As much as we'd like to include Michael Jordan, Jerry West and Kobe Bryant on this list, they're more pure scorers than pure shooters. A pure shooter is someone who relies on screens to score, and they rarely go for the spectacular dunks or the isolation dribble drives. Pure shooters, or basketball snipers, can also stretch a defense with their ability to make jump shots from beyond 23 feet. One Man Fast Break examines the 10 best pure shooters in NBA history:
10. Dale Ellis
Remember the flat-top haircut? Ellis' Kid-n-Play haircut is just as impressive as his jump shot. Ellis was a big guard (6-7) who took advantage of his great size when he was shooting from distance. He may not have won an NBA title, but Ellis was a 3-point shooting king during All-Star Weekend. He also ranks in the top five in 3-point field goals made (1,719).
9. Byron Scott
When Scott was at Arizona State, he played point guard and shooting guard. But when he joined the L.A. Lakers in the early 1980s, he was strictly a shooting guard since the Lakers had a guy named Magic Johnson running point. B-Scott was one of the unsung heroes on the Showtime Lakers. He made countless big shots for Pat Riley's bunch, and he was one of the toughest competitors in the game. His jump shot in the waning moments of Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons remains one of the biggest in Lakers history.
8. Danny Ainge
The Boston Celtics during the 1980s had arguably the best starting five in the league. They had an All-Star center in Robert Parish, a great power forward in Kevin McHale, the quintessential small forward in Larry Bird, a Hall-of-Fame point guard in Dennis Johnson and one of the deadliest shooting guards in the game in Danny Ainge. He complemented the Celtics' Big Four extremely well because he was a tremendous spot-up shooter. He was fearless and unafraid to take (and make) the big shots. He was also a pest on the court, and sometimes his cocky persona got him in trouble. (See the Sedale Threatt punch that nearly rearranged Ainge's face.)
7. Peja Stojakovic
Stojakovic was drafted in the first round in the 1996 draft by the Sacramento Kings, one of Geoff Petrie's major draft gems. His 1,760 3-pointers ranks in the top five all-time and is a 40 percent shooter from behind the arc for his career. Peja's incredible shooting was one of the reasons the Kings were one of the best scoring teams in the NBA from 2001-05. He's made more than 100 threes 10 times in his career -– 240 in 2003-04 with the Kings, 231 in 2007-08 with the Hornets. He’s currently a key contributor to the Dallas Mavericks as a sniper off the bench. At 6-foot-9, Stojakovic is a shooting guard in a forward's body, which allowed him to shoot over any defender. He loved to drift to his left side to set up his jump shot, a step-back move that became his signature shot.
6. Mark Price
The pride of Oklahoma and Georgia Tech, Mark Price is basketball's Baby Face Assassin. Price offers that choir-boy appearance at first but then you realize this guy is a true sniper who can knock down cold-blooded shots. Price was a 40 percent 3-point shooter and 90 percent free throw shooter in his 12-year NBA career, nine of which were spent with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He shot 94 percent from the line during the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons.
5. Glen Rice
You want "Minute Rice" or "Instant Rice?" That was the question posed by Glen Rice to teammate John Salley before the start of the 2000 NBA Finals. It's not boasting when you own one of the sport's deadliest jump shots. The man used to be known as G-Money was a pure gunner who never took a shot he didn't like. Once Rice got off the team bus, he was open. He was an absolute sniper. His range was unlimited and his form was almost perfect. It was a stunner whenever he missed because it seemed like every shot he took looked good coming out of his fingertips. Rice averaged more than 20 points per game six times during his career, and drained 1,559 3-pointers.
4. Chris Mullin
The former collegiate star from St. John's University wasn't fast nor flashy and wasn't blessed with great athleticism. But he made his living by perfecting a deadly baseline jump shot, a smooth left-handed stroke that would enable him to last 16 years in the NBA and amassed almost 18,00 points. A member of Golden State's formidable trio "Run TMC," Mullin averaged more than 20 points six times in his career and shot 86 percent from the free throw line. When the 1992 Dream Team was being constructed, Mullin was called to provide the greatest team in basketball history some much-needed outside shooting. He averaged 12.9 points, which was fourth on the Dream Team.
3. Reggie Miller
Most Indiana Pacers fans were scratching their heads when Miller was chosen by the team in the 1987 NBA draft, especially when Indiana's favorite son, Steve Alford, was still on the board. Well, more than 25,000 points and 2,560 3-point shots later, the Pacers were left satisfied with their pick. Miller basically invented the art of running off defenders on screens. To do so, you had to be in tremendous physical condition, which he was. Miller worked extremely hard at his craft. He was always one of the first players in the gym shooting jump shots. He also was one of the league’s best trash talkers, and he backed up his big talk more often than not (see Reggie Miller v. Spike Lee at Madison Square Garden, 1994 NBA playoffs).
2. Ray Allen
In terms of work ethic, very few in the game has worked harder than Ray Allen. Even though he's in mid-30s, Allen continues to amaze with his incredible endurance and leg strength. Reggie Miller and Richard Hamilton were incredibly fit during their primes, but Ray Allen blows both of them away because he's showing no signs of slowing down. Allen has taken the art of running off screens from Miller and enhanced it with his own style. Allen also has a unique shooting stroke because his release is uncanny and hard to teach. He may have one of the quickest shots in the sport, a shot so smooth and compact that it is almost perfect.
1. Larry Bird
In terms of technique or statistical achievement, Bird is not on par with his constituents. For his career, Bird was only a 37 percent shooter from 3-point range and never made more than 98 in one season. His career total of 649 doesn't even crack the NBA's top 100. Heck, J.R. Rider (667), Rodney Rogers (690) and George McCloud (920) made more threes than Bird. However, when the stakes are at its highest and the lights are at its brightest, very few can compare with Bird. Larry Legend saved some of his best shots during the postseason, helping the Celtics win three titles in 1980s. Adding to his legendary legacy, Bird was also unbeatable during All-Star Weekend. He entered the 3-point contest three times and won it three times. One time he didn’t bother to take off his warm-up jacket. That’s Larry Bird for you. He won't wow you with stats or amazing highlight plays, but he is a pure assassin when it's money time.
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