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Money Shots: The 20 Greatest Shooters in NBA History

Adrian V.Correspondent IAugust 5, 2010

Money Shots: The 20 Greatest Shooters in NBA History

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    Want to know who's really the greatest NBA shooter of all time? Look no further.

    The criteria to qualify for the discussion is as such:

    Players must have in their career:
    -Played three professional seasons (246 games).
    -Averaged at least 25 minutes per game.
    -Attempted at least 10 field goal attempts per game.
    -Shot at least 80 percent from the free throw line.

    Right off the top, these criteria ruled out terrific shooters who were more of the "specialist" variety—Steve Kerr, Kyle Korver, Craig Hodges, Jason Kapono, and so forth.

    Also out are the great "streak" shooters whose free-throw percentages were closer to average, despite their impressive rates from long range (Dale Ellis, Wesley Person, Vince Carter, Mike Miller, etc.).

    What about the guys who didn't shoot enough? Sorry, John Stockton, but at just nine field goal attempts per game, you're out too.

    Despite incredible starts, Stephen Curry, OJ Mayo and Eric Gordon simply haven't been in the league long enough to make any all-time list. They're on their way though.

    After weeding out a huge chunk of people, I placed heavy emphasis on something paramount to the discussion, something ESPN's John Hollinger egregiously missed in his best shooters of all-time list—the number of shots players take and their roles on the floor.

    For example, Hollinger simply adds up players' field goal, three-point, and free-throw percentages and calls the statistic CSR (Combined Shooting Rating). Apparently, Steve Nash has the highest CSR ever and thus is, in Hollinger's mind, the greatest shooter in history.

    What???

    A point guard who has attempted 10.8 field goal attempts per game for his career is the greatest shooter ever because his percentages say so?

    No.

    As great of a shooter as Nash is—and he is a great shooter—he’s not a team-carrying scoring guard whose job it is to let shots fly as often as possible. He's not Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, putting up 20 shot attempts per game, most of them created off the dribble or with double-teams all up in his shorts.

    Instead, Nash is like Stockton or any other great pass-first point in the sense he'll shoot when the shot presents itself. If he weren't afforded that luxury, and instead were asked to go out and score as much as possible, his shooting percentages would dip considerably.

    Keep in mind a player who takes 20 shots per game and connects on 45 percent is probably a better shooter than a player who takes 10 shots per game and makes 50 percent. Call it the Law of Diminishing Returns if you'd like; I call it common sense—a go-to scorer takes and makes more difficult shots, usually with more pressure on him, and thus is better.

    With everything else in mind—different eras, three-point shooting (or the lack of it), free-throw attempts per game, height, clutch factor, difficulty defending the shot and so forth—I’ve managed to compile what I consider to be one of the most accurate basketball "best ever" lists you will come across.

    Of course, when we're picking 20 names out of a pool of 4,052 pro players, many more-than-worthy guys will be left out. I will do my best to explain some of the omissions in the honorable mention section.

    Enjoy.

<b>20. Paul Arizin</b>

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    Years Played: 1951-1962
    Games Played: 713
    Minutes Per Game: 38.4
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 18.7
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 8.7
    Two-Point Percentage: .421
    Free-Throw Percentage: .810
    Points Per Game: 22.8

    A 6'4" forward out of Philadelphia, "Pitchin' Paul" Arizin was a pioneer who is best known as the unofficial inventor of the jump shot. In addition to forever changing how the game was played, Arizin averaged 22.8 points over a 10-year career with his hometown Warriors, winning a championship in 1956.

    Considered by some as the original Michael Jordan-type of player, Arizin made 10 All-Star Games, four All-NBA teams, and won two scoring titles. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978 and later named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

    Note: Due to a lack of video footage, it's tough to gauge exactly where Arizin ranks, but there's no doubt he belongs on this list.

<b>19. Drazen Petrovic</b>

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    Years Played: 1990-1993
    Games Played: 290
    Minutes Per Game: 26.4
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 9.6
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 2.0
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.3
    Two-Point Percentage: .520
    Three-Point Percentage: .437
    Free-Throw Percentage: .841
    Points Per Game: 15.4

    Croatian sharpshooter Drazen Petrovic barely meets the criteria necessary for consideration. However, even if he failed to meet such requirements, I would have still put him on this list anyhow. After all, if we're going to make an exception, why not do it for a man who was considered by many to be the best European player ever at the time he left home for the NBA.

