Why Do Basketball Players Dribble Out The Clock?

Have you ever noticed that during the last seconds of a game, players would just do nothing?

The answer may be obvious to some, but why do they do this?

If the winning team has a huge lead with a few seconds left, then they will dribble out the clock. There is no reason to score anymore since they’re winning anyway, and this is a sign of sportsmanship as well.  

But what happens if this unwritten rule is broken by a player? We’ll talk about this and more below.

What is Dribbling out the Clock in Basketball?

There are a lot of unwritten rules in basketball and one of them is dribbling out the clock.

Basically, this is when a team has a huge lead with seconds left in the clock. Instead of running a play, they just waste time or ‘dribble out the clock’ to finish the game.

This happens a lot in basketball games when a team has such a huge lead that there’s no way they can lose. This became a tradition due to a few reasons.

Why do Basketball Players Dribble Out the Clock?

We know that dribbling out the clock happens at the end of the game. But why exactly do players do this?

Shouldn’t they still try to score or at least do some other play? Here are the reasons why they don’t do those:

1. Out of respect for the opponent

Dribbling out the clock or players holding the ball at the end of a blowout game is done out of respect. If it’s so obvious that a team is going to win, then there’s no point to score anymore.

For instance, Team A has a 20-point lead against Team B with 15 seconds left in the clock. Team A may then decide to just dribble the ball until the time runs out.

In these situations, dribbling out the clock is the right thing to do. But if a player instead scores, it just seems like they’re mocking the losing team at that point.

2. To save energy

Most basketball leagues play a lot of games per year. Each NBA team alone plays 82 games for the regular season.  

So, if a team already has a comfortable lead with only a few seconds left, it would be such a waste of time to even do something.

Most of the time, teams would naturally dribble out the clock out of instinct due to how exhausted they are. At this point, all they’re thinking about is that they’ve win, and they want to immediately go home.

Plus, every minute spent on a basketball court is an injury waiting to happen. In fact, this happened exactly to Derrick Rose in 2012.

The Bulls were up by 12 with a minute and a half to go. But instead of benching their star, they let him play until the last minutes which resulted in an ACL injury. After that, Rose was never the same.

3. A win is a win

No matter how much you think about it, there’s just no logical reason not to just dribble out the clock on a blowout game.

Whether a team wins by 24 points or 2 points, it’s still a win. Most basketball players understand this, so they won’t do anything unnecessary at the end of already decided games.

What Happens When You Don’t Dribble Out the Clock?

In any official basketball game, the game doesn’t end until the final buzzer sounds off. Usually this ends in 48 minutes but there can be overtimes.

So, it’s common tradition to just do nothing at the end of a blowout game to show sportsmanship. But what happens when players don’t dribble out the clock?

What happens when they still shoot or go for a dunk?

The answer is they would still count since the game hasn’t officially ended yet. But instead of friendly shakes, you’ll get angry faces if you do this at a game.

There are a lot of times that this has happened in the NBA, and it usually results in heated arguments and even fights.

But why exactly do players do this? Here are the reasons:

  • To add to his stats
  • To purposefully agitate the opposing team
  • To take a practice shot

A lot of times, you’ll see the losing team usually doing this either to stat pad or to at least shorten the gap even a little bit.  

But when the winning team does it, it can also be a way to stat pad or to show off. Sometimes it’s just a practice shot by a benchwarmer who’s a little too excited.

What Are Unwritten Rules in Basketball?

If there are official rules in basketball, there are also a lot of unwritten rules. These are rules that you won’t find in rulebooks but instead have been passed down through generations of players.

These are traditions that allows the sport to have personality.

But aside from dribbling out the clock, what are the other unwritten rules in basketball?

  • When fouling a player, never push them behind the back as this can be dangerous
  • When a teammate is on the ground, help them up
  • After the game, it’s customary to shake the opposing players’ hands to show sportsmanship
  • When you receive a nice assist, always point to your passer
  • Never talk trash if you can’t handle it yourself

Final Thoughts

Basketball much like other sports has many traditions and unwritten rules. Dribbling out the clock is one of the best things a team can do in a blowout game.

But when the opposite is done, then there may be arguments or fists flying everywhere.

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