In today’s NBA, teams are all about shooting from the perimeter and games are decided by how they shoot from the three-point line.
But where did this all begin?
The three-point line’s first appearance in a professional league was in 1961 when the American Basketball League (ABL) decided to give it a shot. The ABL disbanded quickly and the idea only last a year and a half.
Ever since 1946, which is when the NBA began, they hardly thought of adding a three-point line in the league.
However, once the ABA arrived in 1967, they had all kinds of fun bells and whistles, one of those being the three-point line. After merging with the ABA in 1976, the NBA finally adopted the three-point line in 1979. Coincidentally, 1979 was Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s rookie season. Johnson was not really known for his shooting at the time, as he shot a low 22.6% from the three-point line in his rookie season and 30.3% for his entire career. Larry Bird was a different story though. Bird shot 40.6% from three in his rookie season and 37.6% for his career.
This poses the question, “Who is the best three-point shooter of all time?”
The NBA has witnessed a range of shooters from good to bad. Shaquille O’Neal is not known for his amazing jump shot…well…because he made one three-pointer in his career. Yes, Shaq is 1-for-22 from deep in his days of playing. Of course, Shaq is one of the most dominant centers of all time and we should not judge his play based on his perimeter game, but it is comical to mention his one three-pointer that banked in at the buzzer.
Let’s take a serious look at some seriously great NBA three-point snipers. From past players such as Reggie Miller to the current greats like Stephen Curry, the NBA and the fans have witnessed all time great shooters.
But the question remains: who is the best?
15. Tim Legler
Tim Legler was born on December 26th, 1966 and if coaches did not get enough for Christmas, Legler gave them the gift of his shooting. Tim Legler went to college at La Salle University and made his NBA debut in 1990 for the Phoenix Suns. Legler did not receive a lot of playing time, which is why he is so low on the list, but when he got it, he showed everyone watching just how good his shooting was. In his career, Legler averaged around 17 minutes per game. Legler had back-to-back seasons when he shot 52% from beyond the arc. There is no denying Legler’s three-point shooting ability, as he averaged an outstanding 43% from deep in his career and it’s just a shame he did not get more playing time.
14. Mike Miller
Mike Miller has made his name in the NBA by being a great three-point shooter. In his rookie season, Miller shot over 40% from the perimeter. To be a great shooter, you need to be able to bounce back from a bad string of shooting performances. Mike Miller shot a pedestrian 34% in 49 games with the Orlando Magic in 2002-03, but after being moved to Memphis mid-season, Miller shot a terrific 50% in the next 16 games. Mike Miller is 18th all-time in three-point shooting percentage at 40.9% and 19th all-time in three-pointers made with 1,543. His consistency and resiliency as a shooter is the reason he is one of the pure best shooters in the NBA.
13. Chauncey Billups
Drafted 3rd overall by the Boston Celtics, Chauncey Billups is an easy pick for this list. When he came into the league, Billups was an average three-point shooter. He shot 32.9% from the perimeter in his 1997-1998 rookie season and it wasn’t until the 2005-2006 season that Billups reached his career-high in three-point percentage at 43.3%. Chauncey Billups is known for his clutch shooting because, afterall, his nickname is “Mr. Big Shot.” His late-game three-point shooting and the fact that he’s seventh all-time in threes made with 1,830 earn him a spot on this list.
12. Rashard Lewis
There is something to be said about a 6’10 small forward/power forward that ranks 8th all-time in three-pointers made. Yes, Lewis has played a lot of seasons and has taken a lot of threes, but that is what makes him so great. He’s made nearly 39% of his three-pointers in his career. At one point, in two seasons with the Magic, he shot over 1,100 threes and made 446 of them. For guy of his size to make so many three-pointers and maintain a great shooting percentage is remarkable and earns him a spot among the greatest three-point shooters.
11. Dražen Petrović
“Who?” That might be the first question that pops up in the mind of younger readers. Dražen Petrović only had a five-year career in the NBA, playing with the New Jersey Nets and Portland Trailblazers, but he made those years count. Most people do not know this, but he is a NBA Hall of Famer and he got there by shooting the lights out. Dražen Petrović is third in league history in three-point percentage at 43.7%. His European basketball history and NBA success earned him a spot in basketball’s Hall of Fame in 2002. In European competition, Petrović averaged 33.8 points per game and in his last two NBA seasons, he averaged 21.4 points per game. He sadly died in 1993 due to a traffic accident. He will be always be remembered for his amazing shooting ability and with his tragic death at the young age of 28, he could have competed for the title of best shooter of all time.
10. Peja Stojakovic
Peja Stojakovic was a deadly 6’9 shooter from Croatia. Stojakovic ranks 9th all-time in three pointers made with 1,760 and shot 40% from deep, which is good for 36th all-time. At his height, the league had never seen this type of shooter and this is what makes Stojakovic so special and unique. He is also a two-time winner of the Three-Point Shootout held at NBA’s All-Star Weekend and led the league in three-point field goals in 2003-04. Most guards in the NBA could not keep up with the way Peja Stojakovic could shoot the rock.
