Orlando Magic Shooting Month: Dennis Scott torches the shortened 3-point line

23 Dec 1996: Forward Dennis Scott of the Orlando Magic stands on the court during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida. The Magic won the game 89-84. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport
23 Dec 1996: Forward Dennis Scott of the Orlando Magic stands on the court during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida. The Magic won the game 89-84. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport /

Changes come and go in sports causing the rule changes, play styles, and players from the previous era to get lost in history.

For the NBA, that fact is no different. Current fans can look back as recently as the 1990s to find some things that have been forgotten.

After all, it was a different time where hand-checking was allowed, consistent low-post play dominated and fighting was used to show how tough you were.

But during that time, as some of those aspects faded out of the game, players were asked to adjust to an ever-changing sport.

One of the things they were required to adapt to, which is often forgotten by many, was the shortened three-point line.

As the NBA worked to increase scoring, they opted to shorten their new toy in the 3-point line. Orlando Magic forward Dennis Scott dominated the decision.

Today, with every team raining down threes at a higher clip than any team in the 1990s, it is unfathomable to think of the NBA doing this now. But in 1994 the NBA decided to move the three-point line to 22 feet away from the basket as opposed to 23-feet-9-inches away.

For three seasons, that length would be the official distance until the NBA decided to move back to the original in 1997 as 3-point shooting spiked for the first time since the line’s implementation in 1980.

And shooters such as the Orlando Magic’s Dennis Scott had plenty of fun taking advantage of the shortened long ball as the 3-point line started getting used as a weapon really for the first time and became integrated into the NBA game.

In fact, Scott, also known as 3-D, was the face of the shortened three-point line during this time.

Having already been dominant from beyond the arc, shooting 38.6-percent in his first four years in the league, Scott took the next step right into the record books.

In the 1996 season, the second year of the shortened three, he made a league record of 267 threes on the season and broke the record for threes made in a game with 11.

That fateful night against the Atlanta Hawks was something of legend. That record surprisingly stood for seven years until Kobe Bryant broke the record with 12 in 2003, hitting nine straight against the Seattle Supersonics. Donyell Marshall would tie that record a few years later and Stephen Curry would claim the single-game record with 13 in 2016 before Klay Thompson set the current mark with 14 in a game from 2018.

Ten threes in a game should be considered an impressive NBA accomplishment, regardless of where the line was.

What Scott did that night and those seasons were truly 3-point dominance. He was a menace around the league and the perfect complement to Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway. Defenses truly had to pick their poison.

The other leaders in three-point shooting during that three-year span did not even come close. John Starks led the league in 1995 with 217 and Reggie Miller led the league in 1997 with 229.

Scott’s single-season three-point mark would stand for an entire decade before Ray Allen broke it in 2006. And it still stands as the franchise record for the Magic with the next closest more than 40 threes away.

Most would note that this was all done from a shortened 3-point line. But Scott would often still set up from the normal 3-point line, creating floor-warping space in a league unfamiliar with the concept.

Even so, Scott was a career 39.7-percent 3-point shooter, including shooting 40.3-percent from deep in seven seasons with the Magic. He shot better than 40 percent from three on three occasions — 1993, 1995 and 1996.

Scott quite simply was the definition of a lethal shooter throughout the 1990s.

Aside from his record-breaking pace, that 1996 season proved to be his overall best as a pro. He averaged 17.5 points per game to pick up the slack with O’Neal’s early season injury and scored the highest total points in a season for his career with 1,431. He averaged career highs in minutes with 37 minutes per game too.

He shot a career-high 44.0-percent from the field while shooting 628 threes on the year (also a career-high).

He was also just a one-tenth of a percentage point worse than his career-high shooting percentage from three (42.6-percent) which he set during the first year of the shortened three point line.

He even secured a Player of the Week Award in April of that season, as well as 27 All-NBA votes.

Scott certainly took advantage of the league making his shooting a bit easier.

That 1996 campaign was certainly Scott’s peak, but that three-year stretch as a whole should be mentioned.

In Scott’s first four years in the NBA, he hit 417 threes. In the first two years of the shortened three-point line, he doubled that career total of made three-pointers with exactly 417.

Of the 1,214 threes made in his career, he made 564 threes during that timeframe which is about 46.4-percent of his career total. He feasted on that shortened line and the NBA just opened the door for Scott to become an even greater weapon, previewing the kind of marksman that have become normal now that the 3-point line is a fully integrated tool for teams.

Scott was probably the best long-range shooter during those mid-90s seasons. Sadly he lost in the final round of the 1996 3-point contest to Tim Legler. But his performance during the game left a memorable mark.

During that three-year stretch, the Magic also had a lot of success as they made the playoffs every season and won their division twice. In 1995, the Orlando Magic beat a Chicago Bulls team with Michael Jordan on their way to their first NBA Finals in franchise history. In 1996 they made it all the back to the Conference Finals but were bounced by the Bulls And in 1997 they still made the playoffs after losing Shaquille O’Neal to free agency the summer prior.

Through those playoff appearances, he made 85 threes and shot 37-percent from beyond the arc.

And his best series came in the 1996 first-round matchup against the Detroit Pistons where he shot 58 percent from three and averaged 18 points per game in that three-game series sweep.

Scott was an integral part of the early days of the franchise and is still recognized as one of the faces of the Magic from the 1990s. He is likely to be the next player for the team to get the call to the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. If not, he should come up soon.

Being on the first Finals team and the first bit of success the Magic had put him in a place of his own.

Scott also ended his career as one of the most accomplished shooters in NBA history shooting 40 percent from three for his career. He finished within the top 15 in three-point field goal percentage five times in his career.

He is also the Magic’s all-time leader in three-pointers made with 981. The next closest is Nick Anderson with 900.

When you think of Magic shooters, one of the names you think of, if not the first name, should be Dennis Scott.

Next. In the beginning, the 3-point line wasn't a weapon. dark

With time, his game ages like fine wine and if he were to play today, he would be better than he was back in the day. He was truly ahead of his time and the league’s experiment shortening the 3-point line only emphasized what a weapon 3-point shooting would become.