The WNBA and the NBA share a common objective, that is, promoting the exciting sport of basketball. And while the NBA has been closing in on that objective compared with the WNBA from all conceivable metrics, there is no doubt that the skill levels in both leagues are up there in their respective categories. However, when it comes to the 3-point line, there’s a subtle but significant difference between the two leagues, which leads to the question: Is the WNBA 3-point line the same as the NBA?
As basketball fans, it’s important to know the minute differences between the leagues, including the court dimensions and how they impact the overall gameplay in the WNBA and the NBA.
How Far is the 3-Point Line in the WNBA?
While the dimensions of the basketball court are generally similar between the two leagues, the distance of the 3-point line differs.
The WNBA 3-point line distance is slightly closer to the basket than the NBA. The WNBA 3-point line is set at 22 feet and 1.75 inches (6.75 meters) from the center of the basket, whereas the NBA 3-point line is at a distance of 23 feet and nine inches (7.24 meters) at its farthest point. That said, the three-point line in FIBA competitions was even a shorter path to the basket at only 22.15 feet.
At the corners, the WNBA and the NBA 3-point line distance is both 22 feet.
What is WNBA Court Dimensions?
The WNBA generally plays in a basketball court 94 feet long and 54 feet wide. That’s about the same as any other level of competition, except in FIBA-sanctioned games such as the FIBA World Cup and the Olympics.
Another glaring difference between a WNBA court is its lack of a restricted area, like college basketball. The restricted area is a designated area on the court typically marked as a semi-circle shape extending from the baseline under the basket. This area has specific rules governing player movement and defensive positioning, such as determining charging calls.
What is NBA Court Dimensions?
An NBA court is precisely just as big as a WNBA court– 94 inches long and 54 feet wide. As noted, some of the differences between an NBA and WNBA court are the presence of the restricted zone and the longer three-point line distance in the NBA. Besides that, you couldn’t determine the difference between the two.
Here are other things you may find in an NBA court (which may also be present in a WNBA court, except the restricted arc):
- The half-court line, the middle line that divides the basketball court in half, has a circle where jump balls are held at the beginning of the game. The radius of the circle is six feet and, more often than not, sports the home team’s vivid logo.
- The key, sometimes referred to as the paint, is 16 feet wide and 19 feet from the free-throw line to the baseline. A semi-circle with a radius of six feet is drawn at the free throw line extended. Some courts outline the other half of the circle with a dotted line to establish a distinct boundary if any jump balls are made in the said location.
- The restricted area measures four feet from any direction directly below the basket. As mentioned, a defender with a foot inside this arc cannot draw a charging foul. On the contrary, he may even be called for a blocking foul.
- The three-point arc (sometimes called the three-point line) is not a perfect arc. It is so because if it’s marked in a perfect circle, the lines will go out of the playing court dimensions. Usually, the three-point line runs straight from the baseline further out to 16 feet and nine inches. After that, the line curves at the top of the key.
Why is WNBA 3-Point Line Shorter Than NBA 3-Point Line?
WNBA players are highly-skilled in their own right, but the cold, hard truth is that, they are not as physically gifted as their male counterparts. Men naturally have more upper body strength than women, and shorter three-point distance should make up for that difference. That is one of the biggest reasons the WNBA 3-point line distance is shorter by more than a foot.
On this same line of thought, the physical difference between male and female professional basketball players lies way more than strength. They also differ in wingspan and handspan, which plays a factor in why the WNBA uses a slightly smaller and lighter ball than the NBA. Again, this accounts for the difference in hand sizes, which directly affects ball handling and control.
Another factor is scoring balance. Since the WNBA lacks the highlight reel, And-1 plays customary in the NBA, making the three-point line shorter provides a much-needed scoring boost. Again, nobody should expect the women to beat the men overall in shooting percentages, but the shorter three-point line is much more makeable.
To put this in perspective, here’s a quick comparison of the best three-point shooting team in the NBA and WNBA in the 2022-23 season, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Las Vegas Aces. The Sixers shot 38.7% from 3 on 32.6 attempts a game. The Aces shot a tad higher at 38.8% on 24 attempts. If the WNBA made the three-point line longer, the accuracy could go down a few percentage points and kill any basketball excitement left.
Of course, there are apparent pros and cons of the WNBA’s shorter 3-point line. Obviously, the league decided the pros outweighed the cons, so they shortened the three-point line.
How Does the WNBA 3-point Contest Work?
Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty made history in the WNBA 3-Point Contest in July 2023 by making a near-impossible 25 out of 27 shots, totaling 37 out of a possible 40 points.
That’s crazy! Steph Curry, considered the best shooter of all-time, “only” scored 31 points in the three-point contest one time. The previous WNBA record was in 2022 when Allie Quigley of the Chicago Sky tallied 30.
How does the WNBA 3-point contest work? It’s practically the same as any three-point contest, particularly in the NBA. The rule of thumb is to make as many shots as possible. The participants do this by shooting five attempts in five locations, with one rack consisting of money balls worth two points each.
But here’s the rub: The WNBA added something that the others didn’t. They introduced two more balls in the “deeper” range in the left and right wings worth three points each when converted. In the 2023 contest, Ionescu made all the balls in the special racks, only missing the first shot (first rack) and the last shot of the fourth rack.
Wrapping Things Up: Is the WNBA 3-Point Line the Same as the NBA?
The three-pointer is the great equalizer and probably the best basketball innovation that actually contributed to the game’s excitement. It is a staple of many modern offenses predicated on ball movement and spacing. Even centers and power forwards nowadays are expected to provide spacing through outside shooting, whether in the NBA or WNBA.
With the emphasis on three-point shooting in both leagues, one question arises: “Is the WNBA 3 point line the same as the NBA?” The answer is no, and primarily for physical reasons. The WNBA’s three-point line is 22 feet and 1.75 inches from its farthest point, while the NBA peaks at 23 feet and nine inches. The shorter WNBA 3 point line distance contributed to better scoring distribution, and hopefully, it’s just going to improve from here on out.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.