The 1950-1951 season saw the NBA go from an unwieldy
17-team league to 11 teams in a two-division setup. It was also a season
that included the lowest-scoring game in NBA history.
It happened 49 years ago today on November 22, 1950 - the
yawner of all yawners. The game pitted Fort Wayne against Minneapolis, and
was played on the home court of the Lakers, who enjoyed a great home
advantage. Their court was shorter and narrower than normal size. Their
team was big, bulky and slow - all of which were perfectly suited for a
In the game, the two teams combined for just 31 shots. When
it was over, Ft. Wayne had creaked out a 19-18 triumph in a painful and
boring example of how dull a stalling contest could be. The game started
serious talk throughout the NBA about ways to prevent those kinds of
contests from taking place.
Then on January 6, 1951, a very cold night in Rochester,
the Royals played against the Indianapolis Olympians in what has gone down
as the longest game in the annals of the NBA.
The game lasted a grand total of 78 minutes and included
six overtimes. Some of the loyal Rochester fans booed, and hundreds of
others walked out of the old Edgerton Park Arena. They just couldn't abide
the slow-down stalling tactics of both teams.
In the half-dozen overtimes, just 23 shots were taken. At
the start of each overtime, the team that earned the tip just held on to
the ball for one last shot. Players just stood around gaping and staring
at each other. One player dribbled or held the ball and looked around
hoping to make the smart pass for a high percentage shot. Indianapolis
finally won the game, 75-73.
Red Holzman told me in the late 1980s when I was writing
his autobiography, "I played 76 of the 78 minutes in that opus. And
although I was in great shape, my tail was dragging when the historic
marathon was over". That game and the bore that was the 19-18 contest
made players and coaches see the need and the urgency to speed up the
game. It was these two games, and others like them, that set the stage for
the creation of the 24-second clock - and the salvation of the NBA.
The clock was first used in the 1954-1955 season, and
scoring jumped an average of 15 points a game as a result. The new NBA era
As a post-script to all of this, Holzman told me that back
In 1951, after the 19-18 game, he got the idea for a shot
clock and told some of the owners about it. They dismissed him as "a
young squirt." But someone must have been listening.