Basketball is a game of minutes, seconds, and fractions of a second. Timekeeping is a critical part of the game.

Hometown timekeepers can help the home team win, or the visiting team lose by doing a little “home cooking” with the clock.

This practice takes place everywhere.

Even the National Basketball Association instituted a rule a few years ago mandating that the timekeeper in playoff games must be from a neutral city.

“We’ve had a few occasions in regular-season games where there been some issues with timekeepers,” a league official said at the time.

In the early days, home cooking was easy with this vintage basketball timekeeper’s clock.

The home team had a distinct advantage in early basketball.

The home team had a distinct advantage in early basketball.

It was easy for several reasons.

Back then, the equipment was simple and mechanical. Clock work relied on hand-eye coordination.

Today everything is digital and controlled by electronic signaling.

Back then, there was only one timekeeper, holding the clock and a whistle.

clock_zoom

There were no buzzer-beaters because there was no buzzer. The timekeeper had to watch the clock and blow the final whistle.

Today, N.B.A. games feature a team of timekeepers that operate and monitor the game clock, the 24-second clock, and player substitutions using an array of electronic devices and wireless signals.

The game could be sped up (F) or slowed down (S) using a tiny switch on the back of the clock.

The game could be sped up (F) or slowed down (S) using a tiny switch on the back of the clock.

In addition to home cooking at the scorer’s table, it wasn’t impossible for a “fan” to simply snatch the clock from the timekeeper and set it to zero with seconds left in the game.

Games often ended in a tie due to such interference or a timekeeper’s error.

This "stop clock" image with a symbolic red light and traffic cop didn't stop home cooking.

This “stop clock” image with a symbolic red light and traffic cop didn’t stop home cooking.

This is why it was all the more important for Black Fives Era teams like the New York Rens, barnstorming in remote home towns, to win with authority, not leaving anything to chance.

Kinda makes you appreciate their accomplishments just a little bit more, doesn’t it?

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