40 Nights of Hate: The Breakdown of a Second

(Editor’s Note: Today’s article continues our 2017 NBA Playoffs basketball coverage called 40 Nights of Hate, as the next two months of our lives will be devoted to the greatest postseason basketball tournament known to mankind. Some of our arguments will be rational, many others will be irrational. To hate is to love, as the basketball gods toy with our lives like James Harden does oafish 7-footers on switched pick-and-rolls. Enjoy our 40 Nights of Hate coverage, or despise it. Either is acceptable.)

I’m going to start this article with a request for you to stop reading this article and go to your clock app and then select your stopwatch (or whatever it’s called or however it works on your Android device) and see if you can follow along as tenths of seconds add up to seconds.

Ay, come back when you’re done though.

Cool, you’re back.

I’ll assume that didn’t work out too well. And by “didn’t work out too well” I mean it’s dang near impossible except maybe for the speed counters and mathematicians among us.

My dad was no mathematician, per se, but he was a man that made a living on numbers. As an accountant and purchasing executive, he worked an adding machine (yes, that used to be an actual thing) like nobody’s business and obsessed over dollar signs and decimal points. So, when the National Basketball Association decided to use a decimal point in order to breakdown a second into tenths of seconds, my dad had seen enough.

I first got an ear full of my dad’s rant on the matter in the summer of 1998. That was when I was shocked to learn that he was so offended by the change that he had long stopped watching professional basketball altogether, and being the good daughter that I am, I followed suit.

I only gave up the regular season though. The playoffs were too exciting, and when the Vancouver Grizzlies became the Memphis Grizzlies my dad and I both decided we had punished the league enough and ended our protest. My disdain for the ridiculousness of the tenths of a second, however, has remained intact.

Counting tenths of a second is so ridiculous that it forced the league to write rules specifying what basketball things can happen in what amount of tenths of a second, namely the “Trent Tucker Rule.”

Yeah, about that rule: humans can barely count along as three-tenths of a second tick off the clock in the real world—as our experiment above proved. But in NBA time that’s supposed to be long enough to perform two separate actions: catch and shoot. I don’t care what Jason Kapono did on this episode of FSN Sport Science. You can’t simulate real game experience in a TV studio.

And apparently, one more tenth of a second is all you need to add in another action to truly challenge the laws of time and physics-the turnaround. With 0.4 showing on the clock in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals against the Spurs, the Lakers’ Derek Fisher made his contribution to this sham with a game winner that locked in a season of Laker hate that began when Karl Malone and Gary Payton made their way to LA to form a super team in pursuit of the ever so unpopular “I’m old, my career ’bout to be over, and I need to go somewhere so I can win” championship ring.

Fisher’s shot actually canceled out what would have been a Tim Duncan game winner that went up with about 2 seconds and some change on the clock. Of the game’s improbably finish, Shaq famously offered, “One lucky shot deserves another.”Counting tenths of a second is so absurd that it inspired this article in 1993, which chastised the NHL for foolishly adapting the NBA’s practice of running off the final minute of play showing tenths of seconds, asserting that doing so would mean more and bigger fights.

Counting tenths of a second is so dumb…

All together now … How dumb is it?

It’s so dumb that the NFL won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. (Oh snap!) The league believes it’s better to spend its time writing rules and policies to protect players instead of arbitrarily deciding if three-tenths of a second is long enough to physically perform the act of snapping the ball.

In real life it’s probably not though, but to paraphrase Kanye, the NBA don’t care about real life.

2 Replies to “40 Nights of Hate: The Breakdown of a Second”

  1. I remember watching the old clips/packages that the NBA used to put on VHS back in the late 80s and early 90s and seeing the Trent Tucker game-winner. I rewound that thang like 20 times like, “There’s no way he got that off.” Doesn’t even matter, because if there’s time on the clock…shenanigans can ensue. Great stuff @rosalynrross:disqus, loved it.

    1. Right!!! He said he only needed a second when really, we’re supposed to believe he only needed a tenth of one. LOL!

      Thanks Ed!

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