Widening of Lane and Adjustment To Resetting Shot Clock Also Approved

WNBA Adopts Longer Three-Point Line

NEW YORK, December 17 – The WNBA Board of Governors announced today that the league will adopt three playing rules changes beginning with the 2004 season.

Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman on the WNBA Rules Changes:

"It will be interesting to see how these rules affect the play of the game in the WNBA. Moving back the three-point line and widening the lane is designed to open up the inside game and create more space for offensive players to work in."

"A nine-inch increase in the three-point shot shouldn’t have much of an effect on three-point shooting percentages since a number of players in the WNBA (Sheryl Swoopes, Becky Hammon, etc.) are consistently hitting shots from well beyond that distance already. But that nine inches on the defensive end might be enough to free things up for players that like to penetrate and get to the basket."

"Widening the lane is something that has been done on two occasions in the NBA, from six to 12 feet in 1952-53 and from 12 to 16 feet in 1964-65. Pushing the post players further away from the basket could have the effect of keeping the lane less cluttered, and giving players more room to operate underneath."

"The adjustments made to the rules governing resetting of the shot clock are designed to speed up the pace of the game, which should in turn increase the league scoring average."
The three-point line will be moved from 19' 9" to the international distance of 20' 6Ό", and the lane will be widened from 12' to the NBA width of 16'. In addition, the 30-second shot clock will be reset to 20 seconds (as opposed to 30 seconds under the previous rule) when a defensive foul or other defensive violation occurs with less than 20 seconds remaining on the shot clock, and will be left unchanged when a defensive violation occurs with 20 seconds or more remaining on the shot clock.

“The intent behind these changes is to increase our teams’ offensive productivity,” said WNBA Director of Basketball Operations Tracy Ellis-Ward. “Increasing the width of the lane and the length of the three-point line are both designed to clear out space in the post so that offensive players will have greater freedom of movement. The adjustment in resetting the shot clock should help speed up the game and increase the number of possessions per game, which we also hope will lead to more scoring.”

Check out a diagram of the new court.


Brief History of the Lane and the Three-Point

The Lane
LeagueSeasonsWidth
NBA 1946-1952
NBA 1952-1964 12’
NBA 1964-present 16’
LeagueSeasonsWidth
WNBA 1997-2003 12’
WNBA 2004- 16’


The Three-Point Line (listed by distance)
LeagueSeasonsDistance
American Basketball League (men) 1961-63 23’ 9”
American Basketball Association 1967-76 23’ 9” (22’ 0” in the corners)
National Basketball Association 1979-94, 1997-present 23’ 9” (22’ 0” in the corners)
National Basketball Developmental League 2001-present 23’ 9” (22’ 0” in the corners)
Continental Basketball Association 1979-2001 23’ 9” (22’ 0” in the corners)
Women’s Pro Basketball League 1979-81 23’ 9” (22’ 0” in the corners)
Southern Conference (NCAA) * 1980-84 22’ 0”
National Basketball Association 1994-97 22’ 0”
FIBA 1984-present 20’ 6 Ό”
Women’s National Basketball Association 2004- 20’ 6 Ό”
NCAA (Men & Women) 1986-present 19’ 9”
American Basketball League (women) 1996-99 19’ 9”
Women’s National Basketball Association 1997-2003 19’ 9”
Fordham vs. Columbia (Men’s College) ** 1945 Unknown

* The Southern Conference received permission to utilize a three-point shot in all conference games and a handful of non-conference games during the 1980-81 season, setting the distance at 22’ 0”. Other conferences followed suit at varying distances before the NCAA formally adopted the three-point shot for the 1986-87 season at 19’ 9”.

** Basketball Hall of Famer Howard Hobson was a big proponent of the three-pointer, and the first recorded use of the shot occurred during this February 7, 1945 game between Fordham and Columbia.
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