When the shot came up, so did the voice of legendary ABC broadcaster Mike Breen. “Curry! I’m on my way downtown!” POP!“It all happened so fast. It was a regular season game in Oklahoma City on February 27, 2016. The Golden State Warriors were on a magical run that would see them break the record for wins in a single season, going 73-9 , before the playoffs. That year, Stephen Curry won his second straight MVP, unanimously. He accomplished that feat because he turned the 3-pointer into a weapon unlike any other in history.
The game-winning goal against the Thunder that night in February marked the beginning of a new chapter in the NBA. Not only did he secure another win for the Warriors, he cemented the 3-pointer as a play. in vogue in the NBA A season later, after the Thunder’s Kevin Durant defected from the team and joined Golden State, he hit an unprecedented 3-pointer over LeBron James to nearly win the 2017 NBA Finals. Durant later told GQ: “That was the best time I’ve ever had.” The modern game unfolded before our eyes.
But how exactly did we get here?
Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts, on an otherwise bleak day in December 1891. Since then, for most of basketball’s history, the game has been dominated by big men, those 7-foot giants who, by virtue of their size, are closer to the 10-foot rim and therefore more capable of scoring with relative ease. From George Mikan in the ’40s to Wilt Chamberlain in the ’60s, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the ’70s, Moses Malone in the ’80s, and Shaquille O’Neal in the ’90s, and beyond, big men largely ruled the roost. But now, though, thanks to players like the 6-foot-2 Curry, the focus of the game has shifted away from the rim and toward the 3-point arc.
The history of the 3-point shot is a seemingly constant evolution, from its inception in the American Basketball League in 1961 to its adoption in the American Basketball Association in 1967 and later in the NBA in 1979 after the league and the ABA merged in 1976. Since then, it has been featured at times, ignored at others, moved, moved, mastered and, some say, abused. And with players like Curry, who is now the all-time leader in 3s, the shot can be so devastating that it may seem worth it in some way. plus that even three points.
“I had been practicing it even in my high school days,” former ’90s NBA sharpshooter Terry Mills tells The Guardian. “But the thing was [back then]6-foot-9 or 6-foot-10 big guys, they weren’t really allowed to throw the ball, just like they weren’t allowed to dribble the ball.”
However, the 6-foot-10 Mills, who played for five NBA teams over 11 years, later became so adept at shooting from distance that he earned the nickname “Three Mills.” He boasts a 38.4% career average from behind the arc, sinking 533 3-pointers. Mills began his college career at the University of Michigan, where he works today as a radio announcer for the men’s basketball team. There, though, he says he didn’t make a single 3-pointer (he thinks he went 0-4). Shooting from a distance was not considered something a big man like Mills should do, nor was it part of his repertoire.
But when he played for the Detroit Pistons in the mid-’90s, things started to change. His trainer, Doug Collins, came to Detroit in 1995 and encouraged Mills, who had already been testing his skills from long range in previous seasons, to keep shooting. Suddenly, Mills, who played power forward, was beginning to help define the concept of “stretch forward,” that is, a great player who can “stretch” the floor and create space on it given his prowess from the distance (in the modern age, think of Dirk Nowitzki or Karl-Anthony Towns).
“When I first came to the Pistons, I was primarily a post player,” he says. “When Doug Collins came in, he recognized that I could shoot the basketball and said he could be a stuntman. Of course, he wasn’t buying it at first. But it became a niche of mine. I’d come off the bench, they’d make plays for me. Suddenly, it started working. I was a believer.
In the 1980s, teams averaged just a few 3-point shooting per game. Bird, who boasts a 37.6% running percentage from distance, has long been considered the greatest shooter of all time. But throughout his 13 years in the NBA, he averaged fewer than two 3-pointers. Attempts per game. In 2016, Curry averaged 11.2 attempts per game and two years ago he averaged 12.7. Like home runs in baseball and passing plays in football, there was a dearth of triples in the early years of the game.
But with the advent of the 3-point contest in the NBA All-Star Game in 1986, the shot became fresher and more respected. Bird, of course, won the contest in his first three years. Soon, dead eye shooters became folk heroes. From Bird to Miller to Mark Price and Curry’s father Dell to lesser-known players like Craig Hodges, Dale Ellis, Tim Legler and Steve Kerr, Curry’s current coach, who holds the all-time record for 3-point percentage with 45.4%. NBA fans came to love long-distance shooters.
“I practiced on it,” says Mills, who entered the 3-point contest in 1997, losing heads-up to Walt Williams of the Sacramento Kings. “But it was something totally different. I would consider myself more of a 3-point shooter type in the game rather than just stand in front of a crowd and shoot.”
In games, Mills was deadly, often executing the “pick-and-roll,” where a ball-handling player takes advantage of a screen set up by a teammate that forces defenders to make a decision in a fraction second. With the Pistons, All-Star Grant Hill would have the ball and Mills would block him, jumping behind the arc and thus giving Hill room to drive to the rim or pass it to Mills for a deep shot. As a big man, Mills’ defenders also used to run defensively, trained to think they’d find him under the rim. But in his new role as forward, they lost sight of him in the arc, where he was wide open for 3-pointers. To prepare for this role, he was taking 500 takes a day. after practice. Later, while playing for the Miami Heat, Mills would participate in shooting competitions with teammates such as Dan Majerle, another sharpshooter, sometimes betting dinner.
At the heart of Mills’ career, the NBA decided to move the three-point line, likely to boost scoring in a league defined by tough teams like the New York Knicks. Certain players, like Mills and Dennis “3D” Scott of the Orlando Magic, along with Miller, thrived. In the three years that the NBA’s 3-point line moved from 23-foot-9 to 22-foot, from 1994-95 to 1996-97, Mills shot an astonishing 40.4% on nearly four attempts per game.
“You still had the same principles of trying to stretch the floor even though they moved the line,” Mills says, adding, “I have no idea what the reasoning behind it was. [the league moving the line in]. It was just one of those rules that changed. If you were a guy capable of taking them down, you’d be licking your chops.”
Today, players like Curry and James Harden, who averaged 13.2 3-point attempts per game in the 2018-19 season, have changed the game again. So did the famous Phoenix Suns of “Seven Seconds or Less” with their run-and-gun offense in the early 2000s. Now players all over the world, from kids to adults, shoot three after three. So much so that many previously encouraged two-point shots are frowned upon.
But some are not crazy about the new look. Legendary basketball analyst and former college coach Dick Vitale released his thoughts on Twitter in May, writingLook, the NBA features the best athletes, but I’m curious as I admit I’m getting to the point of GETTING BORED watching @NBA PTPer shooting 50 3s a game in a lot of cases (where he’s cutting/moving the ball etc) /NOT FUN TO WATCH to me. Do you agree or disagree? @ESPNPR.” To which former Chicago Bull and three-time NBA champion Ron Harper responded: writing, “It’s called bad basketball @dickieV.”
Mills, however, doesn’t think the current barrage of long-range shots is a problem. He also would not alter the rules when it comes to the use of the bow. Mills accepts the state of the game, even if the current three-point revolution came a little too late for him to take advantage of it financially.
“One thing I can say is that times have changed,” says Mills. “People already remind me of the kind of money I could make today. They say, ‘Man, can you imagine how much money you could make right now?’ I tell you I don’t need a reminder! But no, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would leave it the same. The three-point shot is an important thing when it comes to basketball. I don’t think it should arrive [changed] to, say, a four-point play. It’s perfect the way it is. I would not change anything.”