the fouling and time outs at the end of close games

When the game is 58-58 you can bet there will be plenty of fouling and timeouts.

Tennis - first player to reach two sets (three for men), no clock.
Golf - "first" player (in terms of strokes) to reach 18 holes, no clock.

Any other examples?

Isn't this how pickup and 3 on 3 basketball is usually played.

When we played as kids it was first to 15 baskets wins, but you have to win by two baskets. Also generally played make it take it where if you made a shot you got the ball back.

I rember some epic battles in those games when teams where evenly matched and could not get up two scores similar to what you get in tennis.

This is also how ultimate frisbee is played. Halftime occurs after the first teams scores 8 points, and the game ends when a team reaches 15 (of course win by two).

Yes, not an amazingly popular sport in terms of raw numbers. However, it may be one of the fastest growing sports in American history.

In addition to Ultimate and the other sports mentioned, volleyball and table tennis are played to points, not to a clock. As others have mentioned, highly variable game durations could be a problem, volleyball switched to "rally scoring" a few years ago and I believe the reason was to reduce the variation in game length (and maybe the mean game length too).

Is it easier to schedule television around clocked games?

That was my thought, the ideas of non-time based games and instead score-based are so variable in length matchup to matchup that it would be nearly impossible to schedule and sell ad-space for.

My own idea for basketball was to determine the final result of the game by who won the quarter. First team to win three quarters would win the game. Games could last three, four, or five quarters as teams would win either 3-0, 3-1, or 3-2. The first quarter would now become important, which it really isn't now.

However, I think first team to reach a particular score wins works as well.

The interesting aspect of all these 'suggestions' is that most pit the true fans against the newbies. Any use of the word 'boring' should tip you off that the latter are speaking. The organisers have to decide which group to cater to. Or, if they're real innovators/leaders, they'll find a way to make the game better for both. Both MLB (time limits) and NCAA (freshman eligibility) are thinking about that now...but wisely not rushing in.

Exactly. I love watching the teams of Tony Bennett and Bo Ryan. Great basketball.

Exactly- with UVa's great D the game will be a lot longer if the 1st team to 60 wins. If it's 30 for the 1st half, some of the early season games would still be being played (Rutgers).

Games were time-based long before ad revenue came into the picture. We do have goal-based "first one to get to ..." sports (swimming, marathon, auto-racing, Tour-de-France). With score-based goals you have to ask: What if no one gets to 30 or 60? Goal-based sports tend to be based on a concrete physical goals, not points. Time-outs and player substitution pre-date ad revenue - try running up and down a court for 60 minutes.

Ad revenue certainly is a driver of team franchise value, but there is considerably more variation across teams in revenue than there is variation in rules within a sport. Fandom, not rules, drives revenue. What you are looking for here ("parity" or more close games) is more a function of player selection and the ability of some teams to attract choice players, not timeouts or rules. Change the rules, those same teams will be able to attract talent, substitute, and still win consistently. That includes coaches, who have been known to screw up time-management at the end of a game, and lose.

In other words, people just want to see the LA Lakers!

Of the worlds most valuable sports franchises (, the top 4 are European soccer teams. Then we have on the list Yankees, LA Dodgers, Patriots, Redskins, Dallas Cowboys. The Lakers are #11.

Speaking of valuable franchises and close games, fans of the Patriots don't want to see a close game. They want to see a blowout take-no-prisoners 16-0 season and a Lombardy trophy. Bellichek delivers too, he's been know to forgo the time management and run up the score to 52-7. All those blowouts have not hurt the franchise value... at all!

Wouldn't it be easier to make each game 30 minutes long? Or 15? Wouldn't that have the same effect?

I like the idea of playing to a fixed score. Another idea is to have the hoop be variable sized. If the pace of the game is too slow, the opening is increased. This way the planners (TV) could be assured the games will last around 2 hours.

Pressure could be added to/taken out of the ball as well. That'd really eff up the players.

For baseball a common suggestion is reducing the number of games. How about keeping the 162 but have the season broken down into 54 three-game series' and the winner of each series gets one W? So the most possible wins is 54. Wild card will be determined by overall record percentage based on number of games won as opposed to series record.

The argument to reduce the number of games in baseball is due to the season being too long, and the more recent addition of more teams in the playoffs and more tiers of playoffs (following the lead of the other professional sports), which in turns make the regular season games less meaningful.

Until 1961, fifty-four years ago, the regular season was 154 games, followed by a post season that could run to 7 games at the most. The regular season is now 162 games, with a post season that could last as long as twenty games. One third of the teams now make at least the wild card "play-in" game, as opposed to one eighth of the teams making the post season pre 1961.

The owners obviously see more games as more revenue, and are not interested in arguments that adding more games devalues each of the existing number of games. The players' union has largely gone along with this, despite the increased injury risk to the players.

Anyway, the problem with the MLB is simply too many games and too long of a season, and your proposal does nothing to address this.

