What is NBA 3 Point Line Distance?

For the past 40 years, the 3-Point line is being used in the beautiful game of basketball. Since its inception, the “arc” has made many shooters’ careers on the court.

The shape of the line, as mentioned earlier, is in an arc formation. 2 parallel lines are running up to 14 feet in length (the lines are 3 feet away from the sides of the court). The parallel lines join at an arc at 23 feet 9 inches away from the basket.

The actual distance of the line from the basket depends on the level or league being played. In simple words, the 3-point line is the line that separates the 2-point scoring area from the 3-point scoring area.

A foul made behind the 3-point line (while shooting the ball) results in three free throws if the ball misses and one free throw if it goes in.

When was the 3-point line introduced in NBA?

The first use of the 3-point line was in 1961, instituted by the American Basketball League, which only survived for 1.5 seasons.

The NBA never adopted the 3-point line in the league, which signaled a sad demise of the 3-pointer. A new league was launched in the 1960s, known as the American Basketball Association.

The ABA was marketing themselves as the more exciting league; with high scoring matches, a red, white, and blue game ball, and giving catchy nicknames to prominent league stars.

The ABA adopted the 3-point line in its efforts to make basketball exciting. In 1976 the NBA and ABA merged. Initially, the NBA did not adopt the 3-point line.

3 years later, in 1979, the NBA instituted the use of the 3-point line during Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s rookie season.


The first player to make a 3-point shot was Chris Ford from the Boston Celtics on October 12, 1979. The introduction of the 3-point line caused a lot of backlash from the coaches and players alike.

The philosophy of attack and defense had to be changed drastically. Before the 3-point line, the play style in NBA games can be summed up with the expression “pound the ball in.”

The players and coaches had to include 3-point shoot training into their training schedules and devise attack and defense strategies to utilize and negate the 3-point throw.

The fans, although they immediately loved the inclusion with each 3-point score causing massive cheers. In the 94-95 season up to the 97-98 season, the 3-point line was shortened to a 22-foot uniform arc to incentivize 3-point shots.

The change was implemented to address the average decline in the average point scored in NBA matches. In many instances, the games were being described as grappling matches due to players holding the ball more.

Many players started shooting behind the 3-point line, such as Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, and Steve Kerr. Steve Kerr was receiving the most benefit from the shortened line, becoming the number 1 shooter in the league at that time.

The shortened 3-Point line in the NBA only saw individual growth in players, with the overall decline in points still progressing. The 3-point line was brought back to its initial dimensions after the 3rd season of the shortened line.

Evolution of the game

As the seasons progress, 3-point shooting is steadily climbing, especially from 2015 onwards with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s duo, also known as the “Splash Brothers.”

Here is a table that shows the overall increasing trend of 3-point scoring and its success rate in games.  As the seasons’ progress, more and more players are becoming better 3-point shooters, and its attack utilization is becoming more sophisticated.

In modern times the players are encouraged to use the 3-point shot in the fast break and not challenge a team’s defense head-on for the 2-pointer.

Average 3 Point Goals & Attempts Per Game

Season Avg Goals Avg Attempts Effect
1979–1980 0.8 2.8 29%
1989–1990 2.2 6.6 33%
1999–2000 4.8 13.7 35%
2009–2010 6.4 18.1 36%
2019–2020 12.2 34.1 36%

How Far is the NBA 3-point Line?

The 3-point line, as mentioned above, depends on the level and league being played. The sides of the arc all start 3 feet away from the edge (22 feet from the basket) of the court at the sides, with the difference in length coming at the arc’s length from the basket.

The following table illustrates the length of the 3-point line in various leagues.

Max Distance of 3-point Line

League  Distance Meters
NBA and G League 23 ft 9 inch 7.24m
NCAA (College) 20 ft 9 inch 6.32m
High School/Middle School 19 ft 9 inch 6.02m
WNBA 22 ft 2 inch 6.75m
FIBA (Europe) 22 ft 2 inch 6.75m


The 3-point line has brought a significant change in the NBA, with the infamous buzzer-beater has flipped the script on many matches turning certain wins into defeats in seconds.

The 3-pointer has forced the game into a more open play style with an ever-lingering threat of a long-range shot from increasingly accurate sharpshooters.

The NBA today is still devising ways to increase the excitement and evolve the game further. With talks of removing the corner 3-pointers, decreasing the 3-point line length again to even increasing the distance.

Only time will show the complete evolution of the 3-point line and the cascading changes it will bring to the game of titans.