    In 195 games with the New Jersey Nets, Petrovic averaged 19.5 points per game, shot 51 percent from the field, 44 percent on threes, and 85 percent from the free-throw line. In the 1992 playoffs, he averaged 24.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting.

    Petrovic was just getting started on what would have been an incredible career when his life was cut short by a car accident in Germany. He was 28.

    A trailblazer for foreign players, and a guy everyone loved, Petrovic was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

<b>18. Mark Price</b>

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    Years Played: 1987-1998
    Games Played: 722
    Minutes Per Game: 29.9
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 8.2
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 3.4
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.3
    Two-Point Percentage: .501
    Three-Point Percentage: .402
    Free-Throw Percentage: .904
    Points Per Game: 15.2

    At 6'0" and 170 pounds, Mark Price was a shorter, faster, and arguably better version of Steve Nash. The two of them are the only point guards in history to shoot 50-40-90 in a season with 10 or more shot attempts per game.

    Unlike Nash, whose best years came BP and AK (Before Paul, After Kidd), Price made four All-NBA teams and four All-Star appearances during a period when several Hall of Fame-bound point guards (Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Tim Hardaway and Kevin Johnson) were playing, and hand-checking was allowed.

    But who's better is debatable. What isn't is the fact Price was an incredible shooter.

    The NBA's all-time leader in free-throw percentage, Price led the league in the category four times. Sadly, his career was cut short by injuries. A year after retiring at age 33, Price's uniform number was retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Price is currently the shooting coach for the Atlanta Hawks.

<b>17. Steve Nash</b>

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    Years Played: 1997-current
    Games Played: 934
    Minutes Per Game: 31.1
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 7.3
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 3.4
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.8
    Two-Point Percentage: .512
    Three-Point Percentage: .432
    Free-Throw Percentage: .900
    Points Per Game: 14.4

    Steve Nash is one of the best shooters the game of basketball has ever witnessed. While he and Mark Price are the only two point guards ever to shoot 50-40-90 in a season on 10 or more shot attempts per game, Nash is the only player to have accomplished the feat more than twice (he did it four times).

    A two-time MVP and seven-time All-Star, the Canadian Nash has made seven All-NBA teams in his 14-year career. He's second only to Price in all-time free-throw percentage and ranks fifth in three-point percentage.

    ESPN's John Hollinger called him the greatest shooter simply because Nash's "Combined Shooting Rating" (two-point percentage plus three-point percentage plus free-throw percentage) is the highest in NBA history.

    So why in the world do I rank Nash the 17th-best shooter ever, you ask?

    Because his "Combined Shooting Rating"—a B.S. stat like Hollinger's that I just made up a second ago—is just 13.6 per game. Add up all of Nash's shot attempts per game and this is what you get. In other words, Nash only attempts 13.6 shots per game total.

    That's 7.5 shot attempts per game fewer than the average player on this list.

    The average shots per game taken by a guard with Nash's career shooting percentages is 18.4. If Nash took five to seven more attempts per game, it is highly likely he would fall out of Hollinger's top 10.

    Either way you cut it, Nash would still rank as an all-time great shooter. I give him the nod over Price because of the greater variety of shots he can make (running one-handed scoop shots, high-arching tear drops in the paint, etc).

<b>16. Jeff Hornacek</b>

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    Years Played: 1987-2000
    Games Played: 1077
    Minutes Per Game: 31.5
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 9.2
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 1.9
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.1
    Two-Point Percentage: .515
    Three-Point Percentage: .403
    Free-Throw Percentage: .877
    Points Per Game: 14.6

    Think of it this way: At 6'3" and 190 pounds, Jeff Hornacek was an undersized shooting guard with average athletic ability at best. And yet, he's what the Philadelphia 76ers asked for in return in a deal for a in-his-prime Charles Barkley.

