Though it is becoming a lost art, shooting the basketball has stood as one of the most important pillars of the game of basketball. The three point shot is a weapon that minimized the importance of raw athleticism in years past, and has spaced the floor to allow athletes the room to be the stars in recent years. Shooting the basketball is intrinsic to the game. Below are the best shooters to ever play in the National Basketball Association.
Paul Arizin - Arizin is thought to be the creator of the jump shot by many basketball historians. He averaged 22.8 points per game in his career and scored on 42.1% of his shots when players averaged 30% from the field or less. Arizin changed the face of basketball with the jump shot. Though his statistics do not compare with today’s players, Arizin is responsible for great shots like Michael Jordan’s fadeaway, and Ray Allen’s three point records. Without his contributions to the sport, basketball would not be the same game that we see today.
Calvin Murphy - Calvin Murphy is one of the most underrated basketball players in NBA history. He was undersized in a oversize man’s league when defenses could grab and hit offensive players. Murphy evened the tables with quickness and a great jump shot. Murphy averaged 17.9 points per game over the course of his career despite being 5’7″, and shot 48.2% from the field despite shooting mostly jumpers. Murphy also averaged a lethal 89.2% from the free throw line and held the record for consecutive free throws for 12 years until it was broken by Michael Williams in 1993.
Dirk Nowitzki - Nowitzki embodies the walking contradiction. He is a seven footer who plays on the perimeter, he is a perimeter player who rebounds (after all, he is a 7-footer), and he is a rebounder who is also a pure shooter. Dirk is a unique talent. He earned a distinction that only Larry Bird has achieved in the NBA. He became one of only two people to average twenty points per game while shooting 50% from the field, 40% from the the three point line, and 90% from the free throw line. Only five people have ever had seasons where they shot so efficiently, and there were only a total nine seasons where a player reached the 50/40/90 mark. Dirk’s career shooting percentages are only a few percentage points below 50/40/90, at 47.4%, 38.1%, and 87.7% respectively.
Glen Rice - In his best seasons, Glen Rice was completely unstoppable. One could argue that in the 1997 season he was more difficult to guard than even Michael Jordan. He scored 26.8 points per game on 47.7% shooting from the field, but he hit 47.0% of his threes too. Jordan scored 29.6 ppg. on 48.6 FG%, but he only shot 37.4% from three. Rice did not have the support on his team that Jordan had; there was no Scottie Pippen or Horace Grant. Rice had Kendall Gill and a deep, rangy jump shot. He could shoot the basketball easily out to about 27 feet (the three point line in the league is 23’7″ at the top of the key), and he regularly did it to open up defenses.
Mark Price - Mark Price was Steve Nash before Steve Nash entered the league. He was an extremely efficient shooter, a great ball handler, and adept at getting his teammates involved in the game. Price utilized his quickness and a low dribble to create shots for himself and for his teammates. He split double teams and shot mid-range jump shots. He orchestrated the Cleveland offense, and like quite a few players on this list was a member of the 50/40/90 club. If not for knee injuries, Mark Price may have had a Hall of Fame career. His career free throw and three point averages are 90.4% and 40.2%, and as a guard that took a lot of long jump shots, Price still shot 47.2% from the floor in his career.
Reggie Miller - Unorthodox is the only word that fully describes Reggie Miller. He had one of the funkiest releases that the highest level of basketball has ever seen, but also one of the deadliest. He was the NBA’s biggest antagonist, but he was also one of the league’s brightest stars. Reggie Miller scored without dominating the basketball and without a real post game. He worked without the basketball to get open shots off screens. Miller used changed of pace moves and precise cuts off screens to get backdoor passes for easy scores and to sprint out for three pointers. Miller never averaged less than 10 points per game in a season despite being a specialist. He always found a way to score even though he did not dominate the basketball. He averaged 19.1 ppg. on 47.1% FG% and 39.5% for his 3pt%. Plus, he was a 88.8% free throw shooter.
Chris Mullin - Mullin is one of the purest shooters that has ever played in the NBA. And, he scored most of his baskets in the same fashion that Miller did. Mullin used screens and constant motion to free himself for open shots. Though Mullin never reached the 50/40/90 mark, he is one of the few high scoring shooters that also shot over 50% from the field regularly. His career field goal percentage is 50.9% and he reached 50% FG% in 8 of his 16 seasons despite taking mostly set shots from long range. Chris Mullin’s release was so smooth and effortless that every shot he took appeared to be going into the basket. He averaged over 25 ppg. for 5 consecutive seasons shooting set shots while coming off of screens. Mullin did not dribble often. He did not create shots with the ball. He worked without the basketball and cashed in most of his opportunities once he got them.
Larry Bird - Larry Legend is one of the best players to ever play professional basketball and one of the most efficient shooters to ever grace a basketball court. He is one of two players that had multiple 50/40/90 season in the NBA. He is one of the first pure scorers to also be a pure shooter. Bird led the way for players like Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Mullin. However, Bird was just as good at posting as he was from behind the 3 point line. Larry Bird was one of the few men in NBA history who were almost impossible to stop from scoring. Bird averaged at least 19 points per game in every season of his NBA career. He never shot under 45.4% from the field or 83.6% from the free throw line.
Ray Allen - In the game of basketball, there are very few events that are comparable to watching Ray Allen taking open shots from three. His jumper is a work of art. He starts from his three points stance, knees bent with the ball locked in both hands. Then he explodes up from the floor making a perfect vertical line in the air. His elbow is tucked in and pointed towards the rim. The ball is resting in his finger tips above his head. And then, in a fluid, easy motion, Allen releases the basketball in a looming arc towards the rim. The ball spins violently backwards down the arc through the nets with a crisp swish as Ray lands gently back onto the ground. People say that his shot is a gift from God. Ray would tell them that his shot is the result of years of practice coupled with intense conditioning.
Steve Nash - Steve Nash is the king of the 50/40/90 club. He is only person in National Basketball Association history that has 4 seasons with 40% from three point range, 50% from the floor, and 90% from the free throw line. He is one of the most efficient players of his generation and one of the most decorated players in NBA history.
Stephen Curry - Steph Curry has reinvented basketball in the last 4 years. He is already historically the best shooter that has ever played in the National Basketball Association, and he is competing with only himself from long range. He holds the record for most three pointers in a season, and has broken that record twice in consecutive years. He won two NBA MVP’s despite giving up size and strength to almost anyone he plays against, and owns the only unanimous MVP award in league history. He shoots the basketball as well off the dribble as most premier shooters can when set. And, he can make shots consistently from all the way out to 30-35 feet on the basketball court. But, Curry’s biggest contribution to basketball is making shooting sexy again. He has brought attention and excitement to skilled players in a sport where pure athletes have been more popular for decades.
Rick Barry - Barry is the only player to lead the NCAA, the ABA, and the NBA in scoring. He did it with a precise jump shot and under-handed free throws.
Ricky Pierce - He did not miss mid-range jumpers.
Dale Ellis - The self-proclaimed best shooter in the history of the NBA never missed an open three pointer. He retired as the all-time leader in 3-pointers made.
Drazen Petrovic - He looked like a machine when he shot the basketball. Drazen had one of the deadliest and most technically sound jumpers in NBA history. His career was shortened by an untimely death.