Nothing but Net: Ranking the Greatest Shooters in NBA History

Darko MihajlovskiCorrespondent IIIJanuary 2, 2011

Nothing but Net: Ranking the Greatest Shooters in NBA History

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    Welcome back to the "Greatest Ever" series as we continue with the rankings of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

    These are the most capable and accurate shooters who know how to hit a jump shot from just about anywhere on the court, regardless of if there's a defender on them, wide open, from the dribble, catch and shoot and so on.

    Having this type of a player on your team is always helpful, as they can come up big, especially in the clutch when you need most to win the game. Not everyone can find the bottom of the net so easily like these players have done.

    It's almost an art form to watch a great shooter go to work, as he beats the opponents and they can't do anything to stop him. However, there is a difference here: Not everyone takes the same shots, as they of course are different.

    The highest honor for a shooter can be joining the 50/40/90 club. It's perhaps the biggest recognition for a player that has nice shooting skills, as only the most elite are in there. This means that one player is capable of hitting at least 50 percent from field, 40 percent from behind the arc and 90 percent from the charity stripe.

    However, there's a difference here. One player has big percentages, but that doesn't mean he will be on this list or find himself on the top of it.

    There's a difference between people who take 20 attempts with a hard-nosed defender breathing down their neck and teams that make game plans on how to stop that guy. He has to take contested shots, work off the dribble, has to create.

    It's easy to pull up from just about anywhere and to score the two (or three) points wide open rather than to be heavily defended. That leaves out some people and downgrades someone who will be on the list, but it also proves something.

    Without further ado, here are the greatest shooters in NBA history!

Mid-Range

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    The mid-range shot has been a shot mastered by many great players in order to get the two points, but it isn't used as it was in the past, even though there are plenty of players who can nail these shots and make it look easy.

    In my opinion, the greatest mid-range shooter was Oscar Robertson, who was a player without any weak part in his game who excelled from mid-range, which was one of his strengths for scoring. He was heavily defended, but he mastered the shot to score thousands of them.

    He did that by shooting around 50 percent. To be correct, it was 49 percent, which was still impressive considering he didn't attack the basket way too much.

    Another player is the legendary Michael Jordan. He could nail it as well despite the physical defenders on him.

    He took it to the next level when he began to lose his athleticism, unlike the Big O, who was consistent out there from the start.

    Larry Bird can be inserted in here too. He could just pull up from mid-range and find the bottom of the net over a defender at any time, like Jordan.

    Let's not forget Oscar's biggest rival during his playing days, the logo, Jerry West, who was terrific in that part of shooting.

    Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant are the only worthy ones from the '00s that deserve to be mentioned on here.

    The list:

    1. Oscar Robertson

    2. Michael Jordan

    3. Larry Bird

    4. Jerry West

    5. Dirk Nowitzki

Three-Point

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    This is Ray Allen celebrating after his shot from behind the arc. He's got even more reasons to do it: He soon will surpass Reggie Miller's all-time record and set a new one. It's always nice to see him do that.

    The three-point line was originally introduced in the ABA in the '70s, and it changed the concept of the game in many ways.

    First, teams didn't always need to get the ball inside to score, since they could do it from outside as well.

    It opened the game and stretched the defense, as shot attempts from far away that used to before that time count for two changed into three. If you didn't defend, a good shooting team could hurt you badly from beyond the arc.

    The NBA somewhat succeeded to pull an agreement with the ABA, and that league didn't exist anymore, but many revolutionary things translated from there and have become a part that cannot be changed and attracted more fans (dunk contest, cheerleaders, exciting game in more ways and many more).

    The three-point line was introduced in the league in the 1979-80 season, and it soon became a powerful weapon used by many players. The first great shooter that put teams in trouble was the great Celtic, Larry Bird, who I am sure enjoyed doing that. He was also the first great sharpshooter.

    Years later, many players developed it better, and now it has, of course, been taken to the next level. In the late '80s, from Europe arrived the first great player, Drazen Petrovic, and then the likes of Miller took over.

    There are too many specialists, but only the very best are on this list.

    1. Ray Allen—will soon surpass Reggie and has the finest stroke ever, with a quick release, so...

    2. Reggie Miller

    3. Jerry West

    4. Peja Stojakovic

    5. Dale Ellis

    Note: Jerry West hit so many three-pointers, but unluckily for him, he played in the years when they were just long twos...

Free Throws

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    Mark Price is one of the best point guards of all time but is unknown and overshadowed by many others from his era.

