I have heard many times that incentives don’t work. I can cite statistics all day that say they do but some days a picture is worth 1,000 statistics.

Today is that day.

Plucked from my friend’s twitter feed (@akabruno) the image below shows a comparison of where the top 200 basketball shots came from in the NBA for the season 2001/2002 versus 2019/2020.

Either behind the 3-point line or in the paint. Nothing in the middle.

The 3-point line’s first use in a professional league was back in 1961 in the American Basketball League. The ABL only lasted 1 ½ seasons before folding, so the 3-pointer quickly went away. The NBA didn’t adopt the 3-pointer until 1979. The NCAA didn’t universally implement a 3-point line until 1986, with high school basketball following suit a year later in 1987.

So, it is probably safe to say that the first year in the NBA where most of the players grew up with the 3-point shot was roughly 1995 – give or take (1988 plus 6 or 7 years). And the skill level would continue to grow as those players age into their prime – and more players come into the NBA with the influence of the 3-point shot. From that you get the chart above.

Striking isn’t it.

The introduction of the 3-point shot pretty much cleared the mid-range shot.

So, when the next person says incentives don’t work show them that chart.

They work. They work well.

Give people a reason to change and they will.

Overnight. Maybe not.

Over time. For sure.