That's not how I see it. Most complaints I hear are that a single game in let's say June appears meaningless given that there are 162 games. It's always been the number of games as opposed to the length of the season itself. Is baseball really all that much longer than basketball or hockey?

Games in June may seem meaningless now (though they really aren't), but under your system of series wins there would be many truly meaningless games all season long whenever one team had won the first two games of a series.

Even with the wildcard being determined by best overall record on a game by game basis?

Wouldn't this result in highly variable game lengths and correspondingly difficult TV scheduling? A Warriors-Lakers game could easily end in 20 minutes while a Bobcats-Pacers game could take double or triple that.

The solution is trivial.

Give the fouled team the option, but not the obligation, to stop the clock.

Initially, when a player inadvertently did something that gave an advantage (contact), the opposing team was given a compensatory advantage - the clock was stopped for free throws.

Over time, people realized that with a sufficiently close game, the intentional compensatory advantage of free throws was less than the unintentional disadvantage of the stopped clock. Thus, Hack-a-Shaq.

By giving the fouled team the option but not the obligation to stop the clock, the original spirit of the rule can be implemented without greatly changing the structure of the game.

Basketball is slightly broken because the late game tactics make the game boring. By contrast, late game NFL tactics make the game faster and more exciting (more passes, deeper passes, hurry up offenses). Hockey has pulling the goalie which also makes the game exciting. Baseball has pinch hitters.

I'd be tempted to apply tennis scoring (or something similar) to basketball. Tennis' scoring system means that total blowouts are over very quickly, and anything that isn't a total blowout, the trailing player at least appears to be able to come back right up to the end. In anything but a total blowout, a player rarely leads a set by more than one break of serve. If the trailing player is only one break down in the current set, they could break back and at least take the set to a tie-break.

If one team is 58-40 up, then there's no realistic chance of the trailing team coming back. If they're 6-4 5-3 up and serving, then they only have to screw up four points and they're in a fight.

If you look at other net sports, on a point-by-point basis, volleyball, badminton or squash can be comparable experiences to tennis to watch. But tennis' scoring system makes it far superior as a match - points are not all equal in value, victory is not simply by accumulating points, but rather by building up the intermediate goals.

I think there are two fairly simple changes that would make basketball much better. One, as others have said, reduce the number of timeouts so that teams can't call three timeouts each in the last two minutes of a game. And two, timeouts can only be called during a dead ball. The idea that you can just stop the game in the middle of a play seems wrong on some level. Of course the timeouts will never be reduced because those are prime advertising times when it's a close game.

It is odd that the fouling at the end of the game is often actually celebrated (as exciting for fans or to keep teams in the game) when it's obviously a perversion of the rules that has been exploited so long that no one seems able/willing to fix it. It seems like such an artificial ending to a game, worse than penalty kicks in soccer.

There's no compelling reason that all close games should end with an endless series of foul shots and inbounds plays. There's already a rule "intentional/flagrant fouls" that could be used to curtain this activity, if it were enforced. Just give the team that was fouled the ball again, after a free throw.

The obvious adaptation would mean that teams would press and be more aggressive earlier in the 4Q, which would be great.

Not sure about the ad argument. In addition to reasons already mentioned here, firms will pay more for ads if rating are high. If this proposal increases ratings, it will likely increase ad revenue.

Just give the fouled team the foul shots and the ball.

For a livelier evening, try a local pub or bar, or head to nearby Dundee for clubbing.

Many ultimate frisbee leagues do something like the suggested fix... there's a "hard cap" determined by points (if one team scores fifteen points in the first half hour of the game, it's over) but also a soft-cap determined by time. After an hour, if the hard cap hasn't been reached, you add one point to the leading team's score, and the first one to reach that wins. If there's a tie, you add two points.

(At least this is how it usually works in my weird-ass Turkish leagues)...

Basketball would be better if it was scored like a racquet sport.

Something like this: each game is won by the first one to 7 points, then play a set as a best of 7 series that's over in 4 to 7 games, and then play best 2 out of 3 of those sets, with long "halftime" breaks in between.

This way, you could get out of a blowout in just over an hour with the victor getting as few as 56 points, and a loser with 48 or less. And a tight match could go as long as about 3 hours with nearly 150 points scored by each team.

Intriguing idea. Would have to make assumptions on relative popularity/ratings changes to figure out what it would do to ratings, rights fees, and ad dollars. You could overcome lower ad dollars in other ways.

Two things would improve basketball significantly:

1) Limiting the number of time outs....which is the biggest drain on time at the end of the game. Also eliminate many of the "TV Timeouts" which stall all momentum.

2) Widening the court by about 8 feet on either side. With the size and speed of modern athletes, the court gets very congested and is part of why the high pick and roll has become the most popular play. The high screen can only be performed at the top of the key because there isn't enough space on the wings. Widening the court would dramatically improve teams' ability to space the floor and attack the basket from other angles on the court.

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