A three-point field goal (also called a three-pointer) is a field goal in a basketball game made from beyond the three-point line, a designated arc surrounding the basket. A successful attempt is worth three points, in contrast to the two points awarded for field goals made within the three-point line and the one point for each made free throw. In the National Basketball Association (NBA), the 3-point line is 22 ft (6.71 m) away from the basket to a line parallel to the sidelines, or 23 ft 9 in (7.24 m) to a circular arc centered on the basket, whichever is closest. In international FIBA and WNBA play, the three-point line is 6.75 m (22 ft 1 3⁄4 in) away from the basket on the arc part and 6.6 m (21 ft 8 in) from the straight parts. In both men's and women's National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) basketball, the three-point line is simply a 180° circular arc centered on the basket, 20 ft 9 in (6.32 m) in radius. There are more variations (see main article).
The three-point line was first tested at the collegiate level in a 1945 NCAA game between Columbia and Fordham but it was not kept as a rule. At the direction of Abe Saperstein, the American Basketball League became the first basketball league to institute the rule in 1961. Its three-point line was a radius of 25 feet (7.62 m) from the baskets, except along the sides. The Eastern Professional Basketball League followed in its 1963–64 season.
The three-point shot later became popularized by the American Basketball Association after its introduction in the 1967–68 season. Then commissioner of the ABA George Mikan stated the three-pointer "would give the smaller player a chance to score and open up the defense to make the game more enjoyable for the fans." During the 1970s, the ABA used the three-point shot, along with the slam dunk, as a marketing tool to compete with the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In the 1979–80 season, the NBA adopted the three-point line despite the view of many that it was a gimmick. Chris Ford of the Boston Celtics is widely credited with making the first three-point shot in NBA history on October 12, 1979. Kevin Grevey of the Washington Bullets also made one on the same day.
The sport's international governing body, FIBA, introduced the three-point line in 1984, at a distance of 6.25 m (20 ft 6 in).
The NCAA's Southern Conference became the first collegiate conference to use the three-point rule, adopting a 22-foot (6.71 m) line for the 1980–81 season. Ronnie Carr of Western Carolina University was the first to score a three-point field goal in college basketball history on November 29, 1980. Over the following five years, NCAA conferences differed in their use of the rule and distance required for a three-pointer. Used in conference play, it was adopted by the NCAA for the 1986–87 season at 19 ft 9 in (6.02 m), and was first used in the NCAA Tournament in 1987. In 2007, the NCAA lengthened the men's three point distance to 20 ft 9 in (6.32 m), with the rule coming into effect at the beginning of the 2008–09 season. American high schools, along with elementary and middle schools, adopted a 19 ft 9 in (6.02 m) line nationally in 1987, a year after the NCAA.
During the 1994–95, 1995–96, and 1996–97 seasons, the NBA attempted to address decreased scoring by shortening the distance of the line from 23 ft 9 in (7.24 m) (22 ft (6.71 m) at the corners) to a uniform 22 ft (6.71 m) around the basket. From the 1997–98 season on, the NBA reverted the line to its original distance of 23 ft 9 in (22 ft at the corners, with a 3 inch differential). Ray Allen is currently the NBA all-time leader in career made three-pointers with 2,973.
In 2008, FIBA announced that the distance would be increased by 50 cm (19.69 in) to 6.75 m (22 ft 1 3⁄4 in), with the change being phased in beginning in October 2010. In December 2012, the WNBA announced that it would be using FIBA's distance, too, as of the 2013 season. The NBA has discussed adding a four-point line, according to president Rod Thorn.
A three-point line consists of an arc at a set radius measured from the point on the floor directly below the center of the basket, and two parallel lines equidistant from each sideline extending from the nearest end line to the point at which they intersect the arc. A player's feet must be completely behind the three-point line at the time of the shot or jump in order to make a three-point attempt; if the player's feet are on or in front of the line, it is a two-point attempt. A player is allowed to jump from outside the line and land inside the line to make a three-point attempt, as long as the ball is released in mid-air.
An official raises his/her arm with three fingers extended to signal the shot attempt. If the attempt is successful, he/she raises his/her other arm with all fingers fully extended in manner similar to a football official signifying successful field goal to indicate the three-point goal. The official must recognize it for it to count as three points. Instant replay has sometimes been used, depending on league rules. The NBA, WNBA, FIBA and the NCAA specifically allow replay for this purpose. In NBA. FIBA, and WNBA games, video replay does not have to occur immediately following a shot; play can continue and the officials can adjust the scoring later in the game, after reviewing the video. However, in late game situations, play may be paused pending a review.
If a shooter is fouled while attempting a three-pointer and subsequently misses the shot, the shooter is awarded three free-throw attempts. If a player completes a three-pointer while being fouled, the player is awarded one free-throw for a possible 4-point play. Conceivably, if a player completed a three-pointer while being fouled, and that foul was ruled as either a Flagrant 1 or a Flagrant 2 foul, the player would be awarded two free throws for a possible 5-point play.
The distance of the three-point line to the center of the hoop varies by level:
Major League Lacrosse features a two-point line which forms a 15-yard (14 m) arc around the front of the goal. Shots taken from behind this line count for two points, as opposed to the standard one point.
In gridiron football, a standard field goal is worth three points; various professional and semi-pro leagues have experimented with four-point field goals. NFL Europe and the Stars Football League adopted a rule similar to basketball's three-point line in which an additional point was awarded for longer field goals; in both leagues any field goal of 50 yards (46 m) or more was worth four points. The Arena Football League awards four points for any successful drop kicked field goal (like the three-point shot, the drop kick is more challenging than a standard place kick, as the bounce of the ball makes a kick less predictable, and arena football also uses narrower goal posts for all kicks than the outdoor game does).
The Super Goal is a similar concept in Australian rules football, in which a 50-meter (55 yd) arc determines the value of a goal; within the arc, it is the usual 6 points, but 9 points are scored for a "super goal" scored from outside the arc. To date the super goal is only used in pre-season games and not in the season proper.
The National Professional Soccer League II, which awarded two points for all goals except those on the power play, also used a three-point line, drawn 45 feet (14 m) from the goal. It has since been adopted by some other indoor soccer leagues.