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The NBA was on its deathbed in the 1950s.
Sparse crowds, bored by a game as stale and musty as the old auditoriums, armories and arenas that housed it, found very little about the plodding pace of pro basketball to stop them from heading towards the exits.
By the time the Minneapolis Lakers blinked first in a 19-18 staring contest with the Fort Wayne Pistons during the 1950-51 season (an NBA record for fewest points in a game), the NBA barely registered a pulse as Major League Baseball and college football dominated the American sports scene.
“That was the way the game was played – get a lead and put the ball in the icebox,” remembered former Celtics great and Hall of Fame point guard Bob Cousy.
Not surprisingly, fan interest went right into the icebox with it.
“Danny Biasone saved the NBA…make no mistake about that,” said former NBA coach and official Charlie Eckman.
With the help of his general manager, Leo Ferris, the owner of the Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers) devised the idea that single-handedly rescued pro basketball and ushered in the game’s modern era: the 24-second shot clock.
Sixty years later, the shot clock is a universally accepted part of the game at various levels around the globe, but the debate continues over whether or not it’s needed to “save” high school basketball in the U.S., too.