While the three-point line is a key factor in basketball today, that has not always been the case. In fact, for the first 70 or so years of basketball, three-pointers did not even exist. This aspect of the game was slowly introduced at different levels until it became common everywhere. Read on to learn all about the introduction of the three-point line into basketball.
ABA Popularized the Three-Point Shot
When Dr. James Naismith first created the game of basketball in the 1890s, the three-point shot was not on anyone’s mind. Every shot was worth two points, and free throws were worth one point. That was the way the game was played until the 1960s.
In 1961, the American Basketball League (ABL) was the first league to use the three-point line. However, the league only lasted 1.5 seasons and did not gain enough popularity for the line to catch on. At the time, the much more popular National Basketball Association (NBA) hadn’t considered adding the line.
That all changed when the American Basketball Association (ABA) began in 1967. Among other unique rules and aspects of the game, the ABA used the three-point line from its onset. Unlike the ABL, the ABA caught on with basketball fans and became a legitimate challenger to the NBA for nine seasons.
The three-point line was a major reason for the success of the ABA, as fans liked the different game compared to the NBA. The ABA’s popularity led to a merger between the NBA and ABA in 1976. Initially, however, the combined league did not use the three-point shot.
NBA Addition of the Three-Point Shot
After the NBA-ABA merger, the NBA did not initially want to adopt the three-point shot. The league was steadfast in its traditions, and the three-pointer was not one of them. Three years after the 1976 merge, however, the NBA was looking to increase its fanbase, and they knew how popular the three-pointer had become.
For the 1979-80 season, the NBA introduced the three-point shot for the first time. The player who has the honor of making the first three in NBA history is Chris Ford, who did so while playing for the Boston Celtics on October 12, 1979. Since that time, the three-point line has completely changed the game of basketball, and players like Stephen Curry have even made their entire careers around it. If it had not been for the ABA challenging the NBA, the three-point shot might have never gained any traction.
College Basketball Addition of the Three-Point Shot
Once the college basketball world saw the success of the three-point shot in the NBA, they slowly began to add the line to their game. It was not all at once, however. Certain conferences added the three-pointer before others, so some teams were playing with the line while others were not. The Southern Conference was the first to add the line in 1980, and it was only used for conference games in the few leagues that had the line.
In 1986, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) universally added the three-point shot for all leagues. The following season, USA High School Basketball added the line for high school athletes as well, making the feature universal across all levels of the sport.