The game of basketball today is arguably at its peak in terms of skill and talent. Whether you’re a 6-foot guard like Damian Lillard or a 7-footer like Joel Embiid, skill is not specific to positions or physical attributes of players anymore. The biggest skill that has separated today’s game from other eras has been shooting. The game has evolved from the old days of needing to have an inside presence or post player consistently dominating the game. You can debate all you like about which era of basketball is superior but there’s one thing you can’t argue & that’s the evolution of shooting. The game has more pace, skill, and spacing today because of the jumper.
Names like Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Kevin Durant, and Dirk Nowitzki, have contributed to the growth of shooting in today’s game but none have been more impactful than the all-time 3-point king Steph Curry. Curry’s impact on the game along with his splash brother Klay Thompson will forever go down as a turning point in the way the game is played. Although 3-point shooting is a major factor in evaluating your ability to shoot, it’s one big category under the overall term of shooting. When you mention shooters you also have to include their ability in the midrange, the degree of difficulty of their shots, and the various ways they can efficiently shoot their shots.
We curated a list of the greatest NBA shooters factoring in those elements above.
HONORABLE MENTION: Peja Stojaković, JR Smith, Kyle Korver, JJ Redick, Chris Paul, James Harden
10. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving’s mention on this list might seem outlandish and might come off as an addition for shock value but there’s a strong argument to claim him one of the greatest shooters ever. As mentioned earlier, the term “shooting” doesn’t just apply to how efficiently you shoot the ball from beyond the arc but even just going off of 3-point shooting, Kyrie shoots over 39 percent from deep in his career and has a 50-40-90 season under his belt. Some might say, Kyle Korver, JJ Redick, or Steve Kerr deserve to be on this spot but Kyrie is much more than a 3-point specialist. You have to factor in his ability to shoot off the dribble, the degree of difficulty of his shots in addition to his range. If it means anything to you, he does also have a 3-point contest trophy in his collection but to top it off, Kyrie’s wizardry for midrange is something we don’t see from the other 3-point specialists.
Even with his mind-blowing layup package, Kyrie is capable of giving anyone 50 points without touching the paint. That’s how good of a shooter he is.
9. Steve Nash
Nobody screams efficiency like Steve Nash. Nash was the engine in Mike D’Antoni’s “7 Seconds or Less” offense and it led to two MVP awards. Nash tallied four 50-40-90 seasons during the stretch of 2005-2010 and quite frankly, he should’ve had five straight 50-40-90 seasons if he hadn’t missed the 90 percent free throw mark by 0.01 percent.
While many feel like Nash was undeserving of his MVPs, you can’t deny his ability on the court especially when it comes to the area of shooting. Although Nash’s volume of shooting doesn’t compare to most guys on this list, there are very few that possess the same accuracy when it comes to all levels of shooting. Nash also ranks second all-time in free throw percentage behind Steph Curry.
8. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest shooting big man the game has ever seen. While Kevin Durant and of course Steph Curry, may receive a lot credit for revolutionizing the game, Dirk is not far behind them in terms of impact. His patented fadeaway is one of the most unstoppable shots in NBA history and in an era where most guys playing his position were post threats, Dirk thrived in the midrange & beyond the arc. How often did anyone see a 7-footer put up a 50-40-90 season in the mid-2000s? You were either too small to guard him or too slow to guard him, there was no in-between.
7. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard has done something that Steph Curry has never done when it comes to 3-point shooting and that’s hit 10 or more threes in the NBA playoffs. Dame has done it twice and owns the record for most threes in a playoff game.
While Dame earned a spot on the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, it still seems like he doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves for his shooting ability. He’s an all time great when it comes to shooting the ball. After Steph, he is without a doubt the second-greatest shooting point guard ever to play the game. He may not possess the same efficiency as Steph or Klay but there’s definitely an argument that Dame may have the most range we’ve ever seen.
6. Larry Bird
Bird’s 1.9 3-point attempts per game are the lowest of any player included on this list but don’t confuse that with a lack of ability. Bird was one of the greatest shooters of his era, an era that didn’t emphasize shooting from deep. The league was built to play more inside-out than spread out like it is today, so he wasn’t afforded the opportunity to shoot seven or eight 3-pointers a night like the stars of today but the efficiency was there in short dosage. Bird boasts six seasons of shooting at least 40% from deep and won the NBA’s 3-point contest.
5. Kevin Durant
When you think of Kevin Durant you almost immediately think of him being one of the most unguardable players in NBA history due to his combination of size, athleticism, and skill. But if we focus on him specifically as a shooter, he is one of the best we have ever seen when it comes to that specific skill. At 6’10 (some argue he’s closer to seven feet), he has one of the quickest releases on a jump shot in the NBA.
One of the most efficient and lethal midrange shooters in NBA history, Durant also has proven to be one of the league’s best marksmen from deep, evidenced by his iconic pull-up 3-pointers over LeBron James and the Cavaliers in back-to-back NBA Finals in 2017 and 2018. His career 38.3% 3-point percentage is more than respectable and considering the fear he puts in opponents from anywhere on the floor, he warrants inclusion on this list. We can’t also forget that he’s one of the greatest midrange scorers in league history.
4. Reggie Miller
The original 3-point king, Reggie Miller has somewhat become underrated when discussing the greatest shooters ever. With players now shooting with higher volume and off the dribble more frequently, Miller’s career 4.7 attempts per game will appear modest compared to others on this list. But make no mistake, he is still one of the standards when discussing shooters. He has 10 seasons of shooting at least 40% from 3-point range and was able to get his shot off from various different angles with high-degree of difficulty coming off screens. If Miller were playing in today’s NBA, it’s fair to wonder if he would have made even more shots from deep considering the emphasis on shooting. Regardless, he is comfortably in the conversation of the greatest shooters to ever play.
3. Ray Allen
Before the Splash Brothers started wreaking havoc, the 3-point king was Ray Allen. A lot of NBA fans today remember Allen for being the 3-point specialist for the Heat or being the third guy of the Big 3 in Boston but Ray Allen was much more than a shooter for the majority of his career. He was just known for being an elite scorer with the ability to score on all three levels. As he got older he was able to adjust and prolong his value in the association.
With one of the prettiest jumpers the league has ever seen, Ray Allen shot 40 percent from deep for his career and never had a season where he shot below 35 percent.
2. Klay Thompson
There might not be a prettier jumper in the NBA than Klay Thompson’s. Textbook form, release, and a quick trigger have made Klay one of the most feared shooters in NBA history, and if not for Stephen Curry’s existence, he might be regarded as the best shooter of his generation, and possibly ever. Klay owns the NBA record for most made 3-pointers in a single game (14), while also owning two other games of 12 makes from beyond the arc.
And his lethal shooting has shown up in big moments in the postseason, with him becoming known for big-time Game 6 performances, most notably Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Thunder where he drained 11 3-pointers, the second-most ever in a playoff game. No matter how you slice it, Klay is one of the best shooters to ever pick up a basketball.
1. Steph Curry
I mean, come on. Do we really have to say anything here? Steph Curry has shattered every 3-point shooting record known to man to claim the title of “the greatest shooter ever to play.” His ability to shoot with distance, accuracy, and flair changed the game of basketball and has altered the development of grassroots hoops. He’s defied every shooting statistic especially when it comes to efficiency. How can a man that shoots a ridiculously-high volume, which includes a high degree of difficulty shots, be so accurate? That same touch travels inside the arc whether it’s with his floaters or midrange game. Nothing makes sense with Steph but there’s no debating anymore who the greatest shooter is.