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3 Point Arc

April 30, 2003 Columns No Comments

Move That Line Back!

by Adam Shandler

I’ll even hold the measuring tape.

The NCAA rules committee meets this week in Indianapolis to discuss possible rule changes to our beloved game. Among them is the question of whether to pull the 3-point line back from its current 19 feet, nine inches to the international standard of 20 feet, six inches.

I hereby submit my vote, which counts for absolutely nothing but my own satisfaction. Yay. Let’s move it on back.

The game of basketball is a little over 100 years old, but one of its most popular innovations — the 3-point line — is only about 17. Still, in that short swatch of time “the arc” has become as heralded as the game itself. It has decided the outcomes of close games and has turned close games into blowouts. Like an archer who thinks “bullseye” exclusively, the basketball player has become obsessed with the 3-pointer. And why wouldn’t he? It’s a shot from long range — exciting, impressive, it takes a long time to get to its destination, so there’s suspense. When you sink one, it’s a testament to your ballistic precision and long hours of practice. Plus, you get a bonus; an extra point for sinking one of these buckets.

But therein lies the trouble with our friend, the trifecta. Everybody wants to shoot one, and so everybody does.

Six-nine power forwards, who should be playing with their backs to the basket, are curling out from their homes down low to pop off a three. Heck, my four-year-old cousin is knocking down threes in his driveway. (Probably because he can’t dunk yet.) The three-pointer is no longer a skill reserved for skill players. It’s not a secret weapon, but rather everybody’s weapon.

Take your average NCAA, Division I team. Visit its web page, check out its stats for the last five-to-ten years. You will see a marked improvement (by almost 10%) in three-point efficiency over that span. Then look at the types of players who are hitting the three-ball. Big men. Small men. All men. And in television commentary, the term “a big man who can shoot the three” has become as a common as “Awesome, baby!”

Moving the line back a touch might also provide a bit more challenge for the high school player making the transition to the college game. And struggle is good for the soul. A guy who connects on 50-60% of his long range shots in Scholastia will have to make a slight adjustment when he arrives at the next level. Not that 20″6′ is such a dramatic alteration (it’s not even a full foot), but psychologically it does cause for some consideration.

Implementing the new international 3-point line will also provide a nice stepping stone — training wheels, if you will — for the college shooter with NBA aspirations. Twenty feet, 6 inches is a happy medium. Even Evel Knievel would have trouble jumping the chasm from nineteen-nine to twenty-three-nine. Which is why we see so many college shooting greats no longer involved in the game.

Move the line back, my NCAA friends. Move it back, so we can weed out the non-shooters, the guys who shouldn’t be taking those shots but have gotten comfortable with the current dimensions. Oh, you’ll still see ill-equipped players trying these shots, but that’ll soon fade when they realize that maybe the new distance is just a little too far. Nineteen-nine is little more than a long foul shot, and some shooters don’t even leave the floor when they fire. I’d even suggest you moving the line back to NBA range, or dare I say mid-court! But I don’t want to be labeled a radical so 20 feet, six inches will suffice for now.

Now about this trapezoidal lane. Let’s not get crazy here…


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