Weber State University’s March Madness game today has brought back memories from my childhood of attending every game and going with my father to the post season tournament. It has also reminded me of just how much the game has changed because of the shot clock.
My memory of the Wildcats’ style of play in the late 70s and early 80s is dominated by the “four corners” offense, which the coach seemed to use anytime he got up a few points in the fourth quarter. The idea was to run out the clock and force your opponent to foul in order to get the ball back. It was boring and the fans hated it, but it worked…sometimes.
It could give a coach a winning record, but could not create a truly excellent team of basketball players—champions who could break out of the opening rounds of the big dance.
The four corners offense wasted a lot of great talent and squandered incredible potential until it was finally banished by the shot clock in 1985.
As in basketball, so in life: if you are just trying to run out the clock, you will ultimately lose.
I remember games in which the Wildcats would go into the fourth quarter up by ten before going into the four corners…and losing. It’s not surprising; the four corners “offense” isn’t really an offense at all: it’s a defense. It says, “I will no longer strive for more, I will protect what I have.” It took away the drive for excellence that got the team ahead in the first place and made them scared and sloppy. Opposing teams who hustled would sometimes close the lead from 10 to four, forcing the Wildcats to start playing an actual offense, but by then it was too late, they had given up the momentum and focus.
The shot clock keeps you focused
Basketball is about putting a ball in a basket, and the clock requires that this be at least attempted every 35 seconds. What do you need to be focused on?
The shot clock keeps you fit
Teams that expect to spend time standing around during a game are not as well-conditioned as teams that expect to run the length of the court 60 times. The shot clock keeps you moving and demands that you stay in shape.
How do you beat the four corners? A full court press exhausts and disrupts the out-of-shape team.
What’s your level of physical and mental conditioning? Can you handle a full court press?
Embrace the shot clock
It may seem restricting, tiring, and a recipe for making mistakes, but there are at least three reasons for you to embrace the concept of the shot clock.
- It keeps things interesting. Life can get pretty boring when you are just running out the clock, when you are playing a defensive form of offense. Boredom kills motivation, kills interest, and kills excellence. Can you imagine Michael Jordan, or Lebron James emerging from a sport in which an entire game could produce a total of only eight field goals? It is not an understatement to say that the shot clock saved the NBA.
- It gives you a chance to reset. With the shot clock, a player who misses an easy layup can quickly put the mistake behind him, knowing that he will get another chance in about 35 seconds.
- The clock works for you as well as against you. Sure, your team has to hustle to get the shot off, and sometimes the hurry will reduce your effectiveness, but the same thing applies to your opponents.
How to institute a shot clock in your life
A while back, I recognized the need for a shot clock and stumbled onto the 90-minute shot clock, which has delivered good results (at least I thing so…this post was written in 90 minutes). A variation of this is the Pomodoro technique. These are a great place to start when designing your own clock.
The creator of the NBA shot clock came up with 24 seconds by looking at games he had enjoyed watching, and doing the math to divide the number of shots taken in the game by the amount of time in the game. You can use the same technique by looking at particularly productive days and how they were divided up.
How can you create a shot clock for your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.