    Of course, Barkley was disgruntled and wanted out, but the fact Hornacek was the main guy coming back in the trade speaks volumes about how good the shooter from suburban Chicago was.

    Hornacek finished top three in both free-throw percentage and three-point percentage four times. In 2000, the last year of his career, the 36-year-old ranked first in free-throw percentage (.950), second in three-point percentage (.478). and first amongst all guards in field goal percentage (.492).

    He was incredibly clutch and could make any shot in any situation.

<b>15. Peja Stojakovic</b>

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    Years Played: 1999-current
    Games Played: 771
    Minutes Per Game: 34.2
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 8.3
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 5.5
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.3
    Two-Point Percentage: .515
    Three-Point Percentage: .400
    Free-Throw Percentage: .895
    Points Per Game: 17.3

    Say what you will about Peja Stojakovic's heart, or the lack of it, but the guy is as pure of a shooter as you'll ever find.

    The three-time All-Star, a 6'10" forward from Serbia, ranks fourth all time in three-pointers made (1703) and third in free-throw percentage (.895).

    Of the 26 players who have attempted at least 1000 field goal attempts, 400 three-pointers, and 400 free throws in one season, Stojakovic has the best combined shooting percentage. In 2004, as a member of the Sacramento Kings, he shot 48-43-93. Forty percent of his shots that season were threes, and he connected on 40 percent of them.

    Impressive, right?

    What if I told you for his career, 40 percent of his shot attempts were threes and he connected on 40 percent of them? Yes, it's true.

    Stojakovic needs to make just 17 more threes to pass Dale Ellis for No. 3 on the all-time list.

<b>14. Glen Rice</b>

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    Years Played: 1990-2004
    Games Played: 1000
    Minutes Per Game: 35.0
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 11.0
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 3.9
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.8
    Two-Point Percentage: .476
    Three-Point Percentage: .400
    Free-Throw Percentage: .846
    Points Per Game: 18.3

    One of the most consistent shooters I ever saw, Glen Rice amassed the following stats over an eight-year period following his rookie season:

    -80 games played per season (he missed more than three games in a season only once—five in 1991).
    -Shooting percentages of 47-41-85.
    -21.6 points per game.

    Only 24 players in history have attempted over 400 threes in a season and connected at a clip of 41 percent or better. Not only did the 6'8" Rice do it three times, but he holds the belt for the best percentage. In 1997, he made 207 of 440 shots from downtown for an eye-popping 47 percent.

    Unsurprisingly, he averaged 26.8 points that season, won All-Star Game MVP honors, and finished fifth in regular season MVP voting.

    Rice was the third-leading scorer (15.9 ppg) on the 1999 L.A. Lakers team that won the championship.

<b>13. Calvin Murphy</b>

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    Years Played: 1971-1983
    Games Played: 1002
    Minutes Per Game: 30.5
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 14.9
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: .07
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.9
    Two-Point Percentage: .484
    Three-Point Percentage: .139
    Free-Throw Percentage: .892
    Points Per Game: 17.9

    Many people to this day still consider Calvin Murphy to be the greatest "little man" ever to play the game. At just 5'9" and 165 pounds, Murphy was a deadly mid-range shooter and automatic from the free-throw line.

    In his prime seven seasons, from 1974 through 1980, Murphy averaged 20.5 points per game on 50 percent from the field and 90 percent from the stripe. In 1981, he set a record for most consecutive free throws by sinking 78 in a row. The mark would stand for 12 years until Minnesota's Michael Williams connected on 97.

    Only three other players in history (Ray Allen, Rick Barry, and Chauncey Billups) have averaged at least 3.9 free throw attempts per game and connected on 89 percent.

    After Hakeem Olajuwon, Murphy is the greatest Houston Rockets player of all time. The little man from Nowalk, Connecticut, was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1993.

<b>12. Mitch Richmond</b>

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    Years Played: 1989-2002
    Games Played: 976
    Minutes Per Game: 35.2
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 12.9
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 3.5
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.5
    Two-Point Percentage: .474
    Three-Point Percentage: .388
    Free-Throw Percentage: .850
    Points Per Game: 21.0

    People upset over LeBron James' at-all-costs pursuit for championships need to look at Mitch Richmond's legacy to see how great players on underachieving teams are remembered.

