Basketball ebbs and flows.
The style of play has changed so much over the years that a game from 1960s is similar to today’s game only in their shared designation of being called basketball.
It’s reactionary, it’s fast paced, but most of all — it’s fashionable.
And right now, the three-point shot is in vogue, and Stephen Curry is Anna Wintour.
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Curry brought the world to its feet during his incredible 2014-15 MVP run, swishing long bombs from the logo and forcing defenses to cover him as soon as the ball was inbounded. It wasn’t as if nobody had shot the three-point shot before — the early aughts saw the likes of Kyle Korver, Mike Miller and Milwaukee’s own Steve Novak make a living thanks to their proclivity from long range. But Curry and the Warriors’ other marksmen — namely fellow splash bro Klay Thompson — began living and (rarely) dying by the three.
Now basketball has caught up. Just a few years later, another NBA team, the Houston Rockets and their MVP candidate James Harden, is giving the Warriors a run for their money and a taste of their own medicine.
Let’s not forget to mention the trickle down “hoopeconomics.” One of college basketball’s biggest story lines this year was the Trae Young phenomenon. He led the country in points and assists and drew comparisons to Curry from the get-go.
Bo Ryan, former Wisconsin basketball coach and witness to the game’s changes over the last 43 years, has a hypothesis for why the three-point phenomenon has caught on so quickly.
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His reasoning is two-fold.
First of all, he provides a statistical argument. One that at this point is engraved on the mantle of every NBA front office and becoming more and more accepted in the NCAA — points per possession.
It seems too simple, but it boils down to first grade math. Three is just more than two. Ryan explained that if you take six shots and make two two-pointers, you will be averaging 0.66 points per possession. Do the same with three-point shots? One point per possession.
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“I’ve been using points per possession since I was coaching high school,” Ryan said. “And if you average one point per possession you win 90 percent of your games.”
The obvious rebuttal to this argument is three-point shots are less efficient than two-point shots. This brings us to Ryan’s other point — kids are getting better and better at the three-point shot.
Ryan said Curry seems like a more reasonable player to emulate than a taller, more athletic dominant player like Kobe Bryant.
Essentially, you can shoot like Curry if you put in the work. And these players are all putting in the work.
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You can see this work in action on the court. Children have spent so many hours shooting three-pointers in the gym, with a coach or friend standing in the paint rebounding their shot and passing it back out to them, that according to Ryan, the kick-out has become one of the most efficient three-point shots in the game. They’re used to it.
The three-point shot is only going to become more and more prevalent as years go on, until some player or coach breaks the mold and the rest of the NBA decides once again to follow.