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.

Whaaaaat?

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 that 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 the 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.

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.

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