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It’s Time for the Four-Point Play in the NBA

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Photo: Sporting News

By Lawrence Venturato |

No, we’re not talking about a four-point play the hard way; i.e., making a three-point shot beyond the arc while getting fouled, and then converting the free throw.  Instead, we’re talking about a new four-point shot taken beyond the half-court line. 

The National Basketball Association introduced the three-point play in 1979.  The game needed a shot of adrenaline at the time and the three-point shot was the panacea.  Fan enthusiasm spiked and so did proceeds at the gate.  Not only did the three-point play add another dimension to the game, it made games more competitive.  It was so successful that everyone asked why the league didn’t do it sooner.  Fast-forward 40 years and a similar question needs to be asked: why hasn’t the league instituted a four-point play yet? 

Today, three-pointers are almost as common as two-pointers.  Nearly 30% of all shots in the NBA are taken beyond the three-point line.  Nowadays, players can practically make them blindfolded.  The thrill is largely gone, although a buzzer-beating three-point shot that is made to tie or win a game should not be understated.  If three-point shots put more games within reach for teams that are trailing; four-point shots can put even more games within reach, as the game clock winds down.  Attempting a four-point play, never mind actually making a shot from another zip code, will stimulate players and fans, who have become blasé at the banality of three-pointers in the NBA. 

It’s time for the league to take advantage of basketball’s full-court potential by placing a higher value on shots made beyond the half-court line.  Because the midcourt line is 47 feet away from the baseline, half-court shots are widely considered to be the lowest percentage shots in basketball, yet they only count for three points when they are made.  If three-point shots, which play-by-play announcers hyperbolically say are made from “downtown,” then shots made from the other side of the court, the suburbs if you will, should count for more, and four points is a reasonable number.  And, if that’s not enough, a converted four-pointer can become five points if the player is fouled while in the process of taking the shot.  What’s not to like?

Onlookers collectively hold their breath whenever a half-court shot is lofted, waiting to see if the ball will find the bottom of the net at the end of its long trajectory.  A four-point attempt at the end of a game, when a team is down by three or four points, and when there is no time for anything but a Hail Mary, will leave fans standing on their feet, hit or miss.  And that’s exactly the kind of response the league wants from ticket-holders and its TV audience. 

It’s obvious that the four-point play needs to be part of the NBA’s playbook.  The league should adopt the four-pointer because it’s a slam dunk winner and they should do so sooner rather than later. 

Lawrence Venturato is a professional transportation engineer who has authored numerous articles on current affairs.

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