Top 10 best pure shooters in NBA history
Shooting is one of the most important aspects of basketball. The better your ability to get the ball into the hoop, the higher your team’s chances of securing a victory.
Over the years, the NBA has witnessed players who have had different shooting skillsets; many perfected the art of the mid-range jumper, while others were prolific from inside the paint.
With the league shifting away from the dominance of big men, three-point specialists have emerged who have the ability to make shots from over 30 feet.
However, one thing that all these players have had in common is the ability to shoot the basketball consistently.
On that note, here we take a look at the 10 best pure shooters in NBA history
#10. Rick Barry
Games Played: 1020
Teams: San Francisco Warriors, Oakland Oaks / Washington Caps, New York Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets
Two-Point Percentage: .460
Three-Point Percentage: .297
Free-Throw Percentage: .893
Points Per Game: 24.8
Accolades: NBA champion (1975), NBA Finals MVP (1975), ABA champion (1969), 8× NBA All-Star (1966, 1967, 1973–1978), NBA All-Star Game MVP (1967), 5x All-NBA First Team (1966, 1967, 1974–1976), All-NBA Second Team (1973), 4× ABA All-Star (1969–1972), 4× All-ABA First Team (1969–1972), NBA Rookie of the Year (1966), NBA All-Rookie First Team (1966), NBA scoring champion (1967), NBA steals leader (1975)
Rick Barry might be most famous for his quirky free-throw shooting – he shot underhanded from the charity stripe, but it proved effective as he made close to 90% of his free throws.
Barry was a prolific scorer from the perimeter and his outside threat meant teams had to guard him closely, allowing him to drive to the basket for easy buckets.
Barry finished in the top three in free-throw percentage in all 14 seasons of his career and also made history by winning scoring titles in the ABA, NBA and college.
He averaged 24.8 points per game over the course of his career and helped the Golden State Warriors win the NBA championship in 1975.
#9. George Gervin
Games Played: 1060
Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls
Two-Point Percentage: .509
Three-Point Percentage: .271
Free-Throw Percentage: .841
Points Per Game: 25.1
Accolades: 9× NBA All-Star (1977–1985), NBA All-Star Game MVP (1980), 5× All-NBA First Team (1978–1982), 2× All-NBA Second Team (1977, 1983), 4× NBA scoring champion (1978–1980, 1982)
George Gervin was an extremely prolific scorer during his time in the NBA. Gervin averaged at least 14 points per game every single season he played, for the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls.
A four-time scoring champion, Gervin tore through the NBA during his early years, tormenting teams with his famous finger roll.
Gervin earned nine nominations to All-Star teams in just 10 seasons in the NBA, but despite his individual success, he could not inspire San Antonio to a championship.
Gervin ended his career averaging an impressive 25.1 points per game. He was not too much of a deep threat, shooting under 30% from beyond the arc, but he more than made up for it with his presence in the paint and from the mid-range.
#8. Jerry West
Games Played: 932
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers
Two-Point Percentage: .474
Free-Throw Percentage: .814
Points Per Game: 27.0
Accolades: NBA champion (1972), NBA Finals MVP (1969), 14× NBA All-Star (1961–1974), NBA All-Star Game MVP (1972), 10× All-NBA First Team (1962–1967, 1970–1973), 2× All-NBA Second Team (1968, 1969), 4× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1970–1973), NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1969), NBA scoring champion (1970), NBA assists leader (1972), NBA 35th Anniversary Team, NBA 50th Anniversary Team
One of the first true superstars of the NBA, Jerry West had such an influence during his time on the court that the logo of the league is molded in his image.
West played during a time when there was no three-point line but still managed to rack up over 25000 points, thanks in part to his ability to make shots from all over the court.
West averaged over 30 points per game in four different seasons and won one scoring title, in 1970.
An efficient scorer, West averaged a whopping 27 points per game and shot 47.4 % from the field.
He also made history back in 1969 when he became the first player from the losing team to be named Finals MVP.
One of the most clutch scorers of his era, West had the ability to take over games down the stretch and deliver victories for his side. He currently sits in the 22nd spot on the all-time scoring list.
