The debate as to who is the NBA’s greatest shooter ever is done and dusted, with Stephen Curry earning the distinction already even with some of his prime still left to go.
The all-time leader in three-pointers made, Curry changed the game with his shooting prowess and ability to hit jumpers from 35 feet out, off the dribble, with defenders in his face, whatever.
That his style of play has not only led to two league MVP awards but four championships only furthers his stronghold on the honor of best shooter in NBA history.
So what we’re here to discuss is: Who is the second-best shooter ever in basketball?
Below, we break down 11 strong candidates
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Three-point attempts: 5,997
Three-point makes: 2,236
Three-point percentage: 37.3 percent
All-time rank in threes: 8th
The whole debate on the second-best shooter ever on the HoopsHype Slack channels arose after Damian Lillard recently dubbed himself as the top candidate for the distinction:
Lillard’s case isn’t a bad one, as although he shoots a somewhat pedestrian 37.3 percent from three for his career, he’s attempted nearly 6,000 three-pointers in his career, a lot of them with a huge degree of difficulty, at that.
Lillard has a point, too, that the difficulty of his shot attempts – he’s often seen launching from deep three-point range or pulling up with a defender in his face – makes his case stronger. The fact that he’s so comfortable and accurate shooting the basketball off the dribble, perhaps moreso than anyone else on this list, is also hugely impressive.
Add in the fact that he’s got a multitude of insane game-winners from 30-plus feet away from the basket, like the one that Paul George dubbed a bad shot (he wasn’t wrong)…
…and Lillard might not be far off calling himself the second-best shooter ever.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Three-point attempts: 7,429
Three-point makes: 2,973
Three-point percentage: 40.0 percent
All-time rank in threes: 2nd
Of course, the actual top candidate to be called the second-greatest shooter in NBA history is the player many considered the best shooter of all time prior to Curry, Ray Allen.
The younger generation of NBA fans may not remember this since he’s been out of the league since 2013-14, but Allen’s shooting was the stuff of legends, as he had a lightning-quick release, picture-perfect form and crazy elevation on his jumper. Whenever Allen even get a somewhat open look, it just felt like the ball was going through the basket, and a lot of the time… it did.
Allen was also doing it during a time when basketball was focused on the low-post and mid-range much more than it is today, which made his three-point shooting stand out even more. The spacing during Allen’s heyday was also far poorer than in modern basketball, and yet he still found a way to get open and knock down more threes than all but one player ever.
Allen even has longevity on his side in this argument, playing 18 seasons in the NBA, still a rotational player on an elite team in his final campaign for Miami.
And not only was he clutch, the owner of one the most important jump shots in NBA history, but Allen also didn’t need a lot of space to get off his shots, either, something that Spurs fans can verify:
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Three-point attempts: 4,861
Three-point makes: 2,015
Three-point percentage: 41.5 percent
All-time rank in threes: 13th
How unfair is it that the Warriors not only boast the greatest shooter ever but paired him in a single backcourt with a player that has a case to be the second-best shooter ever, too?
Injuries might have derailed Klay Thompson’s case a bit, as missing two full seasons in the midst of his prime did him no favors, but prior to that, Thompson was absolutely deadly not just as a shooter but as an overall scorer, with one of the prettiest jumpers basketball has ever seen.
As far as purely catching and shooting, we’re hard-pressed to think of a better shooter ever than Thompson, as once he got it, his shoulders always seem to be squared away with the basket while his follow-through almost always looks pure.
Thompson was consistent as anyone with his jumper in his heyday but he also had the ability to catch fire that few in history could match. Lest we forget about the time he dropped 60 points… in a game where he dribbled the ball 11 times:
Or how about when he scored 37 points – which would be a career-high for many a role player – in a single quarter?
Thompson may have benefitted some from the gravity created by Curry but he still had to knock those shots down, something that isn’t as easy as it looks. Back in 2012, various members of the Heat talked about the difficulty of shooting wide-open shots:
Newcomer Rashard Lewis, a former All-Star: “Got to get used to it because that’s the hardest shot in basketball. I may have to hold it for a couple of seconds, so I can get somebody closing out to me.” Veteran forward Shane Battier: “When you get a wide-, wide-open three, you’re naked. You have time to think and rationalize, and that’s counterintuitive to how we normally play. We normally play instinctively — time to think and time to react only. But when you have time to think in basketball, calculation often leads to miscalculation.”
