For basketball fans under the age of thirty, there’s always been a three-point line on the court. The three-point line is an arc that demarcates the difference between a regular two-point field goal in basketball from one worth three points. The current measurement of the line in the National Basketball Association is 23-feet, nine-inches, with alleys that run 3 feet in from both sidelines.
The history of the three-point line is actually pretty long, even though many people can remember when it first came to the NBA in 1979. The three-point line was tried at the high school level in Ohio in 1933; and in 1945, it was tested at the collegiate level. The rule didn’t catch on, so it wasn’t until the upstart American Basketball League adopted it in 1967 that the three-point shot would become a permanent rule in any league.
The ABA was founded to compete with the older NBA, and they wanted to feature higher scoring and a flashier style of play to attract fans from the more established league. The ABA marketed the slam dunk shot, along with the three-point line, to tout the wide-open nature of the league’s play.
The three-point rule was still brand new, and not fully understood by fans, or even the players, when the Indiana Pacers played the Dallas Chaparrals in November of 1967, and found themselves trailing by two points with only two seconds left on the clock. There was only time for a desperation inbound pass, followed by an immediate 92-foot prayer by Pacer Jerry Harkness, which miraculously hit the backboard, and went in.
The Pacers celebrated wildly, and 2500 Dallas fans roared and patiently waited for the overtime period to begin, thinking that the shot was only worth two points. The two teams had returned to their respective benches to prepare for overtime. Finally, an official had to go over to the Pacers bench and inform the team that they had already won the game, as the Harkness shot had been taken from a full 68 feet behind the brand new three-point line. The Pacers celebrated on the floor again in front of the shocked fans, who were witnesses to the first three-point buzzer beater in history. The three-point shot has been a fan favorite ever since.
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