The history of the three-pointer

Jordan on how the ever-present shot happened

Story by Jordan Williams, Sports Reporter

Innovation is bound to happen. Whether it comes to business or art, wherever human ingenuity is allowed to thrive innovation is not far behind.

To most it’s a simple concept: as things grow they change, and basketball is no immune to this very rule. Though it may be strange to even consider the game of basketball without a 3-point line, at one point in time it was viewed as a commodity.

Flash forward to now and every team from junior high to the pros utilize the 3-point shot as a necessary part of their game plan all due to the innovation and ingenuity of one man.

Abe Saperstein was the owner and founder of the Harlem Globetrotters and eventual commissioner of American Basketball Association (ABA) and a one-time competitor of the NBA. Saperstein introduced the shot to his league in its 1967-1968 season.

George Mikan, the commissioner of the ABA at the time, felt that it would give smaller players the chance to score and spread out the defense while at the same time making the game more enjoyable for fans.

It was a huge success and the shot became incredibly popular amongst fans and was a huge marketing tool to help compete with popularity against the NBA.

In 1976 the ABA was merged with the NBA and just three year later, in the 1979-98 season, the NBA added the 3-point line to its courts as well as a way to make the game more exciting and intriguing to its younger fan base.

What was at first seen as a gimmick that had no place in professional basketball began to take off in popularity with stars of the NBA such as Larry Bird and Dale Ellis making it in mainstays of their offensive game. The shot became so popular that in the 1986 All-Star game, the NBA introduced the first 3-point contest so fans could watch player compete for bragging rights of being the best 3-point shooter in the league.

The use of the three-point shot would only grow in popularity and become more frequent in the game plans of NBA coaches. These coaches would grow to see it as a viable asset in winning games but the concept of building a team around the shooting three pointers was still seen as an outlandish concept.

Then enter Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni is a revolutionary when it comes to his influence on basketball as it is played today with his innovative ‘Seven seconds or less’ offensive game plan. With hall of fame bound point guard Steve Nash and a supporting cast of All-Stars such as Joe Johnson, Shawn Merion and Amar’e Stoudemire, he implemented a system that sacrificed defense for a high-octane offense that lead the league in pace, field goal attempts but most importantly 3 pointers made, 3 pointers attempted and 3-point percentage.

This team ended the season with the best record in the entire NBA, and even saw Steve Nash named the MVP of the league. It was the inspiration from this system that inspired other teams to increase their pace of play and increase the volume of 3 pointers attempted, it was this system that led to the birth of the current Golden State Warriors dominance of the NBA.

From commodity to mainstay of the NBA the 3-point field goal has completely changed the landscape of the NBA. When it was first introduced the 3-point field goal average for the NBA saw teams making around 2.2 per game while only attempting 6.6.

Flash forward almost 40 years later to the last season where teams averaged 9.7 per game and attempted around 27. One man’s aspiration to change the sport he loved spawned its evolution decades later and led a total change in how the sport is now looked at.

One man’s dream, one man’s man ingenuity, changed the entire culture and outlook of a sport that is now loved in the world all over.