/How the 1990s 3-Point Line Affects Shooting Today

How the 1990s 3-Point Line Affects Shooting Today

There is no question today’s game of basketball revolves more around the 3-point shot. For many fans, they trace the 3-point revolution to players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. They should be thinking a few years prior to the Splash Brothers though. 

The real 3-point revolution in the NBA began with Curry’s and Thompson’s head coach – Steve Kerr. You have to go back to the late 1980s and understand the history of the 3-point line in the NBA.

Between the 1988-89 and 1993-94 NBA seasons, scoring dropped dramatically. Average scoring across the league went from 109.2 points per game down to just 101.5. The number of possessions per game dropped from 100.5 to 95.1. Teams simply were scoring fewer points.

In an effort to bump up scoring, the NBA decided to move the 3-point arc closer to the basket. The league had adopted the 3-point line in 1979-80 with a distance of 23.75 feet from the top of the key and 22 feet in the corners. Prior to the 1994-95 season, the league decided to make the 3-point arc a uniform 22 feet all the way around.

Teams attempted five more 3-pointers per game in ’94-’95 and shooting percentages went up almost three percent from 33.3 in ’93-’94 to 35.9 . Consider Michael Jordan. The game’s greatest player, according to many, shot just 30.1 percent from 3-point range before his first retirement. When he returned, he shot over 40 percent with the line adjustment.

It was Jordan’s teammate that really took advantage of the 3-point shot. Kerr was already a great shooter, but the new 3-point line made him even better. In ’94-’95, Kerr set an NBA record (since broken) shooting 52.4 percent from behind the arc. 

The NBA would move the 3-point arc back after the 1996-97 season. In the three years when the arc was at 22 feet, Kerr would shoot a remarkable 49.8 percent from 3-point range. 

Still, it wasn’t until teams recognized the value of the 3-pointer that teams began shooting more of them. Kerr understood the value. When he was with Chicago, the Bulls and the Utah Jazz had the highest 3-point shooting percentages. Both teams, however, shot the fewest 3-point shots.

Kerr, of course, took care of that in Golden State and the rest is, well, history.

Rick Bouch