The Greatest Three-Point Shooters Helped Reshaped Offense In The NBA

Basketball | 1/18/21

How the game of basketball is played varies from generation to generation. Did you know, for example, that the three-point shot wasn’t adopted by the league until 1979? Since then, the shot has become more and more important as the league has stiffened rules on defense to allow for higher scoring and more offensive games. Players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have thrived with the new rules, taking a high volume of three-point shots again, rewriting the rules of how to play basketball. Did they make our list of the greatest three-point shooters of all-time, though?

Stephen Curry Holds The Single Season Record

stephen curry
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

During the 2015-16 NBA season, Stephen Curry made a league-record 402 three-point shots. He is the only player in league history to make more than 400 in one season, a distinction that earned him the league MVP award.

Not just a player looking to set personal records, that same season Curry led the Warriors to another record 73 regular-season wins. During his career, no one has shot the three-ball better than Curry.

Ray Allen Tops The Career List

ray allen
Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images
Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images

A career 40 percent three-point shooter, Ray Allen attempted 7,429 three-point shots during his time in the NBA. He sunk 2,973 of those shots, retiring with the most three-pointers ever made. Will that number be passed someday? Probably, but it won’t be easy.

Allen played in the NBA from 1996 until 2014, winning two NBA titles and being named an All-Star ten times. In 2018, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his on-court accomplishments.

Reggie Miller Always Made The Shot When It Mattered Most

reggie miller
Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Reggie Miller was not a typical NBA shooter. His elbow flared out, his body rarely stayed in sync with itself, and it always looked like he was pushing the ball with two hands instead of shooting. Still, the results are undeniable.

Miller made 2,560 three-pointers, an NBA record when he retired. His career percentage was just under 40, and his shots always seemed to find the net whenever his teams needed the points the most.

Steve Nash Is A Member Of The 50-40-90 Club

steve nash
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Steve Nash isn’t just one of the greatest three-point shooters in NBA history. He is also one of the best pure offensive weapons the sport has ever seen. Nash was so lethal during his career that he retired as a member of the 50-40-90 club in multiple seasons.

What does that mean? It means Nash was able to shoot over 50 percent on field goals, 40 percent from three-point range, and 90 percent on free throws.

Peja Stojakovic Was A Man Before His Time

peja stojakovic
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

A career 40.1 percent three-point shooter, had Peja Stojakovic played in today’s NBA, he would have been a very rich man. Instead, the 6’9″ Serbian wing played from 1992 until 2011, retiring just before Stephen Curry reinvented the offensive game of basketball.

That doesn’t mean Peja had a disappointing career. Before calling it quits he sunk 1,760 three-point shots and was named an All-Star three times. His number 16 was retired by the Sacramento Kings, and in his last season, he won an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks.

Klay Thompson Is The “Other” Splash Brother

klay thompson
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors got lucky when they drafted Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson just two years apart. While Curry steals most of the headlines, the three championships the team won in five years wouldn’t have been possible without Thompson by his side.

Former head coach Mark Jackson once said that Curry and Thompson were the greatest backcourt duo the NBA had ever seen. Both players were just entering their primes at the time. Thompson is a career 40 percent three-point shooter and should eclipse 2,000 made when he retires.

Kyle Korver Is An Ageless Wonder

Kyle Korver in utah jersey
Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

What makes the career of Kyle Korver really impressive is that he has made most of his impact as a sixth man and bench player. While logging some time as a starter, for his career he’s only averaged 25 minutes per game.

With those limited minutes, Korver maximized his opportunities, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc. His best season came during the 2014-15 campaign. That year he started 75 games for the Atlanta Hawks and sunk 49 percent of his three-point attempts.

Dale Ellis Was As Pure As Shooters Come

Dale Ellis Nuggets
J.D. Cuban/Getty Images
J.D. Cuban/Getty Images

Playing in the ’80s, Dale Ellis was one of the best pure shooters the NBA has ever seen. He caused all kinds of problems for defenses while taking shots on the perimeter, retiring with a 40.3 percent three-point accuracy.

Ellis’ best season came in 1989. He made his three-pointers at a 48 percent clip. In today’s game, that likely would have translated to far more than 162 threes made in the season.

J.J. Redick’s Stroke Should Be Taught In School

jj redick
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Drafted by the Orlando Magic in 2006, it took J.J. Redick awhile to find his place in the NBA. When he finally did, however, he proved just how pure his stroke was. From 2013 through 2017, he was a featured member of the Los Angeles Clippers.

As Redick has gotten older, his shot has only gotten better. During the 2019-20 campaign, he sank three-pointers at a 45 percent success rate. His stroke is so pure it should probably be taught at the high school level.

Glen Rice Took Advantage Of His Height

glen rice new york knicks
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

A star perimeter shooter during the ’90s, Glen Rice stood 6’8″ and used every inch of his height to take advantage of smaller defenders. It’s impossible to defend someone with the height and wingspan of Rice if you’re even an inch shorter.

