When former professional basketball player Antoine Walker was asked why he shot so many three pointers his response was “because there are no fours.” And while I am grateful for Walker’s contributions to the Miami Heat’s lone championship, one should always be careful of taking advice from someone who earned $110 million dollars and ended up bankrupt.
As I watch the NBA playoffs I shake my head at the amount of three point shots jacked up over the course of a game. Many teams’ (like the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks) entire offensive strategy revolves around the three.
For those unfamiliar with the rules of basketball if you convert a shot from beyond the three point line (about 22 feet from the basket) you get three points as opposed to the customary two. This reward of an extra point for a more difficult shot feeds into many of our deadliest sins. Sloth, greed, pride…
The three point shot is a metaphor for the get rich quick scheme. It appears as though you will receive a lot for very little work, but the three point shot more often then not leaves you like Antoine Walker with nothing but the clothes on your back.
There are may practical reasons why not to shoot a three. The high arc and far distance of the ball makes it very difficult to estimate where the ball will ricochet when it clangs against the rim, leaving your team in poor position to snare a rebound.
Referees always call more fouls when an offense is aggressive and drives the ball to the basket, thus by hoisting up a distant three point shot you not only prevent yourself the opportunity to shoot free throws, but also stop your opponent from getting into foul trouble and eventual disqualification.
Most importantly though the further away you shoot from, the harder the shot. The best players convert over sixty percent of their two point attempts, while a forty percent three point shooter is considered excellent.
So with the strategic disadvantage why do players hoist so many three pointers? Because it requires very little effort. Banging and bruising to get position in the paint can be exhausting. Driving to the hoop can get you knocked to the ground. While the cowardly three point shot provides the illusion of getting your team points without breaking a sweat.
There are only two instances where I would allow a team I coached to shoot a three. When the team is down by three with under twenty four seconds left in the game or when the game clock or shot clock is down to three seconds or less. Otherwise you shoot a three pointer, you owe Coach Chiste ten push ups.