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In basketball, it’s all about threes

It took a while to catch on, but the three-point shot has taken over.

Washington Mystics center Emma Meesseman shoots for three over Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones in Game 3 of the Women’s National Basketball Association finals. Three-pointer has become hugely popular in games from the pros down to high schools. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
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The three-point shot is taking over basketball. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

On Sunday, the Washington Wizards played the Orlando Magic in a typical National Basketball Association (NBA) game.

First, the Wizards lost, 125-121.

But take a closer look. Washington took 97 shots from the floor during the contest. Forty-one of those shots were three-pointers. Orlando took 87 shots, and 37 of those were from behind the arc.

That means that 78 of the 184 shots during the game were three-pointers. That’s more than 42 percent.

The NBA three-point line is an arc that ranges from 22 feet to 23 feet 9 inches from the basket.

So far this season, the Houston Rockets, led by high-scoring James Harden, are launching more than half of their shots from beyond the three-point line. Watch a Women’s National Basketball Association game, and it’s the same story: lots of three-pointers.

The NBA adopted the three-point shot before the beginning of the 1979-1980 season. Two professional leagues had tried it: the American Basketball League (1961-1962) and the American Basketball Association (1967-1976). But the idea of a three-point shot had been around for some time.

Howard Hobson was an early champion of the shot. Hobson was the coach of University of Oregon, and his 1939 team became the first NCAA men’s college basketball champions. Hobson thought a three-point shot would make the game more exciting.

So on February 7, 1945, Fordham University and Columbia University played an experimental game in New York City with a three-point line drawn at 21 feet from the basket. Columbia won, 73-58. The teams took 43 three-point shots and made 20.

The game also featured a rule where a player could choose to take a foul shot from the 21-foot line instead of the regular 15 feet. The long foul shots counted for two points instead of just one. Now that’s a cool rule!

Most of the fans at the game (Hobson surveyed more than 250 of them) liked the long shot. But some newspaper writers did not. And it was years before the three-point shot became part of the game.

Now it’s hard to imagine a basketball game without it. Some players seem to do nothing but shoot three-pointers. For example, in Sunday’s Wizards game, forward Davis Bertans came off the Washington bench and put up 11 shots — all from behind the arc.

Maybe it’s time to move the three-point line farther from the basket — something that happened this year in men’s college basketball. Or — I know this sounds crazy — have the long shot count for only 2½ points. That way, teams might not spend so much time throwing up long shots and might be encouraged to move the ball around to get shots closer to the basket.

Maybe basketball, and especially the NBA, has too many threes.

How will the NBA fare with these new dynamic duos?

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