Three is more than two.
That simple mathematical fact, which had been largely overlooked for decades, has completely changed the National Basketball Association. Today’s game is nothing but guys shooting from deep. There’s no more to it than that.
So much of the chatter surrounding the NBA in 2022 is focused on the ubiquity of the three-pointer. While it’s true that over the course of a single player’s career (LeBron), the three-ball went from a semi-rare weapon deployed largely by specialists only in specific situations to more often than not becoming the ideal shot for nearly every team, today’s game is about so much more than launching treys.
The past seven years have seen more growth and evolution than the previous fifty (since the invention of the shot clock in 1954), and so many pundits and fans are still trying to catch up and make sense of it all. Fortunately, Mike Prada has put together a near-perfect primer on the modern game for all of us.
I’ve reviewed quite a number of books on the NBA over the past few years – some good, some not as much – but Spaced Out: How the NBA’s Three-Point Revolution Changed Everything You Thought You Knew About Basketball is easily the best of them. In fact, it is one of the best, smartest basketball books I’ve ever read.
It analyzes every aspect of the current game, while also delving into the league’s history and how we slowly – then very rapidly – came to this point. It’s not just about shooting from deep, but what the downstream effects of the threat of someone shooting from deep has created, including teams having so much more space in which to operate, the blurring of positions, pick-and-roll offense, zone defense, dribbling, footwork, enhanced passing, and shooting mechanics, not to mention the psychological aspect of high-volume shooting and instantaneous decision-making.
It is also not bogged down with final scores or game recaps or little nuggets of access – all habits of authors who at one time or another were reporters and can’t shake that way of writing. Prada, by contrast, manages to simultaneously take a big picture view of the game’s evolution while at the same time focusing on specific details that, when added together, create that big picture like a mosaic painting.
Of all the things that Spaced Out accomplishes, its greatest feat may be the perfect balance it strikes between speaking to uber-nerd NBA diehards that break down game film in their spare time and the casual fans that only know the names of stars, can’t differentiate the different types of screens, and don’t pay attention until Christmas Day at the earliest.
There is focus on Allen Iverson’s (and Tim Hardaway’s) crossover, James Harden’s footwork, and LeBron James’s passing, but also on rule changes, schematic team defense, and the Houston Rockets – Golden State Warriors “holy war” over the best approach to modern offense. There are X-and-O diagrams that any coach can appreciate but also breakout boxes with definitions of shorthand terms that only insiders and superfans would know as well as funny editorial asides that aren’t always about basketball (including footnotes about The Last Jedi and The Matrix sequels).
Spaced Out also breaks down how shooting more threes was not only about scoring more points; it also had the added dual benefit of creating defensive chaos as well as expanding the amount of real estate on which the game was played, which ironically then opened up driving lanes.
So many former players and older fans decry the way the game is played now, arguing it was purer in previous years. Prada posits that, instead of offenses having it too easy today, perhaps defenses had it too easy for decades and the current wave is finally correcting an imbalance.
In other words, “Perhaps the modern era is less a shooting golden age and more an escape from a decades-long dark age.”
Welcome to the Enlightenment.
I was provided a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Spaced Out is available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold.
Christopher Pierznik is the worst-selling author of nine books. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Connect on Facebook or get in touch at CPierznik99@gmail.com.