An NBA rim has a circumference of 30 inches with a diameter of 18 inches. The standard basketball has a circumference of 29.5 inches. The measurement from the NBA 3-point line to the hoop has an arc radius of 23 feet and 9 inches. Those are the measurements you’re dealing with when trying to hit a three ball in the NBA. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, especially if you have a hand in your face. Even the all-time greats have struggled with the three point shot.
The three point shot was first teased at the collegiate level before its introduction in the American Basketball Association in 1967. Since then, the game has developed over time but many greats could never quite master the shot. Granted, many tall players from the past had a low post game. It came with the territory, however, it's proven that just because they are big doesn't mean that can't shoot. Today, you have basketball players over seven feet who can make the three, for example, New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porziņģis.
So, we made sure not to leave out the greatest big men on this list. However, we exempted any players who never played with the three point rule. This includes greats like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
You may even appreciate Stephen Curry’s greatness a little more after this read.
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15 Bernard King
Bernard King was utilized as if he was an ancient warlord when on the court, but instead of a sword, he would use a basketball. His best season came in 1984-85 season when he led the league with an average of 32.9 points per game. King also made the All-NBA team four times, but one of the biggest reasons why he isn’t talked about more is his lack of playoff success.
You can call it bad luck, or maybe karma from a past life, but whatever the reason was, King was unable to shine on the biggest stage of the game, the NBA playoffs. What wasn’t bad luck was his three-point shooting skills, producing a measly 17.2% from beyond the arc and only hoisting up 134 threes for his career.
14 Alex English
Just like Bernard King, Alex English is arguably one of the most underrated players in the history of the game. Many think Carmelo Anthony is the greatest Denver Nugget ever to don the jersey, but some disagree, as English was more loyal to the franchise and holds a lot of the team records which includes; games (837), field goals (8,953), offensive rebounds (2,038), and points (21,645).
His career scoring average is 21.5 points per game and he earned All-NBA team honors three times. His weakness however was the long ball and maybe it did hurt his legacy. In his career, English made only 18 of 83 three-point field goals. It’s insane to think he led the league in scoring (28.4) as a small forward in 1982-83 and only attempted 12 three-point field goals that year.
13 James Worthy
The “Showtime” Lakers are known for their two best players, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but some might still remember the third most important member of the team, James Worthy. He was the 1987-88 Finals MVP, a three-time champion, and made the All-NBA team on two separate occasions. He still averaged 17.6 points per game for his career, even though Kareem and Magic were fed the ball more, which is pretty impressive.
One thing that wasn’t impressive was his dismal three-point shooting percentage. A 24.1% isn’t exactly eye-popping for someone who is a member of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history list. For his career, Worthy hit 117 out of 486 three-point field goals. To be fair, he did get better with time, but, by the end of his career, it was too late to convince people he could hit a three cleanly.
12 Adrian Dantley
Younger fans might be wondering who Adrian Dantley is, however, anyone who was a basketball fan in the 70s and 80s recalls his offensive capabilities. He was a two-time All-NBA member, won Rookie of the year in the 1976-77 season, and became a member of the Hall of Fame in 2008. He played most of his career for the Utah Jazz and led the league in scoring in 1980-81 (30.7) and 1983-84 (30.6).
His career scoring average stands at an impressive 24.3 points per game, making him one of the greatest scorers never known to millennials. With a 6'5" frame, and as more of a shooting guard than forward, it's incredible to realize how bad he was from behind the line. Dantley finished his career by making just seven three-point field goals out of 41. With a 17.1%, Dantley couldn’t hit a three point shot if the hoop was the circumference of an ocean.
11 Patrick Ewing
If Patrick Ewing just won a single championship during his time with the New York Knicks he would be more popular than Mickey Mantle, Walt Frazier, and Mark Messier combined. Sure, he started off slow in his career, but then a light bulb went off and he became an absolute beast on the court.
He gets lost in the shuffle of great centers during his career and we believe it was the last great era of true big men in the sport. However, he does deserve praise for his contributions to the league, despite the fact that Ewing shot a measly 15.2% beyond the arc during his career. That’s making only 19 out 125 attempts from the three-point line. Maybe if he did work on his shooting form, he could have shown John Starks how to shoot a three in game seven of the 1994 NBA Finals before Starks missed all 11 three-point attempts.
10 Charles Barkley
The Crisco Kid, The Round Mound of Rebound, and Sir Charles were just a few of the many nicknames given to Barkley over the years. The guy could flat out rebound and produce, even though he was a 6'6" undersized power forward. He averaged 22.1 points per game for his career and made a living feasting down in the paint, but one thing he could never get right, even though he tried, was the long ball.
He would attempt the three-point shot over a hundred times in a season for most of his career. Barkley finished with a 26.6%, only making 538 of 2,020 three-point attempts. Even though he was terrible or "turrible" (Barkley’s pronunciation of the word), he still was a league MVP and made the All-Time NBA team 11 times.
9 Karl Malone
“The Mailman” would deliver a lot during his tenure with the Utah Jazz, but the three ball definitely wasn’t in his bag of envelopes. Malone is a two-time league MVP, a 14-time All-NBA member, and is second on the list in All-Time scoring leaders with 36,928. When you score that many points, you think he would have needed the three ball to inflate those numbers, but that just isn’t the case.