    They're hardly remembered at all.

    Richmond was, pound-for-pound, the best all-around shooting guard in the league in the 1990s who wasn't named Michael Jordan.

    From 1992 through 1998, the 6'5" and 215-pound Richmond, appropriately nicknamed "Rock," averaged 23.3 points per game on 45 percent shooting (40 percent on threes).

    Unfortunately, few people took notice because Richmond was playing in Sacramento, where during his time, the Kings averaged 31.5 wins per season.

    Richmond's teammates? Olden Polynice, Walt Williams, Lionel Simmons, Spud Webb, Tyus Edney, Brian Grant, Wayman Tisdale, and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (one season).

    Every team went in trying to stop Richmond and they couldn't. He was too fast, too strong, and could stroke a shot from anywhere on the floor.

    A six-time All-Star, Richmond made five All-NBA teams. His best season came in 1997, when he averaged 25.9 points on 45-43-86 shooting.

<b>11. Alex English</b>

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    Years Played: 1977-1991
    Games Played: 1193
    Minutes Per Game: 31.9
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 17.6
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: .07
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 4.3
    Two-Point Percentage: .508
    Three-Point Percentage: .217
    Free-Throw Percentage: .832
    Points Per Game: 21.5

    There are just five things you need to know about Alex English.

    1. His jumper was unstoppable because he shot the ball from the highest point his fully extended arms could reach (this is also why he didn't bother with three-pointers).

    2. He dominated quietly: ESPN's Bill Simmons had this to say about English in his book: "he never seemed to get hot—he'd score 7-8 points per quarter and end up around 30 every game, only you barely noticed him except for the fact that he never seemed to miss."

    3. He scored more points in the 1980s than any other player. As the star of the Denver Nuggets, English averaged 25.9 points per game in the decade, on 51 percent shooting.

    4. He's one of the all-time "good guys" in sports.

    5. His omission from the NBA's 50 Greatest Players of All Time list is a disgrace.

    In 1997, English was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

<b>10. Chris Mullin</b>

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    Years Played: 1986-2001
    Games Played: 986
    Minutes Per Game: 32.6
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 11.3
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 2.2
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 4.2
    Two-Point Percentage: .533
    Three-Point Percentage: .384
    Free-Throw Percentage: .865
    Points Per Game: 18.2

    It didn't matter that he was slow or couldn't jump. Nor did it matter that he never lifted weights or trained to improve his physical abilities. It didn't even matter that he was an alcoholic.

    Chris Mullin was a natural.

    As a working class Irish kid from Brooklyn growing up in a racially tense late 1970s, Mullin would often venture into impoverished minority neighborhoods in search of the best games. After annihilating the competition, Mullin would oftentimes have to hurry to leave the park because the locals didn't take too kindly to an outsider, especially a white boy, showing them up on their turf.

    Mullin didn't care about anything except playing basketball. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that, despite his limitations and personal demons, the 6'7" lefty was successful wherever he went.

    At the urging of new coach Don Nelson, Mullin checked himself into rehab prior to the start of the 1989 season. Sober, he would kick off a five-year stretch in which he averaged 25 points per game or more each season.

    During this run, he made five All-Star teams, four All-NBA teams and was selected as a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic "Dream Team."

    Mullin would wind his career down as a key starter on an Indiana Pacers team that would come within one and two games, respectively, of reaching the NBA Finals in 1998 and 1999.

<b>9. Dirk Nowitzki</b>

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    Years Played: 1999-current
    Games Played: 920
    Minutes Per Game: 36.7
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 13.3
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 3.4
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 6.5
    Two-Point Percentage: .496
    Three-Point Percentage: .378
    Free-Throw Percentage: .872
    Points Per Game: 22.9

    I don't know if there has been a greater matchup nightmare in basketball history than Dirk Nowitzki.

    At 7'0" feet and 240 pounds, Nowitzki is the size of a center, but also possesses the quickness, agility, ball handling, and shooting ability to be dangerous 20-plus feet away from the basket.

