With the advent of the 3-point shot in the NBA, with the 1979-80 season … arriving at the same time as supreme shooter Larry Bird! — the NBA thought this would help teams score more points and, just perhaps, open up the floor for spectacular drives. Actually, it took the NBA a while to catch on to the power of the 3-point basket. It came to FIBA play with the 1984-85 season and my Olympia Milan team caused a stir by taking an average of 15 ‘threes’ per game. We were criticized for this, though we won the Italian title and the European Korac Cup. Today, 15 is a low number, as we know.
If you take the Houston Rockets, who study these things closely, they take only two types of shots: 3-point shots and drives into the 3-second lane for lay-ups, dunks or drawn fouls. They rarely take the mid-range jump shot, rarely play the so-called ‘middle game.’ That has gone the way of the Mastodon, the Sabre-Toothed Tiger and the Tyrannosaurus Rex. What does this mean? It means they are using only about 50% of the offensive area. You would think teams would want to use 100% of the offensive area. But that does not happen. Why?
Well, the numbers crunchers have shown that the three or the drive are better plays … numerically. What is the result of all this? It’s this: You no longer have the beautiful, flowing game you had in the NBA (and elsewhere!) in the 1970s and 1980s, when teams ran the floor to find better shots, when they used the pick-up jump shot to leave the defense frozen still … or sitting down. We now have a game where standing around is now called ‘spacing.’ It’s not the way the game is supposed to be played, in my opinion. To me, any basket, from anywhere, should be worth two points.
Is this the fault of the executives (numbers crunchers) or coaches? No. It’s the fault of the rules. The coaches just adjust to the reality of the situation. Well, let’s eliminate the ‘three.’ I’ve seen enough. It has not boosted scores. On the contrary, it has lowered them … dramatically. A boomerang effect. I’d like to see the ‘three’ eliminated, at all levels: high school, NCAA, NBA, FIBA. Let’s use the whole court again, end to end, side to side, and in the middle. The coaches and players would adjust in five minutes. And we’d have a better product, a more beautiful game. Again.