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How The 3 Point Shot Evolved Through The Years

When you look back at basketball from 50 or so years ago, it almost looks like a whole different game. The biggest influencer is the 3-point line and the 3-point shot that came with it. A look at how the 3 point shot evolved.

Ankit Kanaujia
Last updated: 07.04.2022
How The 3 Point Shot Evolved Through The Years

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When you look back at basketball from 50 or so years ago, it almost looks like a whole different game. Players look like they are all congregating in the center, and there is a lot missing that we see today. Why is this? 

Well, today offensive moves are more spread out and there is so much more space. Markings allow for players to make an attack on the basket with much more ease. 

There are many reasons that these chances are there, however, the biggest influencer is the 3-point line and the 3-point shot that came with it. It actually totally changed how players play the game.


We might continue with NBA betting like before, but the game has changed and evolved one hell of a lot.

The History Of the 3-pointer

This is why we want to look at where the 3-pointer came from and how its history evolved and turned basketball into the game we know today. 

So, let’s not dilly-dally, and get straight into it.


Back in 1961 we saw the first use of the 3-pointer, it was used in the ABL. 

Saperstein, who was the founder of the Globetrotters, created this league to compete against the NBA, and he felt they were being forced out of the game by all the tall players hanging around the rim.

His attempt to do something about it was the 3-point line, which would give small players a chance to make up for their height with their skills with the ball. This man was ahead of his time, and the ABL only lasted 1.5 seasons, and many did not like this shot. 


However, it came back, making another appearance later on. This play was a very crucial part of the ABA’s attempts to challenge the NBA. They wanted the game to be more exciting, and used the 3-pointer shot as a similarity to baseball’s home run. 

In the first season this was used in 1667/1968 teams were getting around 5 3-point shots per game, which is not much, however, it was a good double of what happened in the first NBA season, at only 2.8 per game.

The 3 Point Line

In ‘76 the ABA and NBA merged, and in 1979 we saw the NBA 3-point line arise. It was 23 ft and 9 inches from the rim middle. It was brought about in ‘79 - ‘80 for a trial. 

The first 3-pointer scored in the NBA was a shot made by Chris Ford, one of the Boston Celtics. 

It was not surprising that Brian Taylor who was accustomed to the 3-pointers from his ABA days led the NBA for some time in 3-pointer shots and attempts, at a high of 90 shots and 239 attempts. 

Rick Barry got the second-highest amount at 73-221, and a young Larry Bird had a high attempt count of 143, while he made 58. 


The NBA was the place where this shot was always going to get its fame. As once the shot was accepted into the NBA it was so easy for the other leagues to follow suit. 

FIBA implemented it for international games in ‘84, and the NCAA used it in 1987. It also made it into high school basketball in 1988. 

So, thanks to the NBA taking it on, it soon became a universal part of play. 

How It Evolved. 

Saperstein had originally wanted to name this shot the ‘25-foot home run” but that was a bit far out for the other founding members of the ABL. the compromise on the name of this shot thanks to drawing a three-foot line from 25 feet away from the backboard, rather than the rim center. 

It is still used in the NBA today. However, while free-throw is used in basketball leagues, the three-pointer has been known to vary from each league and sometimes from year to year.

How Many 3-pointers Are Many Per Team Per Game? 

So, how common is it to score a three-pointer, and how has this changed over time? 

Well, when it was first introduced into the NBA in the ‘79-’80 season, it did not have much of an impact, and teams would often make less than 3 3-pointers per game, only making about a quarter of them as well. 

After the ‘86-’87 season, stats reached 9.9 shots per game, and then 15.3 the year after. They would steadily rise each year but in 2013 they totally exploded. 

Now we can expect an NBA team to attempt an average of around 35.1 3-point attempts each game. Which is about double in comparison to what it was a decade before. 

What Is the Average 3-point %?

It's not astounding to know that players were pretty tragic when it came to 3-pointers as it was still in its infancy. ‘82-’83 was actually one of the worst seasons recorded for 3-pointers. Teams only made about 23% of their shots! 

It had a comeback in the 90s when the line became 2 ft shorter, and since 2000 the average percentage has been teetering between around 35-37%. 

This might make you think that it has reached a limit for accuracy, however, this is unlikely. 

While it has not been getting better, players are shooting more and harder shots each year and are still keeping this percentage in one place.

Why Are Shooters Playing So Many? 

If you’re an old school basketball fan, it might be frustrating to you that players are playing so many of these shots. You might think that mid-range players like Jordan and Bryant are just extinct, and well… kind of. 

Some teams will only shoot 3-pointers or maybe layups. 

The simplest reason for this is in math. If you shot 40 3-pointers then the value of this shot would be 3pt at 40% which is 1.2. 

Basically, once the players got the hang of this shot, the value got higher than the value of 2-pointers. 

So to make it simple, it is just that teams make more points with 3-pointers. 

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