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Chris Ford

For much of the past decade, the three-point shot has been all the rage in the NBA as players such as Steph Curry and James Harden have lit up the scoreboard on a nightly basis. Clearly, we are in the Age of the Three-Point Shot. Of course, it wasn't always this way. There was a time when the three-point line wasn't even on the NBA's radar and when it was first implemented, it was on a one-year trial. So who was the first man to make a three-pointer in the NBA? Chris Ford of the Boston Celtics.

The Early Years

Chris Ford was born on January 11, 1949 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After starring at Holy Spirit High School and averaging a school record 33 points per game as a senior, he accepted a scholarship to Villanova.

As a sophomore in 1970, he averaged 16.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as Villanova made it all the way to the NCAA's regional semifinal, losing to St. Bonaventure. As a junior, the Wildcats made it to the NCAA Final, losing to the mighty UCLA Bruins 68-62.

As a senior in 1972, he earned the Robert V. Geasey Trohpy as the best collegiate player in the Philadelphia area. He was drafted 17th overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 1972 NBA Draft.


While it took him a while to become a full-time starter, Chris Ford played every game in a season four times in six years with Detroit. By 1976, he was a full-time starter, averaging 12. 3 points and 4.1 assists that year. Two years later, he was traded to Boston.

In his first season as a Celtic, he averaged 15.6 points per game in 1978-1979. Meanwhile, the NBA was discussing the possibility of giving the three-pointer a chance. Ultimately, they decided to give it a shot, a one-year trial run the following year.

The Moment

It was a new day in Boston. Larry Bird, the magnificent forward that the team had drafted two years earlier was finally done with college and looked ready to lead the team to victory.But this wasn't the only historic event that the people of Boston would witness in the NBA's opening night of 1979-1980.

The moment happened so simply. Chris Ford collected the assist, bent his knees, and launched the NBA's first ever three-pointer over the outreached arms of Robert Reid. He ended the night with 17 points, two assists, three rebounds and one three-pointer. Across the sidelines, the Rockets' Rick berry made the only other three-pointer in Houston's 114-106 loss.

Chris Ford would finish the season third in the NBA for trey's made, his 70 behind only Brian Taylor (Clippers, 90) and Rick Barry (Rockets, 73).

Later Career

After his historic moment, Chris Ford's playing career ended fairly quickly. The Celtics won the Finals the year after his first made trey and he played well, averaging 10.5 points per game in the 1981 NBA Finals.

After retiring in 1983, he stayed in Boston as an assistant coach. By the time he became the Celtics' head coach in 1990, he had won two more rings with the organization. Things went smoothly at first, as the Celtics made it to the second round of the playoffs in his first two years at the helm. But, things eventually tapered off and the Celtics fell back to Earth. Chris Ford would never again experience so that level of success as a head coach.

He stayed in Boston until his firing in 1995. He was quickly hired by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1996, staying they through 1998. After his firing, he went to the Clippers in 1998 but was fired midway through the following year. After a stint at Brandeis University from 2001 through 2003, he returned to the NBA in 2002 as a 76ers assistant. He even served as an interim head coach the next year, but only went 12-18.

Chris Ford died on January 17, 2023 in Philadelphia.

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