NBA

NBA History: The birth and evolution of the 3-point line

With his superhuman accuracy from beyond the 3-point arc, Stephen Curry's legacy will forever be tied to the 3-point revolution he set off, not just in the NBA but in the game of basketball worldwide.

This revolution was a long time coming, nearly 35 years since the 3-point arc was first introduced in the NBA.

Inception

Initially on a one-year trial basis, the 3-point line was adopted by the NBA for the 1979-80 season, the rookie years of future Basketball Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

However, the NBA wasn't the first professional basketball league to introduce the 3-point line. The American Basketball League (ABL) was the first, but since it shut down by 1963, the American Basketball Association (ABA) is credited with popularizing the 3-point line.

"We called it the home run, because the 3-pointer was exactly that," George Mikan, the ABA's first commissioner, said in the book Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association. "It brought fans out of their seats."

Mikan, a five-time NBA champion with the Minneapolis Lakers, believed that the 3-pointer would "give the smaller player a chance to score and open up the defence to make the game more enjoyable to fans"

Even after the NBA and the ABA merged in 1976, the 3-point line wasn't brought over. It took another three years for it to find its place in the league.

When introduced, the 3-point line was positioned at a distance of 22-feet from the hoop in the corners and at a distance of 23-feet and nine inches to the top of the arc. Chris Ford of the Boston Celtics is credited with making the NBA's first 3-pointer, in a 114-106 win over the Houston Rockets.

The 3-point line made its way to all FIBA competitions at a distance of 20-feet and six inches in 1984 before making its Olympic debut in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.

The NCAA followed, instituting the 3-point line in the 1987 edition of its tournament at a distance of 19-feet and nine inches.

Evolution

For a three-year period between 1994 and 1997, the league reduced its 3-point line distance from 23-feet and nine inches to 22-feet in an attempt to combat the decreased scoring.

"Scoring in this league has gone down for something like 10 straight years," Rod Thorn, the NBA's vice president for operations, said in 1994. "Teams are not taking as many shots. They're holding the ball more.

Although few players like Steve Kerr and Dell Curry cashed in and set 3-point records, overall the shortened line didn't serve its purpose.

The total points per game were still dropping which prompted the change to push the line back to its original distance of 23-feet and nine inches at its longest.

Since 1997, that distance has remained the same while NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has had discussions with his competition committee regarding the possibility of pushing the current line back instead of adding a four-point line.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

nba-plain--2db0670a-8255-45e9-9fc2-5971adb1d5d0.jpeg
Return of the MVP big man is Olajuwon approved
Shaun Powell
#Edwards
Edwards strengthens Rookie of the Year case
Kane Pitman
#Jokic
Jokic solidifies MVP campaign
Kane Pitman
#Holiday #Beal
Curious case of losses in Beal's 40-pt games continues
Yash Matange
#Shaq
OTD: Shaq named Rookie of the Year
Benyam Kidane
#Morant #Embiid #Lillard
Highlights, top performers from Thursday's action
NBA.com Staff
More News