It's hard to imagine the league without it, but 25 years ago the NBA decided to draw the line. And they decided to draw that line 22 feet (6.71 meters) from the hoop on the sidelines and 23 feet, 9 inches (7.24 meters) from the hoop at the top of the key.

Yes, we're talking about the three-point shot, which revolutionized the NBA game. While the shot had its genesis in the old, forgotten American Basketball League (1961-63) and was a permanent part of the American Basketball Association (1967-1976), the NBA three-pointer made its debut during the 1979-1980 season, and then, only "under a trial basis during the regular season."

The new shot was such a hit that the NBA adopted the 3-pointer permanently for the 1980-81 season, and with the exception of the 1994-95 and 1995-96 season when the 3-point line was a uniform 22 feet from the hoop, the 3-point line hasn't moved from where it debuted 25 seasons ago.

(Note: FIBA instituted the three-point shot at a distance of 20 feet, 6 inches (6.25 meters) in the international game in 1984.)

Sean Elliott sinks the Blazers.
Andrew D. Bernstein
NBAE/Getty Images
So, on this silver anniversary, we would like to say happy birthday to the NBA three-pointer by listing the top 10 three-point shots or performances in NBA history.

10. Chris Ford, Oct. 12, 1979

Ford is the Neil Armstrong of NBA three-point shooters. Ford, who last year was the interim coach of the Sixers, took one giant step back behind the three-point line for the NBA when he hit the first three-pointer in league history as the Celtics went on to defeat the Rockets 114-108 in the season opener. Ford was second in the league in three-point percentage at .427. His rookie teammate, Larry Bird, was third with a .406 clip.

9. Trent Tucker, Jan. 15, 1990

With the score tied at 106-106 with 0.1 of a second remaining in the game, the Knicks' Trent Tucker gathered an inbounds pass, turned, fired and hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Bulls. The basket counted and the Knicks ran away with a 109-106 win. The Bulls couldn't believe that Tucker could do all of that in one-tenth of a second. Neither did the NBA. That's why the NBA instituted a rule for the 1990-91 season that states: "00.3 is needed on the clock to catch the ball and shoot it into the basket whether the shot is made or not."
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8. Rex Chapman, May 1, 1997

While this three-pointer didn't give Chapman's Suns a win (it just sent Game 4 of the Western Conference first round playoff game against the Sonics into overtime), we include this shot because of the degree of difficulty. Chapman, chasing down an inbounds pass that was too long, corralled it on the opposite side of the floor, running away from the hoop, turned and fired a 27-footer in one motion. Swish. Seattle, however, would go on to win the game in overtime and eventually, the series.
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7. Larry Johnson, June 5, 1999

Down 91-88 with 5.7 seconds left in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, the Knicks needed a three to tie and a miracle to win. They got both thanks to Larry Johnson. Johnson took an inbounds pass in front of the Pacers bench at Madison Square Garden, pump-faked Antonio Davis into the air. With Davis brushing by him, making contact, Johnson launched a three. It was good, and as longtime Knicks announcer Marv Albert would say, "And! The! Foul!" Johnson converted the free throw as the Knicks went on to win 92-91 and would go on to defeat the Pacers in six games.
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Larry Bird makes good on his prediction.
Walter Iooss Jr.
NBAE/Getty Images
6. Sean Elliott, May 31, 1999

Down 85-83 to the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 of the 1999 Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs looked as if the series would head to Portland tied at one game apiece. That's when Sean Elliott stepped in, without stepping out of bounds. Catching a pass on the sidelines, Elliott walked the tight rope along the sidelines, turned and fired over the long arm of an onrushing Rasheed Wallace. Good. The Spurs, who had never led and were down as many as 18 points, won the game 86-85 and would go to sweep the series.
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5. Larry Bird, Feb 6, 1988

The NBA introduced the Three-Point Shootout competition during the 1986 All-Star Weekend and for the first two years of the competition, it was no contest. By winning the first two contests, Larry Bird proved himself to be the best long-distance shooter in the league. Out to three-peat, Bird asked before the contest: "Who's finishing second?" But Bird faced considerable competition from Seattle's Dale Ellis, who established a final-round score of 15. Needing to hit his last three-pointer to win, Bird let fly the money ball. With the ball halfway to the hoop, Bird raised his index finger and walked away, still the king.
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4. Michael Jordan, June 3, 1992

Even though he was considered the best player in the game, he wasn't known for his three-point shooting, hitting just 27 of 100 treys in the 1991-92 regular season. But in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals, Jordan amazed even himself by hitting six three-pointers in the first half. After three-pointer No. 6, Jordan turned to the American broadcast team and shrugged his shoulders as if to suggest, "Who knew?" With that performance, we learned Jordan could truly do it all.
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3. Reggie Miller, May 7, 1995

If a three-pointer can be a knockout punch, then Miller delivered two roundhouses against the Knicks in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Miller, in the span of 8.9 seconds, scored eight points to help the Pacers to a 107-105 win. In that span, Miller drained a three, stole an inbounds pass and then immediately drained another three-pointer before hitting the game-winning free throws. The Pacers would go on to win the series in seven games.
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John Paxson hits the biggest three-pointer ever.
Andrew D. Bernstein
NBAE/Getty Images
2. Robert Horry, May 26, 2002

Down 99-97 with 11 seconds left in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, and in danger of heading back to Sacramento down three games to one, the Lakers needed someone -- anyone -- to rescue them. Enter Big Shot Rob. After Kobe Bryant missed a shot, Kings center Vlade Divac batted the ball away from the hoop with time running out. But the ball found Horry at the three-point line and in one fluid motion he picked it up and let fly. Swish. Lakers win 100-99, tying the series at 2-2. The Lakers would go onto win the West and their third NBA title in as many years.
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1. John Paxson, June 20, 1993

Why is this the greatest three-pointer in our unscientific survey of greatest NBA three-pointers? Because it's the only three-pointer ever to seal the deal. It's the only three to put the capper on a title. For every Suns fan, this three plays out in slow motion. There's the Bulls' Horace Grant triple-teamed under the basket. Grant then turns and finds Paxson all alone on the left wing behind the three-point line. Paxson steadies, aims and fires. Appropriately, Paxson's three-pointer, which gave the Bulls a 99-98 win over the Phoenix Suns, capped the Bulls' third consecutive NBA title.
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