    Big men are too slow to guard him outside, and quicker players are often too short to defend him inside.

    It should come as no surprise then that Nowitzki has a shot at joining the 27,000-point club, a group of only nine players. The 32-year-old German can reach the mark by averaging 14.3 points per game over the next five seasons.

    Size aside, Nowitzki's bread and butter is his shooting ability. With his textbook form and high arc, the ball barely touches the rim when it goes in.

    Dirk has been named to nine All-Star Games, 10 All-NBA teams, and won MVP in 2007.

<b>8. Ray Allen</b>

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    Years Played: 1997-current
    Games Played: 1022
    Minutes Per Game: 37.1
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 10.1
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 6.1
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 4.3
    Two-Point Percentage: .478
    Three-Point Percentage: .398
    Free-Throw Percentage: .893
    Points Per Game: 20.5

    While whether Ray Allen should rank higher or lower on this list is debatable, the one thing that isn't is this: Allen is the best NBA shooter of the past decade.

    Only Steve Nash and Peja Stojakovic matched Allen's ridiculous percentages of 45-40-90. The difference, of course, is that Allen attempted almost 2,500 more field goals, 1,100 more threes, and 500 more free throws than the next guy.

    Allen ranks second all time in three-pointers made and attempted, and fourth in free-throw percentage.

    While there is no doubt that the former UConn star, at 6'5" and blessed with incredible athleticism, would have been an elite shooter in any era, he's not ranked better on this list for the following reasons:

    1. He played the bulk of his career during what could be considered the weakest period in NBA history (1999-2007). NBA legends retired, underclassmen flooded the draft, a strike happened, divisions were re-aligned, and defensive rules were changed to boost scoring.

    The fact Zydrunas Illgauskas, Antoine Walker, Stephon Marbury and Brad Miller were All-Stars in 2003 should tell you something.

    2. Like Peja Stojakovic, Allen mostly limited himself to bombing away from long range. From 2002 through 2007, Allen averaged 7.4 attempts from three per game. Just over 40 percent of his shots during this time came from downtown. He completely neglected the importance of the mid-range game.

<b>7. Rick Barry</b>

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    Years Played: 1966-1980
    Games Played: 1020
    Minutes Per Game: 37.4
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 20.3
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 0.6
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 6.3
    Two-Point Percentage: .460
    Three-Point Percentage: .297
    Free-Throw Percentage: .893
    Points Per Game: 24.8

    Rick Barry was an unstoppable and relentless scoring machine who is the only player in history to win scoring titles in college, the ABA, and NBA.

    Barry was an aggressive pure shooter teams would have to guard closely. And when they did, he would drive to the basket, draw contact, and get to the free-throw line, where he was the game's best for over 25 years.

    Famous for shooting the ball underhanded from the stripe, Barry finished in the top three in free-throw percentage in all 14 seasons of his career. He led the NBA in the category six times. He's the ABA's all-time leader.

    Of the eight players 6'7" or under who have attempted 20,000 shots in their career, only Barry (who was 6'7") shot better than 45 percent from the field and 85 percent from the free-throw line.

    And he was clutch.

    In the 1975 playoffs, at the age of 30, Barry averaged 28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.9 steals, shot 44 percent from the field, and sank 101 of 110 free throws (92 percent), while leading a heavy underdog Warriors bunch to a title.

    Loved by few and hated by most, the petulant and contentious Barry made a combined nine All-NBA/ABA Teams and 12 All-Star Games.

<b>6. George Gervin</b>

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    Years Played: 1973-1986
    Games Played: 1060
    Minutes Per Game: 33.6
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 19.0
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 0.4
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 6.4
    Two-Point Percentage: .509
    Three-Point Percentage: .271
    Free-Throw Percentage: .841
    Points Per Game: 25.1

    You know you must be one cool customer or a hit-man to be nicknamed "The Iceman." George Gervin was just that—a quiet, unassuming, silky smooth scorer who could swish a jumper from 20 feet out one play and then lay a finger roll over your center the next.

    Rarely did it matter where on the court Gervin was or who was guarding him, the super-thin 6'7" guard-forward could make a move or two, raise up, and contort his body mid-air to get a shot off that would go in 50 percent of the time.

