By William Bixby
Karl Malone – Karl Malone’s legacy in the NBA was paved under the basket, however he made a living shooting 12-15 footers in the twilight of his career. He started his career as a pure post, only scoring from 7 feet in, but developed his mid-range jump shot over the course of his twenty year career. That jumper took him to two NBA Finals and to number two on the all-time total points list.
David Robinson – David Robinson dominated most of his competition for ten solid years because of his ability to hit the 17 footer at 7 ft. tall. He had size, speed, and power, but the consistent jump shot from the top of the key made him one of the best centers to ever play the game of basketball.
Larry Bird – Larry Bird is thought of as primarily a long range shooter but his scoring came mostly from mid-range shots. He was one of deadliest deep shooters in the game and he destroyed teams with the three pointer, however he did not miss from 15 ft. and in. His size (6’9″) and soft shooting touch allowed him to score at will over players that were thought to be superior to him athletically. Bird made step-back jumpers vogue in the 80′s and it is now a constant in today’s game.
Dominique Wilkins – The Human Highlight Film is thought of as just an insanely gifted athlete who dunked his way to over 25,000 points, however Dominique Wilkins scored half of his points on mid-range jump shots. He did not have deep range on his shot, but his athleticism helped him get clean looks and ‘Nique was deadly from the free throw line in. He could consistently make shots from 16 feet away from the basket and could score with anyone in the game.
Glenn Robinson – Glenn Robinson was not extremely explosive, but he had long arms and could consistently knock down 20 footers. His mid-range jump shot was so effective that his first step seemed much quicker than it actually was. Robinson won Rookie of the Year, shooting long jumpers over defenders and averaged 20+points in his first season as a pro. He finished his career as a multiple time All-Star.
Hakeem Olajuwon – Hakeem Olajuwon is the most skilled post to have ever played in the NBA. He was powerful, quick, and graceful on the court. His footwork under the basket was unparalleled, but his game out on the floor is what made him completely unstoppable. Over half of Olajuwon’s field goal attempts were short jumpers. He made more eight footers in his career than most forwards. And, his Dream Shake where he shot a fade-away that led him falling out of bounds was one of most unstoppable shots in NBA history.
Kobe Bryant – When Kobe started his career, he was fairly easy to slow by good defenders because he either shot a three or drove all the way to the rim. In his third year, he discovered the mid-range jump stop and the rest is NBA history. Kobe has an assortment of flip shots, half hooks, and fade-aways in his arsenal, but his most lethal weapon is his pull-up jump shot.
Ricky Pierce – Ricky Pierce made a career out of playing fundamental basketball. He was a good athlete, but not especially fast or explosive. However, he learned how to find open spots in defenses and could shoot the basketball from 20 feet without missing. Pierce was one of the few players in NBA history to score 20 points a game in a season without scoring a significant amount of points at the rim or behind the three point line. He was a shooter, but did not shoot threes.
Bernard King – Bernard King was one of the explosive scorers in the eighties. He took a smooth, high release and a quick first step to 19,665 points in the NBA. Before he tore up his knees, King was on his way to one of the most storied careers in NBA history. He could not be contained by defenders. His footwork was exceptional and he shot a turnaround jumper that could not be guarded. To visualize Bernard King in his prime, imagine the skill set and scoring prowess of Carmelo Anthony with longer arms and twice the explosiveness.
Michael Jordan – Jordan entered the league as a rare athletic guard that could finish at the rim over big men. He was extremely naturally gifted, skilled, and rebounded well, but was not celebrated for shooting acumen. As his career progressed though, Jordan became one of the best mid-range shooters of all-time. He developed his shooting touch from the floor through hard work and determination. Jordan shot over 50% in his career before his second comeback from retirement (with the Washington Wizards) and finished his career with a field goal average of 49.7%. In fact, Jordan hit 51.5% on eight to fifteen foot shots in his career. He was deadly from anywhere within the three point arc. He patented the fade-away shot that so many current pros use in their games. Michael Jordan is the best mid-range shooter that ever lived.