Thompson didn’t appear to have that problem.
Add in the fact that Thompson, dubbed Game 6 Klay for various huge performances in vital playoff Game 6s, was also clutch and stepped up various times in the postseason, and his case as the second-best shooter ever only gets stronger.
Three-point attempts: 6,486
Three-point makes: 2,560
Three-point percentage: 39.5 percent
All-time rank in threes: 4th
His numbers benefited a bit from the NBA shortening the three-point line for three seasons during his prime from 1994-95 through 1996-97, but Reggie Miller is still without a doubt one of the best shooters the sport has ever seen.
A No. 1 option on offense for his entire prime, Miller was constantly the focal point of opposing defensive game plans and still knocked down a ton of threes – off the dribble, over tough contests and with little to no room. Consider the spacing, or the near complete lack thereof, of the NBA during the ’90s and Miller’s production as a shooter only gets more impressive.
Miller had to play with a ton of physicality, too, more than a lot of other shooters, as defenders would grab and hold onto him so he couldn’t get open, which required a lot of hand-fighting and bumping, something that undoubtedly had to sap his energy.
And yet Miller still had more than enough left in the tank consistently to score a whole lot of points for the Pacers, especially late in games when he often hit clutch shots for Indiana:
Miller’s shooting allowed him to post one of the craziest highlights in playoff history when he scored eight points in under nine seconds to beat the Knicks.
Miller’s longevity was also noteworthy, as he, like Allen, played 18 seasons, all at a good-to-great level.
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Three-point attempts: 4,773
Three-point makes: 1,830
Three-point percentage: 38.3 percent
All-time rank in threes: 20th
Kevin Durant’s three-point accuracy may not be that of some of the other players on this list, but his ability to shoot from deep or from the midrange with such aplomb has not only made him one of the best shooters in league history but one of its best scorers of all-time, too.
Just listen to the way No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero described a recent Durant heater on a podcast:
Durant’s got such an insane blend of height, length and skill that once he’s hot, it truly looks like it’s just him and the rim out there, as foes have no chance of preventing him from getting a good look at the basket.
He also shoots so many of his shots with a high degree of difficulty, rarely getting the opportunity to just catch and shoot but needing to cross over or fade away over elite defenders nightly to get his buckets.
Durant will get more credit when it’s all said and done as a scorer than a shooter but his ability to drop in buckets from all over the floor at such an elite level warrants more love.
AP Photo/Matt York
Three-point attempts: 3,939
Three-point makes: 1,685
Three-point percentage: 42.8 percent
All-time rank in threes: 29th
A two-time league MVP, Steve Nash overcame a lack of size and athleticism by being one of the most skilled players ever, gifted as a playmaker but also as a shooter.
If Nash had come around a decade later in an NBA more geared toward the outside game, there’s a chance he gets more love in the second-best-shooter-ever debate, as his accuracy as a shooter was truly one of a kind.
Only nine players in NBA history are in the 50/40/90 club, a distinction given to players who shot at least 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the foul line. Nash is one of just two players to have done it more than once, pulling off the crazy feat four times in his career, more than anyone else.
It’s unfortunate Nash never attempted even five threes on average for an entire season, as there’s a good chance his all-time ranking in three-point numbers would fare far better had he been less gun-shy with the ball.
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Three-point attempts: 5,715
Three-point makes: 2,450
Three-point percentage: 42.9 percent
All-time rank in threes: 5th
Few players in league history have given opposing fans as many sinking feelings when they caught the ball at the three-point line without a defender in sight than Kyle Korver, who was truly a special outside shooter.
Sure, he benefited from playing with a lot of top talent in his prime, but Korver had a super quick release, a picture-perfect follow-through and good elevation on his jumper, somewhat resembling Allen as a shooter, form-wise.
