Why is a regular shot worth 2 points and a "Three pointer" worth 3 points in basketball? Wouldn't it have made more sense to have points given in the 1 and 2 point style?

Can someone explain why and when this point style was created?

1 Answer 1


The point values were chosen to give the desired relative weight between a free throw (1 point), a field goal (2 points), and a three-point goal (3 points).

Originally, when Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891, goals were worth one point each. Three consecutive fouls by one team (without the opposing team committing a foul) gave the opposing team one goal.

From Dr. James Naismith's Original 13 Rules of Basket Ball:

.7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).

In the early days of basketball, the rules were still being refined. As time went on, it was decided that the penalty for committing fouls was too great. So Dr. Naismith changed the rules so that all field goals were worth 3 points, and three consecutive fouls awarded the other team one point.

Not long after that, Dr. Naismith came up with the concept of the free throw. Instead of awarding points automatically to the other team, a fouled player would be given a chance to take a shot from a free throw line, and earn another field goal for his team.

By 1896, the rules were refined again to standardize the free throw line at 15 feet, and set the free throw goal at 1 point and field goals at 2 points.

Source: History of the Free Throw

The three-point line has its own history. The American Basketball League, a shortlived professional league, began using it in 1961, but the league folded a year later. The American Basketball Association began using it as soon as the league started in 1967. The National Basketball Association did not begin using it, however, and when the ABA merged into the NBA in 1976, the three-point line went away for a few years. The NBA introduced it in 1979, and the NCAA followed in 1986, shortly followed by high school basketball.

Source: History of the 3-Pointer

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