The NBA established the three-point line in the 1979–80 season. In that inaugural year, teams averaged 2.8 attempts a game from beyond the arc. In the past decade a three-point revolution has been in full effect, evident by analytics revealing of league patterns.
Last year, teams averaged an all-time high 32 threes attempted per game. The innovative small-ball Houston Rockets set a record too for the most attempted threes per game by a team, with a ludicrous 45.4.
Respected as one of the most elite shooters, Larry Bird only averaged one made three per game (1985–86); by my standards deeming him ineligible for this list. For comparison, last season Steph Curry averaged a record-breaking 5.1 made threes per game.
For some players the three-point shot is just one weapon in their arsenal. To others it’s the blueprint for their success. So, here are my picks for the top five players who have made their careers out of dialing it in from deep.
5. Klay Thompson
Half of the “Splash Brothers” dynamic duo is quick release machine Klay Thompson. He forces teams into playing tight perimeter defense and when paired with teammate Steph Curry, the Warriors are unstoppable. With eight years in the NBA under his belt, Thompson has fully mastered the art of the three-point shot keeping a steady hand coupled with fluent mechanics. Thompson has refined his craft so well he once held the ball for only 90 seconds in a game, took 11 dribbles and scored 60 points, with eight made 3s.
For further evidence of his greatness, Thompson holds the NBA single-game record for most three-point field goals made with a whopping 14. The number of dribbles he took en route to that performance was a mere five! All-time, Thompson is only ranked 18th in three-point field goals, making 41.9% of his attempts. However, his elite-level of consistency has him second all-time in threes made per game, only behind teammate Steph Curry. At the rate he’s going, Klay Thompson very well might find himself ranked among the greatest shooters in NBA history.
4. Kyle Korver
Kyle Korver has 16-years of NBA experience and is the embodiment of a “shooting” guard. For his career, Korver has shot 42.9% from deep and sits fourth on the all-time list of three-point field goals made with 2,437. Korver, also, holds a couple of NBA records to add to his catalog of achievements. For a single season, no other player has shot a higher three-point field goal percentage than Korver, who notched 53.6% in the 2009–10 season.
Ever the sharpshooter, Korver has also led the NBA in three-point percentage in four separate seasons (an NBA record). To add to that, Kyle is tied for the record of most consecutive seasons with the highest three-point percentage. While Kyle Korver might not be remembered as the most physically imposing player, his stroke remains one of the league’s purest as he strives for a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks.
3. Reggie Miller
Of all the shooters on this list, Reggie Miller was the most hard-nosed. His physical duels with superstars, such as Michael Jordan, will always be a part of his reputation. As the Indiana Pacers’ leader for 17 years, Miller’s three-point percentage was a respectable 40%. Even though Reggie played in an era that didn’t promote shooting threes, he was a volume shooter, ranking second in three-point shots made (2,560). Above all, Miller always had ice water coursing through his veins, allowing him to knock down timely buckets in dramatic fashion.
Perhaps his most memorable moment was in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks: 18.3 seconds left, Pacers down six points. Miller activated his “Miller Time” mindset and spearheaded one of the most inconceivable comebacks in NBA history. Against all odds, Miller put up eight straight points in nine seconds, with two three-pointers to boot. This last-ditch effort was enough to snag the win for the Pacers and effectively cement Reggie’s legacy amongst the smoothest long-range operators of all-time.
2. Ray Allen
Ray Allen will go down as the most elite catch and shoot player in NBA history. His savviness to navigate around off-ball screens, set his feet, locate the basket and drain the shot is unmatched. The unwavering consistency he showed in his 19-year career was the reason four different teams trusted him as their long-range sniper. Allen made sure to carve himself out a place in history, holding the NBA record for the most career threes, with 2,973.
He shot 40% from behind the arc and averaged 2.3 threes per game. To the casual NBA fan, Allen was simply the guy who sunk the series-saving three for the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. A shot which sent the game to overtime, forcing Game 7, resulting in the Heat winning the title. But for avid hoop-heads, Allen’s legacy is that of one of the most legendary three-point specialists ever.
1. Stephen Curry
As the only unanimous MVP in NBA history, Stephen Curry has made his mark on the world, ushering in a new era of basketball in his 11-year career. While he likely has many years left to play, Curry will go down as not only the greatest three-point shooter, but possibly the greatest all-around shooter of all-time.
Steph, statistically, is already third in threes made with 2,495, averaging 3.6 per game at a proficient 43.5%. As for single-season efficiency, he set a record in 2015–16 for most threes made with 402; that record still stands today. To bolster his resume even more, Steph waters down the top 10 list for single-season threes made, filling up half of the spots.
Curry’s reputation is that of a deep-range assassin, dropping in buckets from near half-court on a regular basis. Over his career, on shots 30–39 feet from the basket, Steph shoots an extraordinary 36.7% (not including 2019–20 season). For reference, the three-point line measures to 23.75 feet from the hoop, and 22 feet in the corners. This means, Steph is comfortably pulling up nearly six steps behind the three-point arc. That, in combination with his records make Steph Curry the most elite limitless range shooter that the NBA has ever known.