    Despite that, no one in the history of the game could shoot it from the charity stripe like he did. He's the all-time leader for now, but his record isn't safe because Steve Nash is a very small margin behind him (90.4 is the record; Nash is about 0.1 percent behind).

    Rick Barry was for his career 90 percent from the line, but the way he shot them was funny. He shot underhand free throws, yet he was so efficient. Simple but efficient.

    Peja Stojakovic was a sharpshooter who in his prime with the Kings was on fire. The dude was excellent from the line at 89.5 percent. Ray Allen is 89 percent for his career from the line too.

    Bill Sharman deserves to be mentioned, who has a career percent of 88 percent and led everyone for a record eight times!

    Here's the list:

    1. Mark Price

    2. Steve Nash

    3. Rick Barry

    4. Peja Stojakovic

    5. Ray Allen

    There aren't really other shooting categories. We can count in the fadeaway where Jordan rules, followed by Kobe, etc.

Overall

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Here is the top 10 list. Enjoy!

10. Bob McAdoo

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    A 6'9" undersized center who dominated with his sharpshooting skills, Bob McAdoo was, simply said, one of the greatest shooters to ever play in the NBA.

    He was far ahead of his time and was capable of scoring well from outside and inside as well. He was such a big threat with his shot who caused so many mismatches due to that and had those long arms that gave him a wingspan of 7'3".

    In other words, that was a good advantage for him, and it was an impossible mission to block that shot, as many teams would just watch as he would drain them. Until the arrival of Dirk Nowitzki, he was the best shooting big man ever.

    He was a tough matchup and defended heavily. However, it didn't stop him from getting three scoring titles in a row and establishing himself as a phenomenal overall player. He had career field goal percentages of 50.2 percent and was 75.4 percent from the charity stripe.

    "He's the greatest shooter of all time, period. Forget that bit about the 'greatest shooting big man.'" That was said by his former coach Bill Russell. "The quickest tall man, finest shooter and most astounding outside scoring machine ever to play basketball," said Sports Illustrated.

    Need more proof?

    Okay, here it comes:

    Career total points: 18,787

    Career scoring average: 22.1

    Career field goals attempted: 17.3

    Career field goals made: 8.7

    Career field goal percentage: 50.3

    Career free throw percentage: 75.4

9. Bill Sharman

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    Arguably the finest shooter of his era and one of the best in NBA history, Bill Sharman had a terrific impact on the game with his abilities to hit a shot.

    He was one of the first guards ever to raise his field goal above 40 percent from the field, which was a hard task to achieve considering the pace of the game back then. He was a textbook shooter, and in that time, no one did it better than him.

    He ranked consistently among the top five leaders in field goal percentage, finishing second in one season, which was far better than the rest, who were below 40. He was the first pure shooter who could score from just about anywhere and was deadly from the free throw line.

    His lifetime percentage of 88.3 percent from the line not only is ranked among the top 10 of all time, but it's an even greater achievement than first thought. He led the league seven times in FT percentage, with his highest over 90. He did it when the league average was around 72 percent, and the next great one was way behind him. He was a true legend.

    Career points: 12,665

    Career field goals attempted: 15.7

    Career field goals made: 5.7

    Career field goal percentage: 42.6

    Career free throw percentage: 88.3

8. Alex English

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    One of the most prolific offensive players of all time, who held the highest scoring totals/averages through the '80s, Alex English was one of the greatest shooters ever.

    He had a silky-smooth shot and delivered mostly from mid-range. He perfected his jump shot that made him a mismatch, as the 6'7" forward had really long arms and released the jumper when they were at the highest point.

    Oh, and he jumped so high off the ground. He mastered these simple things and got himself a strong and well-deserved reputation. He didn't bother shooting from three because he was so effective inside and there were few who could challenge him.

    He scored 26 points per game during the '80s, which was an era of great defensive teams and players, a fact that makes his abilities even greater. The fact that he hit over 50.2 percent from the field despite the defense makes that an even bigger accomplishment.

    He was so damn good. His field goal percentage is one of the highest ever for any non-big man, and he got to the 50 percent mark at least seven times, which is impressive.

    Here are some statistics that are in favor of this legend.

    Career points: 25,613

    Career field goals per game attempted: 17.6

    Career field goals made per game: 8.7

    Career field goal percentage: 50.2

    Career three-point percentage: 21.7

    Career free throw percentage: 83.2

7. George Gervin

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    One of the best offensive players to step on the NBA hardwood, George Gervin was additionally one of the finest shooters to ever grace the game of basketball.

