Larry Bird is Right About the 4-Point Line and Reggie Miller is Wrong

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The New Yorker spoke with two of the greatest shooters of all-time, Larry Bird and Reggie Miller, about the idea of the NBA adding a 4-point shot. One was open to the idea of the game evolving while the other was against the “gimmick.” First, here’s Miller:

“It’s comical. The league will be a laughingstock, and I will be in front of the line laughing the loudest. Why are we always trying to change and adjust the game?”

Yes, Reggie Miller thinks that changing and adjusting are bad things. That’s a heck of a start. Meanwhile, Larry Bird had much more measured thoughts on the 4-pointer.

“When I played, I never did practice three-point shots,” Bird said. “But these kids here, that’s all they do. The game has changed, no question about it. Every ten, twelve, fifteen years, there’s something new coming in. You put that four-point line in there and people will start practicing. And once they start practicing, they get better at it. Maybe five or ten years down the road, fours are what everybody will be shooting. The game evolves.”

Yes, the game evolves. Here’s the thing – basketball is a game that didn’t exist until 1891. That’s when a guy who was born during the Civil War invented it. He just made it up! Pardon my language, but a lot of things have “changed” since then. For instance, people started driving automobiles and everyone gets to vote now.

The NBA was founded in 1946, a year after the 3-point line was first experimented with in a college basketball game. The 3-point line first appeared in the ABA in 1967. In 1979, the NBA finally adopted the line. People thought that was a silly “gimmick.” And now Stephen Curry is the MVP. This brings us back to Reggie Miller.

“No one else has that kind of range. Maybe Damian Lillard? Even Kyle Korver doesn’t have this kind of range, and he’s a great three-point shooter. If there were ten guys doing what Curry can do, then we could talk about it. But even then it feels like it could become a pinball machine: ‘Add a four-point play! Then a half-court shot!’ I just think a four-pointer would be a gimmick.”

Arguing that that Stephen Curry is the only one who could shoot from this theoretical 4-point range is just pure guesswork. It’s based on nothing. And you know why Kyle Korver doesn’t routinely shoot from the same places that Steph does? Because Atlanta’s offense isn’t focused on running Korver off a series of screens to get an open shot from 35-feet.

If we’re going to limit basketball to things that everyone can do well, this would be a lay-up-only league. Andre Drummond shot 35% from the free throw line this season, but no one is suggesting the NBA gets rid of foul shots. Though some people do want to CHANGE THE RULES regarding intentional fouls that make Drummond unplayable late in close games.

Players who shouldn’t shoot are already shooting. The Houston Rockets took the second most 3-point attempts this season, yet were 19th in 3-point percentage. If there is value in a 4-point shot, teams would shoot them. If they can’t shoot them at a high enough percentage for that value to be there, they won’t. But eventually, as kids grow up with the 4-pointer – the same way that Reggie Miller grew up with the 3-pointer – that value will be there.