Did you know that the NBA’s now-familiar 24-second clock originated in Syracuse, N.Y.? It’s true! And now the Triple-A Syracuse Mets have announced plans to honor that history by becoming the Syracuse Shot Clocks for a one-game promotion on Aug. 19.
The shot clock was invented as a way to solve pro basketball’s problem of dull, low-scoring games. Some teams — usually the weaker team in a given game — were relying too much on the tactic of simply passing the ball back and forth, essentially playing keep-away and resulting in very few shots per game. Enter the shot clock, as explained in this Wikipedia passage:
In 1954 in Syracuse, New York, Syracuse Nationals (now the Philadelphia 76ers) owner Danny Biasone and general manager Leo Ferris experimented with a 24-second shot clock during a scrimmage. Jack Andrews, longtime basketball writer for The Syracuse Post-Standard, often recalled how Ferris would sit at Danny Biasone’s Eastwood bowling alley, scribbling potential shot clock formulas onto a napkin. According to Biasone, “I looked at the box scores from the games I enjoyed, games where they didn’t screw around and stall. I noticed each team took about 60 shots. That meant 120 shots per game. So I took 2,880 seconds (48 minutes) and divided that by 120 shots. The result was 24 seconds per shot.” Ferris was singled out by business manager Bob Sexton at the 1954 team banquet for pushing the shot clock rule. Biasone and Ferris then convinced the NBA to adopt it for the 1954–55 season, a season in which the Nationals won the NBA Championship.
The story is also told in this video clip:
In 2005, a commemorative shot clock was actually installed on Franklin St. in Syracuse:
The clock constantly ticks down from 24 to zero and then resets, although in an odd, blinky manner. This is the only video of it that I could find:
Thank you to @LtGovHochulNY LG Kathy Hochul for coming to Syracuse today. I had the chance to explain the origin of Danny Biasone’s NBA 24 second shot clock. We discussed the glory days of the Buffalo Braves & Syracuse Nats. Today felt line hitting a 1/2 court shot at the buzzer! pic.twitter.com/tCKgxbJQC5
— John Mannion for State Senate (@Mannionfor50) October 28, 2020
The front of the jersey and the cap are shown at the top of this page. Here’s the back of the jersey, along with the right-sleeve graphic:
You’d think No. 24 would be a coveted uni number for this promotion, but the team’s current roster doesn’t include anyone wearing that number. So I suggested to team GM Jason Smorol that they should have some sort of contest to see who gets to be “24 for a day” for the Shot Clocks. He said he’d look into it!
This will be at least the fourth local-themed one-game rebranding that the team has undergone in recent years, as they’ve previously played at the Syracuse Salt Potatoes, the Syracuse Butter Sculptures, and the Syracuse (Brannock) Devices. (I threw out the first pitch for that last one.) Indeed, it looks like the Shot Clocks’ mascot character might be a distant cousin of the Devices’ character:
This is all pretty great. How often does a baseball uniform teach us something about basketball history? Nicely done, Syracuse! Now maybe a basketball team can wear a uniform honoring MLB’s new pitch clock. Which city came up with that?