Celtic Might Have Hit NBA's First 3-Pointer

Chris Ford was credited because his game started first
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 18, 2023 7:05 PM CST
Celtic Might Have Hit NBA's First 3-Pointer
Boston Celtics head coach Chris Ford watches a game against the Seattle SuperSonics in Seattle in 1994.   (AP Photo/File)

Chris Ford, a member of the Boston Celtics' 1981 championship team, a longtime NBA coach, and the player credited with scoring the league's first three-point basket, has died, his family announced Wednesday. He was 74. No official cause of death was given, per the AP, but the Press of Atlantic City reported that Ford died in Philadelphia after suffering a heart attack earlier this month. "As a player and coach, Chris Ford's career spanned over a decade of Celtics basketball, and he made his mark every step of the way," the Celtics said in a statement.

Ford was voted the team's MVP in his first season with Boston. He retired following the 1981-82 season and was an assistant coach for the Celtics for seven seasons, helping coach former teammates Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish to two titles in 1984 and 1986 while serving under head coach KC Jones. He is one of four former Celtics to have won championships as both a player and coach, joining Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, and Jones. His groundbreaking shot was in a game that became historic for a couple of reasons. On Oct. 12, 1979—opening night of the first season under the new rule—Ford made his team's only three-pointer in Boston's 114–106 victory over the Houston Rockets, launching a new era in the NBA.

With 3 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Ford took a pass behind the arc and shot over Robert Reid. Ford was credited with the milestone, but not everyone saw it that way, per the New York Times. Kevin Grevey of the Washington Bullets thought he'd made the first one, which was what the Baltimore Evening Sun reported. "I think the first time I touched the ball I caught it in the corner and toed behind the line, shot it and made it," Grevey said years later. Willie Smith, Paul Westphal, and Don Buse each hit at least one three-pointer that night for their teams. It's not clear what time each shot was taken, so the NBA decided Ford had the first basket because his game started 35 minutes before Grevey's. That Celtics game was remembered for another debut, as well: It was Larry Bird's first NBA appearance. He had 14 points, per Basketball Reference. (Read more obituary stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.