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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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