How the 3-Point Shot Has Revolutionized the NBA

April 19, 2018
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In basketball, when trying to defend a game-winning shot, the defense’s priority is to not let the offense get a shot up. However, if the offense is going to chuck up a shot 37 feet away from the basket, 13 feet behind the NBA 3 point line, surely you would let them have that dumb shot? However, there is an exception to that rule. Steph Curry. With 2 seconds left on the clock and the game tied at 118-118, Curry threw up a shot most would consider stupid. After all, with a famously quick shot release, why wouldn't he try and get closer to the basket? Alas, this is the change that Stephen Curry, and other 3 point prolific point guards, have brought to the league. If he had to take a contested shot at the three-point line or a wide open shot from over feet away from the 3-point line he’ll take the open shot any day. He knows he has the range to make the shot.


So he took it.
The ball is inbounded to Curry with three seconds on the clock.
Two Seconds on the clock, Curry shoots the ball.
One second, the ball sails through the air.
Zero, swish, the shot goes in.


He made the 37 foot shot to give the Warriors a 121-118 win over the Thunder and forever changed how the game of basketball was played (Abbot). NBA defenders can no longer feel safe defending at the three-point line because everyone has seen the way Curry plays. And none of them want to be left behind.


When the three-point line was introduced, fans and players alike both thought of it as a gimmick with no real use. They even disregarded it to the point that they forgot it existed. When the Pacers were down 116-118 in 1967, the year the 3 point line was introduced, Jerry Harkness banked in a full court shot. The Pacers were overjoyed at the thought that they had tied the game. However, Harkness had made the shot 68 feet behind the revolutionary, brand new 3 point line, which meant that they had actually won the game (Wood). In sharp contrast, these days the 3 point shot is exploding in popularity. Just look at the fact that in the 86-87 season, Larry Bird led the league in 3 pointers made with 90. In the 2015-16 season, Stephen Curry made over 400 (Hispanosnba).


The NBA has changed and evolved to the point where the modern style of play is unrecognizably different from the style of play back in 1946 when the NBA was established. Back then the dominant players on the court were the centers who were the ones most capable of scoring inside (Martin). At least that was the case until guards started to take shots further and further away from the basket leading to the situation today, where the traditional center has been left behind with the 3 point shooter taking their spot as the dominant player.


However, although guards like Stephen curry have become staples of their team’s offense, it doesn't mean that centers cannot be offensive threats. In fact, these days even big men such as power forwards and centers have started to adopt the three-point shot into their game and it has proved to be incredibly effective (Aschburner). If a traditional big man who is only used to guarding the paint, has to guard an opponent who can shoot from the perimeter, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble. In fact, 3 point shooting centers are such a threat in the league that Houston Rockets Coach Mike D’antoni said “‘It would be nice if you [Clint Capela] could post up, but that’s not what we’re looking for,’... To me, a big man has to be able to guard on the perimeter… The big men aren’t going away, they’re just getting better’” (Aschburner).


All things considered, the NBA 3 point shot has not only changed the type of offense teams run but has also fundamentally changed how certain positions play. Some people believe that the three-point shot is still a “gimmick”. That the 3 point shot is inferior to the traditional methods of scoring inside. However, if that was really the case then why would centers be shooting threes? Why would teams run their offense through their guards instead of their centers? The fact of the matter is that thanks to 3 point shooters like Stephen Curry, the 3 point shot has revolutionized the game of basketball.






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