Trent Tucker Rule
The Trent Tucker Rule is an NBA rule that disallows any regular shot to be taken on the court if the ball is put into play with less than three-tenths of a second left on the game clock. The rule was passed after the 1989-90 season and named after New York Knicks player Trent Tucker.
The Official Rules of the National Basketball Association state:
"NO LESS THAN :00.3 must expire on the game clock when a player secures possession of an inbounds pass and then attempts a field goal. If less than :00.3 expires in such a situation, the timer will be instructed to deduct AT LEAST :00.3 from the game clock. If less than :00.3 remain on the game clock when this situation occurs, the period is over, and the field goal attempt will be disallowed immediately whether successful or unsuccessful."
The rule was borne out of a game between the Knicks and the Chicago Bulls on January 15, 1990 at Madison Square Garden. The game was tied at 106 with one-tenth of a second left in regulation and the Knicks in possession. During a time-out called by the Knicks, both teams prepared for what was seen as the only possible way the Knicks could win in regulation; an alley oop tap-in from out of bounds by Patrick Ewing.
When play resumed, the Knicks player throwing the ball in, Mark Jackson, saw the alley-oop play get broken up. He proceded to throw the ball inbounds to Tucker, who was the only player open. Tucker then turned around and hit a three point jump shot before the buzzer, giving the Knicks the win, 109-106.
The Bulls later filed an official protest with the NBA about the play. However, timekeeper Bob Billings and referee Ronnie Nunn, who were working that game, claimed everything went perfectly fine. The protest was disallowed.
However, vice-president of operations Rod Thorn was the only NBA executive to side with the Bulls. (Ironically, Thorn was once the general manager of the Bulls.) He pointed out that tests in European basketball leagues, which had used the tenths-of-a-second clock long before the NBA (they were in their first year of its use at the time), proved that it takes at least three-tenths of a second for an inbounds pass to touch a player and release it for a shot.
This became the backbone for the time requirements of the new rule. Teams with the possession of the ball with less than 0.3 left also have the option of trying a hail-mary shot like the one that the Knicks were going to try before Tucker's shot, or to simply let the clock run to zero.
Madison Square Garden, like the majority of NBA venues at the time, used an American Sign & Indicator scoreboard, and during the first weeks of the season, it was evident the AS&I scoreboards would have frequent calibration flaws with tenths in the final minute. In some cases the clock would be very inconsistent in timing tenths, while in other cases after calibration, the clock would actually "freeze" at one-tenths of a second before 00.0 appeared on the clock. The firm would be purchased by Trans-Lux eventually, and many college arenas which had the AS&I scoreboards did not modify their scoreboards to carry tenths, knowing of the problems, until at least their purchase by Trans-Lux. (The NCAA did not officially adopt tenths until 2001.)
The notorious scoreboard problems of the AS&I units led to most new arenas switching to rivals White Way (which Madison Square Garden now uses) or Daktronics.
NBA Commissioner David Stern made it a requirement that all NBA arenas have their official game clocks properly calibrated in the wake of the incident, resulting in scoreboard overhaul. The AS&I scoreboards' notorious problem with clock mismanagement would sometimes still be a problem at some venues where the clock would still "hold" at one-tenths of a second, before the horn sounded. This was after Bulls coach Phil Jackson noted that this clock incident was not the first in Madison Square Garden. As a player for the Knicks in the 1970s, he noted that the clock there tended to run slower when they were behind, but faster when they were ahead.
Further changes in 1991 were designed to eliminate the problem with the AS&I units with a new directive for 1991-92 to add shot clocks with duplicate game time. At that point most venues purchased new scoreboards from White Way, Fair-Play, or Daktronics because of the calibration consistency of the new units.
Very few NBA teams purchased the AS&I units when the new rule was adopted in 1991. The last NBA arena to use a Trans-Lux scoreboard was the Charlotte Coliseum, which installed a Trans-Lux unit for the 2001-02 season (replacing their AS&I unit), but the arena closed after 2005.
A similar rule is enforced in North America, but is not officially in any FIBA rule book. In recent years, timekeeping rules have changed with the implementation of a system where the blowing of an official's whistle stops the clock at the instant of the whistle, along with the a rule change where the on-court official (not an official at the scorer's table) starts the clock by pressing a button attached to the official's belt.
On December 20, 2006, New York Knicks forward David Lee scored a game-winning basket with only 0.1 seconds left on the clock. The shot counted because Lee deflected in the inbounds pass into the basket. This was the first occurrence of a team winning an NBA game with 0.1 seconds left since Trent Tucker. Furthermore, this took place with after the NBA adopted the Precision Time Systems unit, where officials, not the timer, starts the clock. In 2004, FIBA adopted a rule where the system would be mandatory in international competitions. Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing, all of whom participated in the original Trent Tucker game, were in attendance at the game in Madison Square Garden.