#7. Steve Nash
Games Played: 1217
Teams: Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers
Two-Point Percentage: .518
Three-Point Percentage: .428
Free-Throw Percentage: .904
Points Per Game: 14.3
Accolades: 2× NBA Most Valuable Player (2005, 2006), 8× NBA All-Star (2002, 2003, 2005–2008, 2010, 2012), 3× All-NBA First Team (2005–2007), 2× All-NBA Second Team (2008, 2010), 2× All-NBA Third Team (2002, 2003), 5× NBA assists leader (2005–2007, 2010, 2011), 4× 50–40–90 club (2006, 2008–2010)
Steve Nash redefined the role of the conventional NBA point guard with his speed, vision and shooting ability.
Over the course of his career, Nash averaged 14.3 points and 8.5 assists per game and was a two-time league MVP.
Nash was named to the All-Star team on eight occasions, and during his time with the Suns and Mavericks, both teams boasted the league’s best offense.
Nash is also regarded as one of the purest shooters the league has ever seen as he averaged a whopping 42.78% from beyond the arc.
He was also solid from the charity stripe, shooting over 90%, and was a member of the 50-40-90 club a record four times.
#6. Dirk Nowitzki
Games Played: 1522
Teams: Dallas Mavericks
Two-Point Percentage: .496
Three-Point Percentage: .380
Free-Throw Percentage: .879
Points Per Game: 20.7
Accolades: NBA Champion (2011), NBA Finals MVP (2011), NBA Most Valuable Player (2007), 14× NBA All-Star (2002–2012, 2014, 2015, 2019), 4× All-NBA First Team (2005–2007, 2009), 5× All-NBA Second Team (2002, 2003, 2008, 2010, 2011), 3× All-NBA Third Team (2001, 2004, 2012), 50–40–90 club (2007), NBA Three-Point Shootout champion (2006), NBA Teammate of the Year (2017)
Dirk Nowitzki is considered the greatest European player to ever feature in the NBA. Nowitzki’s fadeaway jumper was virtually unguardable and he perfected it over the course of his two-decade-long career with the Dallas Mavericks.
Nowitzki was a clutch scorer, as evidenced by his performance in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, where he sunk dagger after dagger to help Dallas pull off a shock upset.
Nowitzki’s shooting was effortless but efficient and he averaged 20.7 points per game overall.
He boasted an impressive three-point shot for such a big man, shooting 38% from beyond the arc. The German sits sixth on the all-time scoring list and is one of just 7 NBA players to have notched up over 30000 points.
#5. Michael Jordan
Games Played: 1072
Teams: Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards
Two-Point Percentage: .510
Three-Point Percentage: .327
Free-Throw Percentage: .835
Points Per Game: 30.1
Accolades: 6× NBA champion (1991–1993, 1996–1998), 6× NBA Finals MVP (1991–1993, 1996–1998), 5× NBA Most Valuable Player (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998), 14× NBA All-Star (1985–1993, 1996–1998, 2002, 2003), 3× NBA All-Star Game MVP (1988, 1996, 1998), 10× All-NBA First Team (1987–1993, 1996–1998), All-NBA Second Team (1985), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1988), 9× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1988–1993, 1996–1998), NBA Rookie of the Year (1985), NBA All-Rookie Team (1985), 10× NBA scoring champion (1987–1993, 1996–1998), 3× NBA steals leader (1988, 1990, 1993), 2× NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (1987, 1988)
The greatest player of all time, but not the most efficient of shooters, which is why Michael Jordan finds himself only at #5 on this list. Jordan was a scoring machine during his time with the Chicago Bulls, averaging over 30 points per game over the course of his career.
Jordan was at his best during clutch time and had the ability to take over games down the stretch and lead his Bulls side to victories.
He tallied 32,292 points in total and at the time of writing, sits in the fifth spot on the all-time scoring list.
Jordan won an astonishing 10 scoring titles over the course of his career and is also one of just two players – the other being Wilt Chamberlain – to rack up 3,000 points in a season.
Jordan wasn’t the most efficient three-point shooter – he shot just over 32 % over the course of his career – but his athletic ability ensured he didn’t need to attempt too many jumpers from beyond the arc.
He was also pretty impressive from the charity stripe, shooting 83.5% throughout his career.
#4. Ray Allen
Games Played: 1300
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat
Two-Point Percentage: .485
Three-Point Percentage: .400
Free-Throw Percentage: .894
Points Per Game: 18.9
Accolades: 2× NBA champion (2008, 2013), 10× NBA All-Star (2000–2002, 2004–2009, 2011), All-NBA Second Team (2005), All-NBA Third Team (2001), NBA Sportsmanship Award (2003), NBA Three-Point Shootout champion (2001), NBA All-Rookie Second Team (1997)
Ray Allen was drafted with the 5th overall pick of the 1996 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was immediately traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, going on to have a sensational career.
