I recently had lunch with Peter Mieuli, son of the late Bay Area sports legend Franklin Mieuli who at one time had ownership stakes in the 49ers (his family still does), the Giants and majority ownership of the Golden State Warriors.
Franklin created a unique environment with the Warriors and won their only NBA Championship in 1975. In the course of the conversation Peter handed me a typewritten document by Eddie Gottlieb entitled “Views on the Three Point Goal.” This yellowing three page original was most likely originated in the summer of 1979.
Here's a little bit of background on Eddie Gottlieb.
"I probably was responsible for more rule changes in pro basketball than any other man," Gottlieb told the Associated Press late in his life. "They call me in now because I’m the only one left who can connect things to the past, who knows why this rule was put in or why that one was thrown out.”
Gottlieb was behind the NBA’s "territorial draft" rule, which gave teams the right to claim a local college or high school player in exchange for giving up their first-round draft pick.
Before the 1962-63 season, the Warriors moved west. Gottlieb, who had purchased the franchise 10 years earlier, then sold it for a $600,000 profit to a credit card company, which kept 33.3-percent of the ownership while Franklin Mieuli put together a group of Bay Area investors to purchase the remainder of the team.
In the interest of hoops history, I thought it was worthwhile to give you a glimpse into one of the original minds in basketball who took a strong position that proved wrong. I don’t know that this letter has ever been published.
VIEWS ON THE THREE POINT GOAL
By Eddie Gottlieb
With 50 years’ experience in professional leagues, on rules committees, and over 30 years as Chairman, I feel qualified to talk rules. I have been involved in all rule changes in the BAA-NBA since its inception in 1946, and foremost in my rules thinking, has always been the good of the game, making it more interesting for the spectators and good for the NBA.
I pride myself on the fact that I have been able to keep up with the changes throughout all these years, and I feel that the NBA is playing the best, fastest and most exciting basketball that has ever been played. What is there about a 22 or 25 foot shot that makes it worth 3 points?
It is one of the most radical changes that has ever been proposed and it is not needed in our game. It will not do what its proponents claim and it will change the present point value which has proven perfect for over 70 years. The present point structure is based on “value” and if three points are to be given for a 22 or 25 foot shot, changing “value” to distance, then additional points should be given for shots of 30,35,40 or even longer, some of which we have had over the years.
Rule changes should not be made too often, in fact, only when something is radically wrong, and is needed to stimulate the quality of play and the 3 point goal does not fit that category. With changes to three officials and the change in hand checking rule these changes should be totally absorbed before any new rule changes are even considered.
[Biz Ball: Do sports heroes still exist?]
In no other game is distance given extra points. A 500 ft. homer over the center field fence gets no more runs that a 320 foot homer close to the foul line. A fifty yard field goal or forward pass gets no more points than a 15 yard field goal or forward pass. The 3 point goal is strictly a gimmick, and the NBA has long outlived the need for a gimmick, which t never needed. Adopting a 3 point goal would be major step backward.
If teamwork is the name of the game, and it is, consider how much of it is needed to get a man loose near the basket, or for a layup, for two points against 22 or 25 foot shot which requires little or no teamwork and would be worth 3 points, which makes no sense at all.
There is no logic in giving a 22 or 25 foot shot an extra point, a 50 percent increase when many of the field goals scored near the basket are much more difficult and exciting. Should the 3-point goal exceed in value, goals made on the fast break, give and go, driving, backdoor plays, players going without the ball, passes from pivot to cutter underneath, pivot shots, screens, etc? Should it be necessary for players like Erving, Thompson, Gilmore, Walton, Jabbar, Gervin, Cowens, Barry, Hayes, Dandridge, McGinnis, Marques Johnson, John Drew, Brian Winters, Doug Collins, Bernard king, pete Maravich, Bob McAdoo and paul Westphal to name a few of our Superstars, to score two field goals to overcome a relatively simple set shot from 22 0r 25 feet, which is not really a long shot, but would be worth 3 points? Should we short change our Superstars by giving them less points for a 2 point field goal, which would reduce the player's value in the eyes of the fans.
[Biz Ball: Coming soon: The National Avatar League]
It is said that the 3 point goal will open up the play underneath. This will not happen, as the man guarding the 3 point shooter is very seldom, if ever, involved in clogging the middle. It will not create the excitement claimed for it, except possibly when the home team is losing by 3 or 2 points, on the closing seconds, and we know have that excitement when the home team ties or wins in the closing seconds, and we now have that excitement when the home team ties or wins in the closing seconds, on a two point shot. If a visiting team makes the 3 point goal to win the game, it would be a disaster for the hometown fans.
I cannot conceive of it increasing the attendance significantly. The ABA used it as a gimmick to increase attendance and create excitement, but it is very doubtful if it helped. The claim that it will help one sided games by closing the gap sooner is very questionable. The 3 pointer could make games more one sided, depending on which team scores the 3 pointers. Our teams have closed wide gaps with our present values over short periods, as proven in many of our games, and in recent Playoff games between Philadelphia and Washington, where the 76ers scored 4 points in 9 seconds, and Washington scored 17 points to overcome an 11 point Philadelphia lead, and Seattle overcame a 19 point Washington lead in less than 15 minutes of play.
The percentage of 3 point goals, 25%, made in the exhibition season actually makes it a poor risk, as a team can make two normal shots worth four points, and they only averaged one out of four shots for a 3 point goal thus actually losing a point instead of gaining one.
it is claimed that a 3 point goal is like a home run for excitement, and if it is, what would you call an Erving dunk as to the excitement it creates, like four grand slam homers, and gets only 2 points.
For the record, let me say that my only interest in the matter is the welfare of the NBA, and if I thought the 3 point goal would improve the game, I would welcome it, but I repeat, I think it would be a major step backward.”
Some three-point pointers:
-In the 2012-13 NBA season, one out of every four shots taken was a 3 pointer.
-In the 1979-80 season the first three-pointer was taken by Washington Bullets’ Kevin Grevey although the Celtics Chris Ford was given credit for it on 10/12/79.
To learn more about one of basketball true pioneers, read: "The Mogul, Philadelphia Sports legend and Pro Basketball Pioneer," by Rich Westcott