    Spot-up jumpers from deep, running one-handers from 14 feet out, dunks over people; you name it, Gervin could sink it.

    Ranked 13th all time in points, Gervin led the NBA in scoring four times during a five-year span in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

    Why do I rank Gervin ahead of Barry? Because for as incredible as Barry was, he had to work hard for every point he got. Gervin, on the other hand, did everything so effortlessly. In one game during the 1978 season, he scored 37 points on 17-for-18 shooting.

<b>5. Bill Sharman</b>

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    Years Played: 1951-1961
    Games Played: 711
    Minutes Per Game: 32.0
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 15.7
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.0
    Two-Point Percentage: .426
    Free-Throw Percentage: .883
    Points Per Game: 17.8

    The more I read about Bill Sharman, the more I feel he could have been the greatest shooter in NBA history.

    Sharman's incredible 88 percent clip from the free-throw line came during a time when the average free-throw shooter connected on about 71 percent (it has been about 76 percent consistently the past 40 years or so). Not only did the Celtics great lead the league in the category a record seven times, but often the second player on the list was a good distance behind.

    For example, in 1959, Sharman shot .932 from the line. The next guy on the list, the great Dolph Schayes, shot .864.

    Sharman wasn't just deadly on free throws though; he could pull up and sink a shot from just about anywhere on the court. In 1954, the 6'1" guard finished second in the league with a .450 field goal percentage. The other three guards in the top 15 finished with percentages of .400, .386, and .385.

    When Sharman retired in 1961, only 22 non-centers had played 500 games or more up to that point. Of the 22, Sharman ranked second in field goal percentage.

    A seven-time All-NBA selection, Sharman made eight All-Star Games and helped the Celtics win four championships.

    Why Sharman over Gervin? Gervin played during a defensively lax period when players had more freedom to score. Sharman was widely considered the best shooter of an era of basketball that featured the most physical (and dirtiest) play.

<b>4. Jerry West</b>

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    Years Played: 1961-1974
    Games Played: 932
    Minutes Per Game: 39.2
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 20.4
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 9.4
    Two-Point Percentage: .474
    Free-Throw Percentage: .814
    Points Per Game: 27.0

    Picking up where Bill Sharman left off, Jerry West elevated the shooting guard position to such a high level, his silhouette became the NBA logo.

    West was only 6'2" but blessed with long arms, great quickness, unparalleled toughness, and a Jordanesque obsession with perfection that separated him from bigger and more talented players.

    Statistically, West comes across as simply being a volume scorer; his 27 points per game are likely the product of attempting to score 25 or so times per game. However, for as many shots he took and minutes he played, West was efficient and rarely forced up an attempt on which he wasn't perfectly squared up.

    In one game, West hit 16 of 17 shots from the field, sank all 12 free-throw attempts, notched 12 rebounds, 12 assists, and 10 blocked shots. The man was incredible.

    Of course, what most separates West from the pack is what he was able to do when it mattered most. Aptly dubbed, "Mr. Clutch," West was the game's first superstar closer.

    The West Virginia native made 11 All-NBA First Teams, 14 All-Star Games, won a Finals MVP in a year his team lost, and appeared in nine championships, winning one (1972).

    West was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

<b>3. Michael Jordan</b>

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    Years Played: 1985-2003
    Games Played: 1072
    Minutes Per Game: 38.3
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 21.2
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 1.7
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 8.2
    Two-Point Percentage: .510
    Three-Point Percentage: .327
    Free-Throw Percentage: .835
    Points Per Game: 30.1

    You don't earn the indisputable reputation as the greatest basketball player in world history without being expertly skilled in most facets of the game. Thus, it should come as no surprise Michael Jordan is in the discussion for the best shooter ever.

    Despite a popular yet ignorant opinion among many fans, Jordan was a great shooter from the first day he stepped foot in the league. Naysayers will point to his lack of attempts from three-point range or highlight his propensity to drive to the hole, but completely ignore two key points.