Korver’s case gets hurt by him being mostly just a catch-and-shoot threat and not much of an off-the-dribble shooter but when he got hot, it was downright scary for opponents. Just ask the Bucks, who once watched Korver score 11 points in a single minute of action.
When you think of pure shooters among players this millennium, Korver has to be one of the first names to pop into your head.
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Three-point attempts: 1,727
Three-point makes: 649
Three-point percentage: 37.6 percent
All-time rank in threes: 278th
Larry Bird’s legend as a shooter is more than what the numbers might say it should be, as Bird – mostly due to the era he played in – didn’t shoot as many threes as he should have in his prime. Bird only attempted at least three three-pointers per night three times in his career and shot a rather mundane 37.6 percent from the area for his career.
If Bird came around 20 years later, would he have let loose more often from three? Would he have been a more accurate shooter? It’s certainly possible, as Bird did have a solid follow-through and great size, making it difficult for foes to contest him.
Still, Bird was a downright assassin from the midrange, with a nasty face-up game and an ability to shoot over just about anyone thanks to his size. He was clutch, too, with a long list of vital jumpers on his resume:
He wasn’t the second-best shooter ever but he is without a doubt one of the best shooters the league has ever seen.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Three-point attempts: 4,392
Three-point makes: 1,760
Three-point percentage: 40.1 percent
All-time rank in threes: 26th
Despite a somewhat unorthodox release on his jumper, Peja Stojakovic went down as one of the best shooters in NBA history.
His high release point from a 6-foot-10 package is what helped him get off shot after shot every night and knock down as many threes as he did in his career, mostly of the catch-and-shoot variety.
He didn’t have the off-the-dribble scoring of some of the other shooters on this list, but he was as reliable as anyone when it came to having his feet set and knocking down open shots from beyond the arc.
Stojakovic shot 40-plus percent from three eight times in his career and led the NBA in free-throw shooting two separate times.
Photo by Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images
Three-point attempts: 255
Three-point makes: 583
Three-point percentage: 43.7 percent
All-time rank in threes: 605th
His time in the NBA was tragically cut short but before it was, Drazen Petrovic still made his mark as an elite shooter – and not just from beyond the arc.
Yes, Petrovic nailed 44.6 percent of his threes over his last two seasons, but he really didn’t shoot very many of them, averaging just under three nightly attempts from that area. Where Petrovic did his damage was off-the-dribble and from the midrange, where his beautiful jumper was a major weapon in an era with such little space available inside the three-point line.
Petrovic was so revered as a shooter that another player on this list, Miller, once said that the legendary Croatian was the best shooter Miller faced in his entire career:
He is the best shooter I ever played against. I have never seen anything like it. Petrovic had the quickest release I’ve ever seen and what made him so unique is I prided myself on working off screens, and you know working of the big men coming off, he was just as good, and we talked about footwork, arguably one of the best guys with that footwork at the shooting guard position. He was my greatest rival.
So although the sample size is unfortunately quite small, the eye test and word of mouth from another all-time great shooter is enough to tell us Petrovic deserves a spot on this list.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Did you know Oscar Schmidt is considered the all-time leading scorer in basketball history with 49,737 points scored?
So although you might be surprised to see him on this list, it’s not that shocking, as he amassed that many points in his career thanks to his shooting ability and not some freakish athletic gifts.
As just a small example of his shooting ability, over eight games in the 1988 Olympics, while playing for Brazil, Schmidt averaged 42.3 points while shooting 55.6 percent on nearly eight attempts from deep per game.
That includes a 55-point performance against Spain.
Confident as anyone in basketball history and with a pretty, quick release, it’s a shame Schmidt never played in the NBA, as his shooting touch may have translated at that level.
Clutch as they come and with the numbers to back it up (second all-time in threes, 40 percent from deep on nearly 7,500 career triples), we’d probably say Allen has the strongest case of anyone on this list to be called the second-best shooter ever, though obviously, that could change in the future with so many active players shooting the basketball at levels previously unseen.
His body of work and his ability to hit huge shots when it mattered most take his resume to another level, as does his consistency over such a long span of time, along with the fact that he was the supreme outside shooter in the league in a time when there were fewer players shooting so many threes on a nightly basis.