    He could sink a variety of difficulty shots from anywhere. He was heavily defended, as there was usually a double team, even sometimes a triple team, waiting to stop him. That was impossible, as he had his own style, which was to put consistent effort in.

    He was so effective with his shot, recognized by Dr. J, who gave him the nickname "Iceman." Yes, he was nailing them, and he put defenders in a position to hope that he'd get tired and miss. That never happened. During one season in which he led in scoring at 29.6 points per game, he did so on 54 percent shooting from the field.

    Gervin was 84 percent for his career from the free throw line and shot overall 50 percent in his years in the pros, an impressive accomplishment considering the number of double teams that he faced in every single game.

    A true legend. He's responsible for creating the finger roll and taking it to another level.

    Here are some stats:

    Career points: 26,595

    Career scoring average: 25.1 (NBA average is 26.1)

    Career field goals attempted per game: 19.4

    Career field goals made per game: 9.8

    Career three-point percentage: 27.1

    Career free throw percentage: 84.1

6. Ray Allen

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The greatest three-point shooter in the league's history, Ray Allen is also one of the best pure shooters in NBA history.

    In fact, only Reggie Miller could be argued as purer than Allen, who is accurate as a sniper from outside as well as from the free throw line. He ranks second among the all-time leaders in total shots made beyond the arc while leading all current players.

    He's just short of surpassing it, and when he does it, it will be a moment that belongs in the history of the league itself and the Boston Celtics, a franchise where Allen has played his finest years and will be remembered most for playing.

    He has one of the quickest shot releases ever seen in basketball. During his finer years, it was automatic if the defender didn't get in time. He earned a reputation of an excellent shot maker in the clutch with the Celtics who made numerous shots in the clutch.

    He proved to be of big meaning in the 2008 NBA Finals, where it was Ray Ray who tied the all-time record for most three-pointers made in a single game with seven. Amazing, and that was in a winning effort. He previously put up a 50-point performance against the Bulls.

    Another interesting moment for him was setting the new all-time record in total threes made with eight in Game 2 of the 2010 Finals. However, the sad news for the greens was he became a mystery that was simply gone.

    He's automatic from the free throw line, shooting the fourth highest career free throw percentage, which was a great reason not to foul him. He's so confident from there.

    Here are some facts for Allen:

    Total points: 21,486 (and counting)

    Career scoring average: 20.4

    Career field goal attempts: 15.4

    Career field goals made: 6.9

    Career field goal percentage: 45.1

    Career three-pointers attempted per game: 6.0

    Career three-pointers made per game: 2.4

    Career three-point percentage: 39.5

    Career free throw percentage: 89.4

    Two-time winner of All-Star Three-Point Shootout contest

5. Jerry West

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    Jerry West was, of course, one of the greatest players in NBA history. He enjoyed success but was a guy who always worked hard enough to perfect himself and had high confidence in his overall shot attempts and was always focused on each of his shots.

    When he came into the league and teamed up with Elgin Baylor, they created the league's finest inside and outside duo, in which Jerry was the player who dominated from outside. Yes, he was a phenomenal shooter who could nail them from far away.

    But at that time, the three-point line wasn't yet adopted by the league, which hurts his overall total when we know that he could have much more overall points scored. He was a high-volume scorer with an effective jumper.

    He could also nail them, not just pull up, but fadeaway, off balance, over a hand—it didn't matter, as he was hitting nothing else but the net. He tallied so many points from his jumper on a more than good percentage and was effective from the line too.

    Career points: 25,192

    Career scoring average: 27.0

    Career field goals per game attempted: 20.4

    Career field goals per game made: 9.7

    Career field goals percentage: 47.7

    Career free throw percentage: 81.4

4. Drazen Petrovic

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    The first and greatest European player to ever play in the NBA, Drazen Petrovic was a sharpshooter of a world class.

    He was a crafty and high-volume scorer who possessed a deadly shot. He could hit the jumper from any place on the court, wide open, a hand in his face—it didn't matter because he knew to make them despite being well defended.

    He was a monster from behind the arc who was in his career in the league consistently among the top three in terms of top percentage. He holds the fifth highest career three-point percentage, which is for respect. He got over 50 percent twice; only Jordan shot over the same mark and was a guard.

    He ranked twice in total threes made and attempted, and he shot 84.1 percent from the line. He was just that great of a shooter.