    1. Why shoot from 23 feet when you can shoot from 16?

    2. Why shoot from 16 feet when you can get to the basket at will?

    The answers to these questions is what separated Jordan from everyone else—he never made the game more difficult than it needed to be. Sure, he took a ton of shots, but it was rare to see him take a bad one.

    In 1,072 regular season games, Jordan shot under 40 percent from the field in only 142 games. In other words, he had a bad shooting performance about 13 percent of the time. Meanwhile, most other great two-guards, like Mitch Richmond and Kobe Bryant, have shot under 40 percent in 30 percent or more of their games.

    The master of the mid-range game, Jordan's deadliest move was a back-to-basket fadeaway he would automatically sink from around the free throw line area. Because he was 6'6" and had incredible leaping ability and strength, he was able to make one the game's most difficult shots seem so easy.

    At 24,537 field goal attempts, only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone have taken more shots. What's remarkable is Malone, a forward who scored most of his points near the basket, has a career shooting percentage just .19 better than Jordan.

    Only seven players in history have attempted at least 17,000 field goals and 1,700 three-pointers. Of the seven, Jordan ranks first in field goal percentage. And if stats were kept for clutch performance back then, there's no question Jordan, who really did seem to come through at least 95 percent of the time, would be tops.

    While a strong case can be made the five-time MVP was the greatest shooter ever, I rank him third for the following reason:

    Because of his otherworldly athletic ability, all-around game and insane dedication, I feel Jordan would have made the NBA Hall of Fame even if he couldn't shoot worth a lick. Meanwhile, without elite shooting ability, the two players ranked ahead of him on this list would have struggled to become stars in the league.

<b>2. Larry Bird</b>

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    Years Played: 1980-1992
    Games Played: 897
    Minutes Per Game: 38.4
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 17.4
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 1.9
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.0
    Two-Point Percentage: .509
    Three-Point Percentage: .376
    Free-Throw Percentage: .886
    Points Per Game: 24.3

    We hear it so often how there will never be another Michael Jordan, but the truth is there will be another Jordan before there's another Larry Bird.

    Never has a player so lacking in the design to dominate an athletic endeavor conquered a sport the way Bird did. He was 6'9" but slow and couldn't jump. He was an effective ball handler but an average dribbler. He was incredibly confident but looked like he should have been whistling and mopping stadium aisles.

    There's a reason why people called him, "Larry Legend"—he was in many ways an enigma, maybe even a fairy tale.

    A poor boy from a tiny town in Indiana farm country, Bird was a nobody until his last two years of high school when his game started to draw attention. After a year at Indiana University with Bobby Knight, Bird left school, eventually settling on Indiana State, where he took the Sycamores to a No. 1 ranking and championship game.

    Bird left college as the fifth leading scorer in NCAA history.

    I know what you're thinking—what does this have to do with shooting?

    The answer is everything.

    For as great of a player Bird was all around, it was his amazing shooting ability that defined him. It's impossible to ask the question, "who was the greatest shooter in NBA history?" and not hear Bird's name come up first or second.

    A three-time regular season MVP (two-time Finals MVP), Bird was the first player to ever post a 50-40-90 percentage shooting season (1987) and do it in consecutive years.

    And where clutch shooting is concerned, Bird is up there with Jordan, Jerry West and the No.1 player on this list. An argument can be made for any of the four to be the guy you want taking the last shot.

    Popularly known as the best forward in league history, Bird was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.

    Why Bird over Jordan? Bird was simply a purer and better outside shooter.

<b>1. Reggie Miller</b>

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    Years Played: 1988-2005
    Games Played: 1389
    Minutes Per Game: 34.3
    Two-Point Attempts Per Game: 7.9
    Three-Point Attempts Per Game: 4.7
    Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.1
    Two-Point Percentage: .516
    Three-Point Percentage: .395
    Free-Throw Percentage: .888
    Points Per Game: 18.2

    Reggie Miller is the purest and most magnificent shooter to ever step foot on a basketball court. It's not even close.

    Miller spent 18 years as an Indiana Pacers player. During that span, the Pacers made the playoffs 15 times (reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in six of them) and only experienced four losing seasons (barely).

    All with Miller, a jump shooter, as the team's superstar.