For his career, Rice made exactly 40 percent of his attempted three-point shots. His 1,559 career threes made ranks him in the top 30 of all players. If he played today, he would be even higher on the list.

Larry Bird Is One Of The Best Ever

larry bird
Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

On paper, Larry Bird’s career 649 three-point shots made and 37.6 career percentage might not jump out at you. With Bird, it’s important to remember the era he played in, though. His rookie season came in 1979, the first year the three-point shot was included in the NBA.

Basically, Bird was one of the first players to shoot three-pointers at a time when they were mostly reserved for late-game comeback runs.

No Player Has A Better Career Percentage Than Steve Kerr

steve kerr
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

During his playing career, Steve Kerr won five NBA titles. He was a vital part of each championship team, as no one could shoot a three-pointer like he could. When Kerr called it a career, he retired with an NBA best 45.4 percent three-point accuracy.

It’s no surprise then, that as a coach, Kerr has welcomed the three-point revolution with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson leading the charge. That combination has led Kerr to three more NBA titles, giving him eight total.

Craig Hodges Won Multiple Three-Point Competitions

craig hodges
Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images
Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

Easily one of the most overlooked shooters of his generation, Craig Hodges deserves recognition on this list. He sank 40 percent of his career three-point shots and won back-to-back-to-back three-point competitions.

Hodges spent ten years in the NBA, first being drafted by the San Diego Clippers (now Los Angeles). He won two NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and played overseas for several years when his time in the NBA ended. As an assistant coach, Hodges has won two more NBA titles.

Mark Price Was A High Volume Three-Point Shooter Before It Was Cool

mark price
Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

For 13 seasons in the NBA, Mark Price was one of the league’s best high volume shooters. He knocked down 976 three-pointers in his career with 40.2 percent accuracy. Thanks to the work he put in on the court, the future was paved for even higher volume range shooters.

After retiring, Price moved into the coaching ranks, working as an assistant for franchises including the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, and Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets.

Chris Mullin Had A Lightning Quick Release

chris mullin
Focus on Sport via Getty Images
Focus on Sport via Getty Images

For two seasons Run-TMC ruled the court for the Golden State Warriors. The trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin first got together in 1989 and quickly became one of the most entertaining shows in the NBA.

While all three were amazing at scoring, Chris Mullin may have been the best three-point shooter of the bunch. A left-hander with a quick release, it never took Mulltin too long to set his feet and take his shot, leading to a career 38.4 three-point percentage.

Mitch Richmond Was Curry Before Curry Played

mitch richmond
Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Teaming up with Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond was the best shooter of the trio. He was the team’s top scorer, leading his teammates in field goals and three-pointers.

Richmond retired with a career 38.8 accuracy on three-point shots. He took 3,419 overall shots from beyond the arc, sinking 1,326 of them. Like many on this list, we believe that if he played in the league today, that number would be much higher.

Jeff Hornacek Benefited From Legendary Teammates

jeff hornacek
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

No slouch with the ball in his hands, Jeff Hornacek played 14 seasons in the NBA and retired with a 40.3 percent three-point accuracy rate. On several occasions, he even flirted with joining the esteemed 50-40-90 club.

When you play alongside NBA legends like John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, and Karl Malone, it’s not hard to find an open shot. Just because you take an open look, doesn’t mean you’ll sink the bucket. Hornacek always did, though.

Dirk Nowitzki Made It Look Easy

dirk nowitzki
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Standing seven feet tall, Dirk Nowitzki always made playing in the NBA look easy. Knocking down threes at a 38 percent clip, many NBA analysts consider him the best big man to ever shoot the basketball.

Blocking Nowitzki was no easy task. His high release point offered him a huge advantage over oncoming defenders. His 1,982 career three-pointers rank him 11th all-time. The large man retired from the NBA in 2019 after a 21 season career.

Allan Houston Spread The Floor For New York In The ’90s

allan houston
G Fiume/Getty Images
G Fiume/Getty Images

In the ’90s, Allan Houston was one of the major players in the playoffs runs of the New York Knicks. A perimeter shooter with deadly accuracy, Houston helped spread the floor so his teammates could slash inside the paint and score easy buckets.

Houston also had plenty of opportunities to score himself. When his career was over, he had made 1,305 three-pointers – a 40.2 percent success rate. Very impressive for the era.

J.R. Smith Is Unstoppable When He’s On A Hot Streak

J.R. Smith bob ross hair
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Jason Miller/Getty Images

J.R. Smith is one of the streakiest scorers in NBA history. When he’s cold, it’s best to keep the ball out of his hands at all costs. But when he’s hot, his shot is nearly impossible to stop.

Drafted by the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) in 2004, Smith has played for five franchises, hitching his wagon to LeBron James when the pair started playing together in Cleveland. When he retires, he should be one of the top ten three-point shooters of all-time.