The History of NBA 3 Point Line Distance

Initially, there were many misconceptions about the purpose and impact of the 3-point line. Some thought it was a gimmick or a publicity stunt while others were intrigued by how it would evolve the game. To understand the development of the three-point line, it is essential to understand what exactly it is.

What is the 3-point line?

The 3-point line, in essence, is a development in basketball that allows for 3-point shots, which are made from a specific distance. The distance, however, varies from different basketball platforms. In the NBA the 3-Point line distance is 23 feet 9 inches (7.24 m). On the other hand, the line distance for NCAA is 20 feet 9 inches (6.32 m) while it is 22 feet 2 inches (6.75 m) for WNBA.

When was the Three point line introduced?

The very first use of the three-point line in a professional league dates back to 1961, American Basketball League. The 3-point range didn’t last for long though as the ABL got canceled after 1 ½ season. Initially, the NBA that had been around since 1946 didn’t even consider making the 3-point line a part of their games.

What prompted the decision to introduce the 3-point line in NBA was the competition it received from the ABA. The ABA was launched with innovation as the primary goal. It consisted of white and blue basketballs, a slam-dunk contest, and the 3-point line in an attempt to experiment with fan-friendly ideas.

Even after the merger of the ABA and NBA in 1976, the 3-point line was not made a part of the game initially. The NBA decided to stay true to the original traditions of the game, offering little to no flexibility.

The league didn’t adopt it till 1979, which was Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s rookie season. Although discussed and experimented in conferences the NCAA did not formally adopt the 3-point line till 1986 with high school basketball the following suit a year later.

How did it impact the game?

In the beginning, the three-point line was not received well by the coaches and players. This is simply because it changed the whole conception of the game. Due to the 3-point line, two major changes needed to be made in how the teams played, their tactics and strategies and the player’s mindset, drills, and training.

This change made it hectic for coaches, as they needed to reform all of their strategies and tactical thinking. One ABA coach even admitted to never using the 3-pointer until the team was desperate for points in a late game. At the same time, inculcating this opportunity of scoring in their strategies was essential, so coaches had to adjust to this change in the game.

At the same time, the players needed to learn a completely new skill they had no experience with, which was shooting from a range. They had to learn the skill then also understand when to take the 3-point shot and when not to take it.

The first player who hit a three-point shot was Chris Ford from Boston Celtics in 1979. He also managed to have the second-best 3-point shot percentage in that very season. It wasn’t, however, an easy task.

The best example to comprehend the difficulties of learning 3-point shooting is that of Michael Jordan. Being 9 for 52 from a 3-point range in his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls it took him till his 5th season to increase the scoring percentage to a 35 percent.

How did the 3-point line evolve the game?

To boost the popularity of the three-point line, the NBA took a lot of actions. The most prominent one was introducing the 3-point contest in the All-Star-Weekend. Although this was a reasonably successful action, one thing the NBA did was the primary reason why the league eventually accepted the 3-point line.

Since the league was still unaccepting of the 3-point line, the NBA decided to move the distance of the line from 23 feet 9 inches to 22 feet 1 ¾ inch. The immediate impact of this was on the mindset of the players. To fix their percentages and to score the players made more attempts at treys, with the number increasing from 10 attempts to 17.

Since the players were now more adept at making 3-point shots, it was practical to change the distance back. After 3 years, the distance reverted to the original distance. This was because the players had become more skilled, and their physical prowess was boosted. Due to this, their adaptability to the 3-point shot had increased.

Who are the best 3-point shooters of all time?

As the 3-point shot got more popular, players saw it as a better and easier way to score. Players like Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr and John Stark relied mostly on treys to score. Regardless of their different style of playing the commonality amongst them was their fondness of three-point shots.

One of the most astounding feats was that of Reggie Miller when he put a lid on the entire crowd of Madison Square Garden by scoring 8 points in 9 seconds with 2 3-pointers. Apart from that John Paxon made the Bulls win their third consecutive title with a 3-points.

The first person that comes to mind when you think of 3-pointers, however, is Stephen Curry. Rightfully so, as he holds the record for the most 3-pointers in a game which was 13 treys. Another record in his name is of the most 3-pointers made in a single season, which is 402 treys.

If that wasn’t enough, the second and third place is also held by him after he made 324 and 286 3-pointers respectively. At the same time, he is also tied with Michael Adams for leading most seasons concerning 3-pointers with both of them leading 5 seasons.

Anna Baker

Anna Barker Sports Buy Guide Editor. She is responsible for maintaining, designing, or managing Sports Buy Guide. She assigned to work strictly on the content of a website, while another is in charge of the operation.

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