A three-point field goal (also known as three-pointer, three-point shot, trey, or simply three) is a field goal in a basketball game, made from beyond the three-point line, a designated semi-oval arc radiating from the basket. A successful attempt is worth three points, in contrast to the two points awarded for shots made inside the three point line.
A three-point field goal is distinguished from a "three-point play," which occurs when a shooter successfully scores a two-point basket while being fouled, and then makes the ensuing free throw (the phrase "and one" is often used to signify that such a basket has been made, and that the player has the opportunity for a three-point play). If such a foul occurs on a three-point shot, the player has a chance to earn a fourth point.
The three-point rule was first tested, at the collegiate level, in a 1945 National Collegiate Athletic Association game between Columbia and Fordham but professional basketball would be the first to adopt the rule on a permanent basis. The short-lived American Basketball League did so in 1961, and the Eastern Professional Basketball League followed in its 1963-64 season. The three-point shot later became popularized by the original American Basketball Association after its introduction in 1968. During the 1970s, the ABA would use 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 officially adopted the three-point shot. On October 12, 1979, Chris Ford scored the NBA's first three-point shot, and Fred Brown led the league in three-point field goal percentage in that first season of adoption. The sport's international governing body, FIBA, introduced the three-point line in 1984.
The NCAA's Southern Conference became the first collegiate conference to use the three-point rule, adopting a 22-foot line in 1980. Over the following five years, NCAA conferences differed in their use of the rule and the distance they required for a three-point shot. The NCAA adopted the 19-foot, 9-inch line nationally in 1986. On May 3, 2007 the NCAA rules committee decided to lengthen the three point line to 20 feet 9 inches. This rule will come into effect at the beginning of the 2008-09 season. J. J. Redick currently holds the NCAA Division I record with 457 three-point field goals while shooting 40.4% from three-point range for his career.
During the 1994–95, 1995–96, and 1996-97 seasons, the NBA attempted to address decreased scoring (due to tougher style defenses) by shortening the overall distance of the line to a uniform 22 feet (6.7 m) around the basket. Dennis Scott used this rule change to set a record for most three-pointers in a season: 267 in 1995–96. (This record was surpassed by Ray Allen with 269 in the 2005-06 season.) In the same season, the legendary Michael Jordan, who was never known for his three-point shooting, used the closer arc to his advantage as he established a career high with a three-point field goal percentage of almost 43%. From the 1997–98 season, the NBA reverted the line to its original distance of 23 feet, 9 inches (22 feet at the corners). With the legalization of zone defense in 2001, the three-point shot became more important, because of its ability to stretch out a zone.
The three-point line is generally an arc at a set radius from the basket. In international basketball, the three-point line is 6.25 meters (20 ft 6 in) from the basket. This distance is also used by most European leagues, as well as the WNBA. However, FIBA will increase the three-point distance to 6.75 meters (22 ft 2 in) from the center of the basket, effective on October 1 2010 for major international competitions and October 1 2012 for domestic competitions.
In the U.S., college and high school rules for both sexes specify a distance of 19 feet, 9 inches (6.02 m) from the basket. Recreational courts in the U.S., such as those at public parks, also commonly use this distance. This line lies at the same distance from the basket as the top of the key, so the 3 point line coincides with the top of the key at the center point.
On May 3, 2007, the NCAA men's basketball rules committee passed a measure to extend the distance of the men's three-point line a foot back to 20 feet, 9 inches (6.32 m). The usage will become effective from the 2008-09 season. The women's committee, however, decided to keep its line at 19 feet, 9 inches.
In the NBA, the three-point line is composed of two lines, parallel to and 3 feet (0.91 m) from the sideline, and a circular arc (centered on the basket) of roughly 120 degrees, which intersects the parallel lines. The distance of the arc is 23 feet, 9 inches (7.23 m) from the basket. The distance from the line to the basket varies near the sidelines, and is exactly 22 feet (6.71 m) from the basket at its closest point which is 6 feet, 3 inches (1.91 m) from the base line, along an imaginary line parallel to the base line and through the center of the basket. The line is constructed in this fashion because if it were fixed at the arc distance, there would be very little room to stand inbounds near the baseline. The actual distance of the three-point line at any point along its straight lines can be computed trigonometrically, using the center of the basket and the 22-foot mark as the other 2 points of a right triangle.
In order to attempt a three-pointer, a player's feet must be outside the three-point line. At the time of the shot or jump, the player may not be on the line or inside the line, or the basket is considered a two-point attempt; however, the player is allowed to jump from outside the line and land inside the line, as long as the ball is released in mid-air.
A referee raises his arm to signal the shot attempt. If the attempt is successful, he raises his other arm and holds up three fingers in both hands to indicate the points scored. The referee must recognize it for it to count as three points. This has often been an issue of contention, as many games have been decided by a last-second three-pointer. In these extreme circumstances, referees have often conferred before deciding on how to rule the shot. Instant replay has sometimes been used, depending on league rules (for example, the NBA does not allow its use for determining the value of a shot, while the NCAA specifically allows replay for this purpose).
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.
UNLV currently holds the NCAA record for most consecutive games with a made three-pointer. Additionally, due to experimentation in the Big West Conference from 1982 through 1986, the Runnin' Rebels have made at least one three-point field goal in 684 of 695 games in which the rule was used. The last time UNLV failed to make a three-pointer was January 25, 1986 against Long Beach State.
Other programs with current streaks of consecutive games with at least one three-point goal made include (as of 2/11/08):
However, these schools have not made a three-point goal in every game the program has played since the rule was adopted in 1986-87.