    Career points: 4,461

    Career scoring average: 15.4

    Career field goals per game attempted: 11.6

    Career field goals made per game: 5.9

    Career field goal percentage: 50.6

    Career three-pointers per game attempted: 2.0

    Career three-pointers per game made: 0.9

    Career three-point field goal percentage: 43.7

    Career free throw percentage: 84.1

3. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    One of the top European players to grace the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki is one of the best sharpshooters ever seen in play.

    He's arguably the sweetest shooting big man of all time. Only Bob McAdoo could challenge him. He's a tough player to guard because of his abilities to hit his shots

    First of all, he's a seven-footer who has long arms and a fantastic fadeaway that make blocking his shot unlikely.

    He can take and make a variety of different jumpers. He's well respected for his ability, and it opens the entire defense.

    Teams make game plans to stop him; if you put a smaller defender on him, he will post him and score over the top. If you put a bigger defender on him, he will drive past you and get to the foul line, where he shoots 87 percent for his career. That makes it a big problem for many defenses.

    He's also the first seven-footer to ever win the All-Star Three-Point Shootout contest.

    He has been a member of the 50/40/90 club couple of time who led in the playoffs in total threes made once and put up percentages similar to that, even though he's heavily defended. Again, that's a fact that demands respect.

    Career points: 21,811

    Career scoring average: 23.0

    Career field goals attempted per game: 16.9

    Career field goals made per game: 8.0

    Career field goal percentage: 47.5

    Career three-pointers per game attempted: 3.2

    Career three-pointers per game made: 1.2

    Career three-point percentage: 38.0

    Career free throw percentage: 87.6

    Winner of All-Star Three-Point Shootout contest

2. Reggie Miller

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    It's hard to make a list of the best overall shooters in NBA history and not include Reggie Miller in that list. It would be a crime.

    No one shot the three better in the clutch than Mr. "Knick Killer," a nickname he earned after scoring eight consecutive points in which the Pacers sank the New York Knicks in the playoffs.

    He had even bigger success in the start of the '00s, where he played in the Finals but eventually lost to LA.

    He was the purest shooter ever who played 34 minutes per game, running and running consistently from pick to pick to get the ball and just catch the ball, pull up and you know what he did. He only nailed them and did the same thing over again.

    He had the quickest release ever, so not being a small part of the second in there, he would use that and get a better look. He holds the all-time three-point record for now until Ray Allen passes him, but regardless of that he is still one of the top three-point shooters in NBA history.

    He holds the all-time record in most threes made during the playoffs (320) and led in that category two times in the season and five times in free throw percentage, was part of the 50/40/90 club, had a streak of 67 games with at least one three and so on.

    He had dozens of them and could easily be argued as No. 1.

    Career points: 25,279

    Career scoring average: 18.2

    Career field goals per game attempted: 12.6

    Career field goals made per game: 5.9

    Career field goal percentage: 47.7

    Career three-pointers per game attempted: 4.7

    Career three-pointers per game made: 1.8

    Career three-point field goal percentage: 39.5

    Career free throw percentage: 88.8

1. Larry Bird

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Arguably the greatest shooter the game of basketball and this league has seen, Larry Bird stands above them all.

    The 6'9" forward was a superstar player who could absolutely do it all. He was a complete and consistent triple-double threat who was fearless and could find the bottom of the net. He was out of his mind and could make numerous shots.

    He was an average dribbler, but he would just pull up and make tons of shots without sweating. Often in his playing days he used to tell opponents' defenders what he would do, and he actually did it. He was not afraid to sink them in the playoffs.

    Bird was also one of the most awesome three-point shooters ever. He was capable of hitting them from outside. He was the winner of the first ever All-Star Shootout contest and the first one as well to win the competition three times in a row.

    He has dozens of made shots in the playoffs during very crucial games and also counts for the most clutch shooter ever. He was accurate from the line, where he was nearly automatic while leading four times in that category.

    His three-point totals were twice the highest in the league. He had a high career field goal percentage even though out of all these players he was the most defended. He could make impact on the court in many ways—this was one of them.

    He was the first member ever of the 50/40/90 club, making him one of five guys ever to do it, which is another sign of ability.

    Career points: 21,791

    Career scoring average: 24.3

    Career field goals per game attempted: 19.3

    Career field goals per game made: 9.6

    Career field goal percentage: 49.6

    Career three-pointers per game attempted: 1.9

    Career three-pointers per game made: 0.7

    Career three-pointer percentage: 37.6

    Career free throw percentage: 88.6