    Not an all-around stud like Michael Jordan. Not a bruising power forward like Karl Malone. Not a dominant and versatile center like Hakeem Olajuwon.

    But a jump shooter.

    For 18 years, in an average of 77.2 games per season, Miller spent 34-plus minutes of each game running... and running... and running around screens, until he barely freed himself up to catch a pass every defender knew was coming and was trying to stop.

    And then in one lightning quick motion, with a defender a nanosecond behind, Miller would turn his body, elevate, and slingshot the ball at the rim, just beating the outstretched arm and hand that was coming to block his attempt.

    Swish.

    Miller would do this continuously all game long and couldn't be stopped. One would think his legs would get tired at some point or that he would take a play or two off to catch a breather, but these moments never came.

    If the defender didn't run this marathon with him, and do everything possible to keep him from getting a shot off, Miller would kill him.

    And it's not like the 6'7" Miller was working his ass off to get layups. He was running defenders into the ground just to get the ball, and usually pulling up from 18 to 24 feet out.

    Are you familiar with the statistic, True Shooting Percentage (TSP)? TSP is a APBRmetrics (Sabermetrics for basketball) value that measures shooting efficiency. It is essentially points scored per shooting possession.

    Of all the players in basketball history with averages of at least 25 minutes per game played and eight shots per game attempted, only Adrian Dantley, Artis Gilmore and Jeff Ruland rank ahead of Miller. Gilmore and Ruland were centers, and Dantley, who is hands down the game's most unique player ever, didn't shoot from the outside much.

    Meanwhile, Miller is the all-time leader in three-pointers attempted, with 6,486.

    In other words, the one player who took the most long-range shots in history is also the game's most efficient shooter. Wow.

    Ray Allen, who next season will overtake Miller in career three-pointers attempted and made, ranks 50 spots after Miller.

    Since his rookie season in 1988, only Jordan, Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant have scored more points (25,279). Only 16 players in history have scored more points.

    When it came to clutch play, Miller is only rivaled by Jordan, Larry Bird ,and Jerry West. Who could forget Game One of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals when he scored eight points in 8.9 seconds in a come-from-behind win over the Knicks in New York?

    The 25 points in the Fourth Quarter against the Knicks, during which he jawed with Spike Lee and gave him the choke sign.

    That insane 40-foot turnaround bank shot at the buzzer against the New Jersey Nets to send Game Five of the 2002 Playoffs into overtime.

    The time he freed himself up from Jordan with 2.9 seconds left in Game Four of the 1998 Conference Finals to hit a game-winning three.

    The list goes on. Few people have hit as many important shots as Miller.

    The greatest shooter the game has ever seen, Miller will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2011.

<b>Worthy Players Who Didn't Make the Cut</b>

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    Centers: Big men can shoot too, but I wanted to focus on guys who could shoot a reasonable volume from anywhere on the floor and connect at an above-average rate. Some great shooting centers include Dan Issel, Bob McAdoo, Yao Ming, Jack Sikma, Bill Laimbeer, Dave Cowens and Neil Johnston.

    Post Players and Drivers: Players like Adrian Dantley, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor, Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson and Julius Erving were discounted because their excellent shooting percentages were the result of playing near the basket. While almost all of them could knock down an open 20-footer, they were most comfortable around the paint.

    Inefficient Volume Scorers: Kobe Bryant is a great shot-maker, not a great shooter. He'll hit incredibly difficult shots, but miss many he should make. At the end of the game, everyone will point to the 30 points he scored but completely ignore it took him 30 shots. Other players in this category include Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas, Dominique Wilkins and Pete Maravich.

    Great Role Players Forgotten Over Time: These are the guys who were great only to those who watched them play. Do you hear Byron Scott's name much when "Showtime" is talked about? Well, Scott was an excellent player and awesome shooter. Andrew Toney, Fred Brown, Ricky Pierce, Eddie Johnson, Hersey Hawkins and Danny Ainge fall under this category.

    Shooting Stars...Literally: These were guys who were incredible to watch for a short period of time but then fell from the sky for one reason or another. Phil Chenier, Brian Winters and Paul Westphal are just three.

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