30 October 2009

Playing basketball like tennis

Marginal Revolution | Tyler Cowen | How to improve basketball:

Tim Miano writes to me:
I am a longtime MR reader. I have a hypothesis about how basketball could be much more exciting, and I can't for the life of me figure out why people who are into sports haven't widely considered it (as least as far as I know).

Here is my simple thought: games should be played as best 4 out of 7 periods -- perhaps 7 minutes each or perhaps slightly varied period lengths, 6 - 8 minutes long. Maybe the number or usage of timeouts or foul-outs would need to be fiddled with. Maybe playoffs would be slightly different. But that's pretty much it. The best part of a basketball game is almost always the last few minutes, and it seems like the incentives for exciting play would persist more throughly under this design. Teams would need more endurance and deeper benches, but that seems like a good thing. Other than obsoleting old records and the tradition of the game, I can't think of any downside. Maybe marginal cost v. marginal benefit, à la owners/players wouldn't extract much more money from fans but would have to work harder? Maybe the length of games would vary too much for broadcasters to be happy? But still, a *much* more exciting game.
Cowen is somewhat dismissive, but I think this is brilliant. I venture to say it is the only thing that would make me interested in basketball again. Get rid of some of that lolligagging.

I'd also be interested in seeing a limit on substitutions. I'm not sure if this would increase lolligagging as players tire, or decrease it, as more fit players would have extra incentive to get their less fit opponents on their heels by upping the tempo. Might be worth a try though.

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