Allen was considered the greatest three-point shooter in the league during his time and set several shooting records over the course of his time with the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat.
Allen averaged under 20 points per game but was prolific from beyond the arc, shooting 40%. He was also a lock-in from the free-throw line, making close to 90% of his attempts.
Allen currently sits at the top of the all-time three-point shooting list, with 2973 made threes to his name. While his record is likely to be broken by Steph Curry in the near future, Allen will still be remembered as one of the purest shooters the NBA has ever seen.
#3. Larry Bird
Games Played: 897
Teams: Boston Celtics
Two-Point Percentage: .509
Three-Point Percentage: .376
Free-Throw Percentage: .886
Points Per Game: 24.3
Accolades: 3× NBA champion (1981, 1984, 1986), 2× NBA Finals MVP (1984, 1986), 3× NBA Most Valuable Player (1984–1986), 12× NBA All-Star (1980–1988, 1990–1992), NBA All-Star Game MVP (1982), 9× All-NBA First Team (1980–1988), All-NBA Second Team (1990), 3× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1982–1984), NBA Rookie of the Year (1980), NBA All-Rookie Team (1980), 3× NBA 3-Point Shootout champion (1986–1988), 2× 50–40–90 club (1987-1988)
Larry Bird was drafted by the Boston Celtics way back in 1978 and went on to have an enormously successful career.
Bird led the Celtics to three NBA titles and was named Finals MVP on two occasions. A sensational two-way player, Bird was an elite defender and prolific scorer, capable of taking charge of games down the stretch and making clutch shots.
Bird was the first player in NBA history to post a 50-40-90 percentage shooting season. Bird averaged an impressive 24.3 points per game and boasted a true shooting percentage of 56.4% over the course of his career.
He racked up a total of 21,791 points, shooting 37.6 % from deep.
#2. Reggie Miller
Games Played: 1389
Teams: Indiana Pacers
Two-Point Percentage: .516
Three-Point Percentage: .395
Free-Throw Percentage: .888
Points Per Game: 18.2
Accolades: 5× NBA All-Star (1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000), 3× All-NBA Third Team (1995, 1996, 1998), 50–40–90 club (1994)
Reggie Miller developed a reputation for being one of the most clutch shooters of all time. His stroke was not the most aesthetically pleasing but he had the ability to make shots from anywhere on the perimeter even under duress.
Miller was a five-time NBA All-Star and is inarguably the greatest Pacer of all time.
Over the course of his 1389 game career, Miller averaged 18.2 points per game and shot 39.5 % from beyond the arc.
With a total of 2,560 made three-point attempts, Miller ranks second on the all-time three-point shooting list, behind only Ray Allen.
#1. Stephen Curry
Games Played: 698
Teams: Golden State Warriors
Two-Point Percentage: .515
Three-Point Percentage: .435
Free-Throw Percentage: .950
Points Per Game: 23.5
Accolades: 3× NBA champion (2015, 2017, 2018), 2× NBA Most Valuable Player (2015, 2016), 6× NBA All-Star (2014–2019), 3× All-NBA First Team (2015, 2016, 2019), 2× All-NBA Second Team (2014, 2017), All-NBA Third Team (2018), NBA scoring champion (2016), NBA steals leader (2016), 50–40–90 club (2016), NBA Three-Point Contest champion (2015), NBA Sportsmanship Award (2011), NBA All-Rookie First Team (2010)
Steph Curry is considered the most prolific scorer and greatest shooter of all time. Curry was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the 2009 draft and has played a major role in their rise to a Western Conference Powerhouse.
Curry’s range is unlimited and he has the ability to pull up from anywhere on the court and launch contested threes.
Curry is also the only unanimous MVP in NBA history and played an integral role in the development of one of the greatest teams in NBA history when the Golden State Warriors racked up a whopping 73 wins in 2015/16.
Curry averages a whopping 23.5 points per game and shoots a ludicrous 43.5% from beyond the arc. He is also one of the finest free throw shooters in NBA history, making over 90% of his attempts from the charity stripe.
He also boasts the highest effective field goal % of all time, at .5802. Curry already has three championships to his name and is still in his prime, meaning he is more than capable of leading the Warriors to a couple more titles by the time he calls it quits.