9. Dale Ellis
Dale Ellis was a NBA All-Star with the Seattle SuperSonics and a bona fide three-point marksman in the league. Ellis ranks 11th all-time in three pointers with 1,719 made and 28th all time in three-point percentage at 40.3%. His first NBA All-Star appearance came in the 1988-1989 season with Seattle and about ten years later, his best three-point shooting season came. In 1998, Dale Ellis shot a career-high from deep at 46.4%. Ellis had a long-lasting career in the NBA and he can credit his three-point shooting for his 17 years in the league.
8. Glen Rice
Glen Rice was simply born with an amazing jump shot. Rice was born in Michigan and went to the University of Michigan, where he had a season that he averaged 51.6% from the three-point line. Rice was then drafted 4th overall by the Miami Heat and became a star in the league because of his scoring. Glen Rice averaged 35 minutes per game in his career and 18.3 points per game. He shot 40% from the three-point line in his career and finished 17th all time in three-point field goals made. His best three-point shooting season came in 1996-1997, when he shot 47% from behind the arc for the Charlotte Hornets. Glen Rice’s three-point shooting is up there with the greats and deserves a spot on this list.
7. Steve Nash
Steve Nash was an extraordinary shooter since the first day he entered the NBA. In his rookie season, he shot close to 42% from the three-point line. He maintained that perimeter shooting throughout his career as he shot 42.8% from deep. The two-time NBA MVP had his career-high in three-point shooting percentage in the 2007-2008 season when he shot 47%. Nash also ranks 12th in three-pointers made in the history of the league with 1,685. Steve Nash has had a Hall of Fame career and his shooting is what makes him one of the best point guards to ever play the game.
6. Kyle Korver
Top 10 in three-point percentage? Check. Top 15 in three-pointers made? Check. Kyle Korver is a man that needs no space to get off his shot and has a dead-eye from downtown. Korver set the record for highest-percentage of threes made in a single season at 53.6%. He also led the league in three-point percentage a second time in the 2013-2014 season at 47.2%. Kyle Korver set another record by hitting a three in 127 consecutive games. This is all this guy does. If your team needs a three, Korver is the go-to player in that situation. There is no slowing him down because this season he is shooting 53.9% from downtown and is on pace to break his own record. So, yes, Kyle Korver definitely deserves a top 10 spot.
5. Steve Kerr
Speaking of three-point percentage…Steve Kerr is the all-time leader in three-point percentage. That is right. No player has yet to shoot the ball as efficiently as Steve Kerr did. Kerr’s career percentage from three-point land sits at 45.5%. Even in college, no defender could effect the way Steve Kerr shot. He shot 57.3% from downtown at the University of Arizona. 57%. Jeez. In his final two season, Kerr shot below 40%, but still holds the record. That is because he shot over 50% from the perimeter in four seasons.
4. Stephen Curry
I would love to hear anyone argue Stephen Curry being in the top five three-point shooters of all-time. It is still early in his career, but that is exactly why he deserves to be so high up on the list. Think about it, Stephen Curry has already set the record for most threes made in a single season with 272. Curry is only in his sixth season in the league. He is currently fourth all-time in three-point percentage at 43.6%, which is amazing because he leads the league in three-point attempts over the past two years. Stephen Curry can get his shot up against anyone or any defense that is put in front of him. He is already considered one of the greats and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the greatest three-point shooter the league has ever seen.
3. Larry Bird
Another one that is hard to argue against. When we were putting this list together, we considered putting Curry over Bird, but it’s hard to deny Larry Bird. Larry Bird was around since the three-point line was introduced and was the best of his era behind the arc. Bird is a three-time Three-Point Shootout champion and the only one to ever do that. He also led the league in three-pointers made twice. If that cannot convince a person that Bird is one of the best three-point shooters of all time, then how about this. In the 1986 playoffs, Bird shot over 41% from downtown and won his third title. Larry Bird is one of the greatest and the numbers do not lie.
2. Reggie Miller
Only fitting that the man that is second all-time in three-pointers made is second on the “Top 15 Three-Point Shooters of All Time.” Reggie Miller has made 2,560 threes in his career with a percentage of 39.5%. His most notable display of greatness came in his Game 1 performance during the 1995 Conference Semi-finals. In that game, Miller made two free-throws and two three-pointers in under nine seconds of play. Miller’s relentlessness and trash-talking ways, along with his sharp-shooting, cemented him a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame.
1. Ray Allen
Duh. Ray Allen has made the most threes in NBA history. It is only right that he is known as the greatest three-point shooter to ever step foot on an NBA court. Not only do the numbers speak for themselves, but watch film on Ray Allen. The intangibles he brings to a game make him lethal from the perimeter. From moving without the ball to late game clutch shots, Ray Allen can hit a three at any time and anywhere on the court. Allen has made 2,973 threes and with a percentage of 40%, no one can argue Ray Allen’s selection as first on this list.
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