Making a three-point shot is one of the more exhilarating feats in the NBA, outside of a great slam dunk. It results in the most awarded points for any single shot, three. First introduced in 1979, the three-point shot has only increased in popularity as players have improved their abilities to make the shot. This season (2013-2014) the league is setting new records for most three-point shots taken, not only in a single month, but crushing the record for a single year. Shooting the three in the NBA is one of the more popular aspects amongst fans and players, so much so that the league has discussed instituting a four-point line to up the ante.
The 1979 season produced two landmarks for the league. First, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird debuted. Second, it was the first season with a three-point line. At that time there were only 18 teams in the league and they all played that first day. Combined (nine games and 18 teams) 34 three pointers were attempted and only eight were made; that is 23.5 percent. Keeping in mind the line was brand new and there were not any three-point specialists like today. Since that first day, there have been 197 times that a single player has made that many or more three-point shots in a single game; Ray Allen has done it nine times. Kobe Bryant has made 12 in one game; so has Donyell Marshall.
The three-point shot was instituted into the game in order to attain higher scores, similar to when the league moved the three-point line closer for the 1994-1997 seasons, to increase the score of games; higher scores mean more exciting games, which mean more viewers. Originally a shot only attempted by guards and three-point specialists, the shot is something that everyone takes now. The Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh, a six foot ten power forward, has made 60 three pointers so far this season, more than triple the amount of any other season in his career. Kevin Durrant, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love are players built to play down low and hit 15 footers, but they are known for their outside shooting, including three-point shots. Stephen Curry set the all time record last season with 272 threes made and leads the league again this year with 215. Shooting a three is common place in the NBA, becoming a more popular go-to shot for all positions, so for a league always wanting to increase competition, adding a four-point line is the next discussion.
Kiki Vanderweghe is the VP of basketball operations for the NBA and said recently that the idea of expanding the size of the court and adding a four-point line has been discussed. Currently, the three-point line is 23.75 feet from the basket. The court is 50 feet wide by 94 feet long. In an ESPN interview, Rob Thorn, the president of basketball operations, was asked about the possibility of a four-point line, and said there are a number of players who could hit a shot, routinely, from 28 to 30 feet. In order to add a four-point line, say, 29 feet, the court’s dimensions would have to change. The four-point line would extend on the sides 27 feet from the center of the base line (three-point line extends 22 feet on the side), then arch out. Keeping three feet on the sides of the four-point line the total width of the court would be 60 feet. The top of the three point line is 23.25 feet from center court, so keeping the four-point line (at 29 feet) the same distance from center court, the total length of the court would have to be 104.5 feet. That’s an additional 1,570 square feet of court space; at that size the league would have to consider changing it to six people per team on the court.
Though the idea of a four-point line is fun, as it would increase scoring and give the fans something else to cheer for, plus a five point play would keep teams in the game longer, it is not going to happen; at least not soon. As quickly as the idea was discussed by league officials, it was just as quickly dismissed. Teams would have to alter their stadiums to account to the change in court size and adding a sixth player is something that has never been considered. The league is shooting three-point shots at an exponentially high rate and players are becoming more well-rounded, meaning more and more players are taking, and making, three point shots; the month of February averaged 42.42 three point field goal attempts per game and March is on track to be higher. Unless the CBA or international leagues want to give this a try, it is not looking like something fans will see for the foreseeable future. Shooting three pointers in the NBA is becoming a more popular shot for all players, so the prospect of a four-point line sounds like fun, but is not something the league is seriously considering; for now.
Commentary by Chris Dragicevich