A three-pointer in a basketball is a shot made behind the three-point line. It is the highest-scoring field goal in basketball.
What is a three-pointer in basketball?
Also called a trey or a three, a three-pointer is a shot made anywhere from beyond the designated three-point arc. In the modern analytics-driven era of basketball, the three-pointer is encouraged since it is worth 50% more than the regular two-point field goal.
So, although you’re more likely to shoot an airball when you shoot behind the three-point line, you’re rewarded with another point.
The three-pointer is often called the ultimate equalizer in basketball.
The distance of the three-point line differs depending on the level. In the NBA, the line is 23 feet and nine inches, and 22 feet in the corners. In the WNBA and FIBA competitions, it is 20 feet and six inches. The NCAA men’s basketball three-point line is 20 feet and nine inches, while the women’s NCAA and high school competitions are at 19 feet and nine inches.
The three-point line was first introduced as a one-game experiment in 1945 between Columbia and Fordham Universities. The distance of the experimental line in that game is 21 feet.
This season, the NBA has set a record for most three-pointers in a game. Teams have converted 12.7 threes per game, breaking last season’s mark at 12.2
In FIBA’s 3×3 event, made shots from behind the arc are worth two points instead of three. Any conversion made inside the arc is only worth 1 point.
The 1945 three-point line experiment did not last long. Thirteen years later, in 1958, the game between St. Francis and Siena also did the same experiment, only with a 23-foot line.
It wasn’t until 1961 that a professional league, the American Basketball League, decided to spice things up a little bit. The then-commissioner of ABL, Abe Saperstein, decided to make the three-point line a permanent fixture. He said it is to add more excitement to the game as a way to compete with the NBA, which is the bigger league at the time.
The first three-point line decided by Saperstein and DePaul University coach Ray Meyer was completely random. They simply went to the court with a tape and decided that the three-point line will be at 25 feet. However, after that, team owners voted in favor of shortening the line to 22 feet.
Saperstein initially disregarded the vote and went on with his idea. Not long after, he acknowledged that there was something wrong with the 25-foot arc and added 22-foot corner lines.
The ABL went out of business in 1963, and four years later, the American Basketball Association was born. The league’s first commissioner, pioneer NBA big man George Mikan kept the three-point line, saying that it gives smaller players a fair shake and makes the game more exciting.
The NBA initially viewed the three-point line as a gimmick, but they eventually succumbed and tried it for one season, in 1979-80. Coincidentally, that season was the rookie season of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. The three-point line has stuck in the NBA since.
Internationally, the three-point line did not debut until the Seoul Olympics in 1988. The NCAA also introduced the three-point line in 1986.
Three-Pointer Fun Facts
In the aforementioned one-year experiment in the NBA’s 1979-80 season, the first who made a three-pointer was Celtics’ Chris Ford in the season opener. At the same game, Rick Barry, who was with the Houston Rockets for his final NBA season, also made one.
Larry Bird was the first player to hit a three-pointer in an All-Star game. It happened in 1980 in Landover, Maryland.
The NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers made is Ray Allen. Allen made 2,973 treys in his career. Here are some of Allen’s three-point highlights.
Best of Ray Allen Career 3 Pointers Video
Not far behind Allen is Steph Curry, who was already considered the best shooter of all time. Curry has 2,823 three-pointers and counting. At the end of the day, there will be no doubt he’d surpass Allen in a year or two.
Speaking of Curry, the guy’s three-point records are extensive. He has the most three-pointers in a month (85 for April 2021), most threes in a season (402 in 2015-16), and the most games with 10+ three-pointers (22 games). Here are some of Curry’s most ridiculous three-pointers.
Stephen Curry’s Craziest 3 Pointers Video
Curry’s teammate, Klay Thompson, made the most threes in a game at 14. Here is a look at Thompson’s masterful performance from distance.
Klay Thompson Video
How the Three-Pointer Changed the Game
In the first NBA game that featured the three-point line, there were a total of 13 three-point attempts and two makes. Fast forward to today and NBA teams routinely attempt at least 30 three-pointers and even into the low 40s a game, with an average of 12.7 makes.
While the old NBA considered the three-pointer as an inefficient shot, players today have become so efficient at it. Teams have stocked up on three-point shooters, and even big men have become respectable threats from outside.
As a result, today’s game has become more spread out and perimeter-oriented. While many basketball fans still reminisce about the old grind-out, defensive games, it is no secret that the three-pointer-heavy contests add a different type of feel and excitement.
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