Malone only made 85 of his 310 three-point field goal attempts during his career. That’s a 27.4%, which is horrendous. We think Malone learned his lesson on not shooting threes when you can’t because he only had one attempt in his last season. Maybe his three-point woes just have to do with his last name, like the other Malone on this list.
8 Moses Malone
He’s another All-Time great that started out in the ABA where the three ball was created. By the time he got to the NBA, Malone was destroying the competition in the paint. He won a championship with Philadelphia, was a league MVP three times, and a member of the All-NBA team eight times.
He finished his career with averages of 20.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. One thing Malone couldn’t get right was three-point field goals. Just because he was a center didn't didn't stop him from trying to be a sharpshooter. For his career, he attempted 83 three-point field goals but only made 8 of them. That’s a laughable 9.6%, one of the lowest in the history of the NBA for a Hall of Famer.
7 Julius Erving
Julius Erving was the greatest player to transition from the ABA to the NBA when the merger happened in 1976. For all those historian buffs out there, you know that the American Basketball Association had the long ball way before the NBA and it’s probably the greatest contribution the ABA has ever done for the sport.
With that said, Erving lit up both leagues with his scoring prowess, ending his career with a 24.2 point per game average if you count both organizations. Erving’s insane dunks hid his terrible three-point shooting record. He would make only 134 out of 449 3-point attempts in his career. With a 29.8%, it's much lower than average standard.
Even though he had a terrible three-point shot, it didn’t stop him from winning championships and becoming an MVP.
6 Hakeem Olajuwon
“The Dream” is the greatest athlete to play for the Houston Rockets, period. We'll go on the record right now and say he was more dominant than James Harden ever will be. The guy was a wizard when it came to low post positioning and scoring. He put the Rockets on his back and won back-to-back championships, was a league MVP, and was on the All-NBA team 12 times.
Scoring 21.8 points per game for his career, you would think Olajuwon could do no wrong, but he did have one part of his game that was terrible. You guessed it, he was a lousy three-point shooter. For his career, Olajuwon made 25 out of 124 three-point field goals - now that's a "bad dream." He did manage to hit 8-of-19 from beyond the arc in the 1993-94 season, but, other than that, his percentage was very low.
5 Dwyane Wade
Yes, you’re reading that right. You may be asking yourself if this is the same Dwyane Wade that has won three NBA championships and made the All-NBA team eight times? He’s the only one on the list who is still active, but we all know once he retires he will be considered an all-time great.
Even though his career average is an impressive 23.7 point per game, and he eclipsed over 30 points in a season in 2008-09, he still has one of the worst three-point shots in the league today. For his career, Wade has produced a 28.4% and made only 386 of 1,357 attempts from the 3-point line. That’s a lower percentage than Charles Oakley, need we say more? We didn’t think so.
4 Isiah Thomas
Many have never liked Isiah Thomas, even when he won two NBA titles during his time with the Detroit Pistons. You know it’s bad when you’re left of the famous Olympic “Dream Team” of ’92 because allegedly Michael Jordan despised you. It also doesn’t help that he was involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit and continued the destruction process of the New York Knicks when President of Basketball Operations.
Another thing critics of Isiah Thomas can harp on is his lousy three point shot. Today’s game has a plethora of three point specialists that also play the point. Steph Curry, Kemba Walker, and Damian Lillard are just some to mention. The stats of Thomas pale in comparison to this generation of Superstars as he only mustered to make only 398 of 1,373 three-point field goals for his career.
3 Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan’s career started in the era of big men dominating the lower paint, however, by the time of his retirement, a large portion of taller players could hit the three ball better than a baby hook shot. While the transformation of the big man changed under Duncan’s career, the five-time champion and two-time league MVP also attempted the long ball many times.
While his mid-range shot was on point every game, we can’t say the same when he went for a three. In his career, Duncan attempted to hit the three ball 168 times. He could only land 30 of those shots, producing a 17.9%. It was probably for the best that Duncan didn’t change up his game and stuck to what he knew best, which is being a low post threat.
2 Shaquille O'Neal
When you weigh over 300 pounds and can literally shatter the glass from a basketball hoop when dunking, you can pretty much intimidate anyone you want. For the most part, it’s a fact Shaq was an unstoppable force in the NBA. He earned the 1999-2000 league MVP award, was an integral part of four championships teams, and achieved Hall of Fame greatness.
The one little humbug to his game was shooting, especially shooting behind the 3-point line. In his remarkable career, Shaq only made one 3-point shot out of 22 attempts. That’s a 4.5%, one of the lowest ever in the league. Maybe it’s a good thing Shaq didn’t want to start the trend of big men hitting it from beyond the arc. Have you ever seen the way he shoots free throws? Ugly.
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
We have 38,387 reasons why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can be considered not only the greatest center ever in the history of the game, but the greatest basketball player ever to walk this earth. That number represent how many points Abdul-Jabbar put up in his career, which makes him the All-Time leading scorer in the sport.
We can also add six championship rings, six league MVP awards, and 15 All-NBA team honors to his body of work. It’s also pretty awesome that he went toe to toe against the iconic Bruce Lee in the film, The Game of Death. With that said, he only made one three-point field goal out of 18 attempts during his career. Kareem will never be known for the three but that's simply because of that sweet sky hook jump shot. Not one big man today can replicate it.
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