Basketball's 3-Pointer: From Tacky Gimmick To Strategic Platform

Mar 2, 2016
Originally published on March 2, 2016 3:11 pm

It was not that long ago when the accepted wisdom in football was that the running game had to be established — that was always the obligatory verb: established — before passes could become effective. My, we know how that has changed. Now the pass is established from the get-go, and running is an afterthought.

Well, I think it is certified now that basketball has experienced the same sort of offensive sea change. At all levels — with men and women — the 3-point shot has utterly transformed the way the game is played. More and more, the players are spread out, looking to pop behind the 3-point arc. More and more teams are, in the vernacular, "going small," with only one big man down deep. Good grief, the position of power forward is in the process of going the way of short shorts.

Click the audio to hear Frank Deford's full 2 cents on the 3-point shot.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's turn now to commentator Frank Deford who has a thought or three on a type of shot that is lighting up the basketball world these days.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: It was not that long ago when the accepted wisdom in football was that the running game had to be established - that was always the obligatory verb, established - before passes could become effective. My, we know how that has changed. Now the pass is established from the get-go, and running is an afterthought. Well, I think it's certified now that basketball has experienced the same sort of offensive sea change. At all levels, with men and women, the three-point shot has utterly transformed the way the game is played. More and more, the players are spread out, looking to pop behind the three-point arc. More and more teams are in the vernacular, going small with only one man down deep. Good grief, the position of power forward is in the process of going the way of short shorts. Yes, the three-pointer has come a far piece since it was adopted by the NBA in 1979 and colleges and high schools a few years later. At first, it was invariably looked upon as a tacky gimmick, mostly employed by desperate underdogs who couldn't win playing real basketball. But today, it really is the strategic platform that the game is played upon. And moreover, now the very face of basketball belongs to the most magnificent three-point shooter in history, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Forget basketball. Curry means more to his sport than any athlete in America. And in any popular endeavor when there is one personality so dominant, he or she dominates that whole culture. Here's who I'd put Curry in the company of, Bob Cousy, Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving. (Laughter) I know. I know. That's a disparate trio, but they're the only players I can think of who people had to go see for one unique quality, Cousy for his fancy passing, Wilt the giant for his monstrous domination, Dr. J. for his newly acrobatic dunks. Of course, other great stars from LeBron James on back have drawn crowds, but their appeal has been as a whole package. But even if Steph Curry is a fine all-around player, he is that original who can simply do one spectacular thing better than all other human beings ever. And we fans want to see that, and people who never cared about basketball do to because now he's fashionable. He's in. He's chic. And more players, younger players, will want to copy Curry, and the three-point shot will only become a bigger and bigger part of the game. It's established.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Frank Deford joins us the first Wednesday of every month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.