Updated September 17, 2023

The Best 3-Point Shooter In The NBA

The current NBA differs from the professional basketball of just 10 years ago, let alone 20. The favored shots and the strategies teams use to make them are radically different. It’s no secret that three-point shots are at their peak or that NBA teams are choosing players and strategies with a priority for three-point shooting.

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The three-point line was only introduced to the NBA in 1979, before the era of the advanced analytics-driven game we see today. Recently, the benefits of the three-pointer have become apparent in the front offices of NBA franchises. These days it’s hard to put together a winning team without a lineup that features skilled three-point shooters attempting the shot regularly and successfully.

There are many ways to quantify the all-time top three-point shooters in the NBA. These include three-point percentage, the number of career three-pointers made, and the ability to make difficult three-pointers. One must also take into account a player's overall role on their team, the level of defensive coverage they receive, and other less easily quantifiable factors.

Many great three-point shooters will have to be left off our list for the sake of brevity. Among the honorable mentions that could just as well be included in another top-10 are sharpshooters like Larry Bird, Dale Ellis, JJ Redick, Joe Harris, and Jason Terry. Still, regardless of the metrics used, we’re confident that our 10 top three-point shooters firmly belong on the list.

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Perhaps you’re still learning about three-pointers and what they mean to the game. Before we get into our list, let’s discuss the three-pointer and how the three-point shot has changed the game.

What Is a Three-Point Shot?

Any shot made from behind the three-point line, introduced in 1979, is considered a three-pointer. This differs from a standard NBA shot, a two-point field goal. Making threes requires accuracy and long-range precision. The possibility of scoring three points at once also changes the strategies employed in the game significantly. 

The value of three points over two is considerable. The difficulty of shooting from three-point range versus mid-range is marginal enough to make a three-point attempt by a skilled shooter more valuable on average. If a player cannot get in the position to make a short-range shot, such as a layup or dunk, a three-pointer is often the right decision from an analytics perspective.

This means that court spacing must be altered to account for this strategy. More players must defend from the mid and long shooting ranges, and players crowding around the baskets become less prevalent. For this reason, the overall game is changed considerably by the rise of the three-point shot's usage.

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Why Are Three-Pointers So Popular Now?

Recently, there has been a marked shift toward three-pointers and close-range, high-percentage shots being favored over mid-range attempts. Those who have been watching basketball since the introduction of the three-point line in the NBA will undoubtedly be aware of the difference in strategies employed in the NBA.

Coaching schemes involve prioritization of three-point attempts, and front offices are making a point of stacking rosters with skilled three-point shooters. Even among players who don't excel from the three-point line, the ability to regularly attempt competitive three-pointers is a more critical skill in today's NBA.

Of course, the success rate will lower the further a shot is taken from the basket. Yet, the difference between two and three points is drastic, making a three-point-centric game plan more optimal according to advanced metrics.

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The more skilled shooters you have on the court, the more opportunities there are for high-percentage shots. Dangerous three-point weapons looming from behind the arc can also open up the inside of the court for star players with strong inside games.

You might wonder precisely when this change occurred. It largely coincided with the introduction of a more advanced statistical metric-based approach to constructing rosters and game plans in the NBA. 

An early on-court example of this approach would be the 2007-2008 Orlando Magic. Without a traditional roster of power players, the Magic had to look for alternative strategies to remain viable with its existing lineup. A successful season that relied on shooters instead of a more old-school lineup ensued.

Since around the year 2000, three-point attempts have been on a steady upward trajectory. As of around 2010 onward, the slope has only increased toward the three-point-centric NBA we know today. 

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The Best Three-Point Shooters in NBA History

There's always room for a bit of debate regarding the best of the best. That's why we will discuss the achievements and skills that landed these players their spots on our list and the stats that make them worthy of the distinction.

These 10 shooters aren’t the only great three-point shooters in the NBA, not by a long shot. With a few exceptions, other greats could easily be included in this group over their listed counterparts. Still, this group includes some of the best we've ever seen in the NBA.

10. Damian Lillard

With more than 2,300 successful three-pointers under his belt, Damian Lillard is among the top of the leaderboard at sixth all-time. With 2,387 successful shots and 6,410 attempts, his three-point percentage is 37.2%. He is also 32 years old and already sixth all-time in threes made, meaning he likely has a lot of time to keep climbing the leaderboards.

His three-point percentage represents a considerably lower success rate than some of the greats in the three-pointer game. Plus, his total threes are impacted by the higher number of attempts in our modern NBA game. Still, this percentage is nothing to scoff at, and combined with his total three-pointers, he's firmly earned himself a spot on our top ten list.

What might tip the scales in the favor of Lillard being featured on any top 10 list is the sheer improbability of some of the three-pointers he attempts and regularly makes. Almost no range appears too long, enabling Lillard to take and make shots that almost no other NBA player could regularly make.

9. James Harden

James Harden is acknowledged as one of the best three-point shooters in the history of the NBA and is still going strong. He is third on the list of all-time three-pointers made. 

You might think this would put him higher on our list, yet his three-point percentage is not nearly as high as many of the great long-range shooters. His 7,594 regular-season three-point attempts with 2,754 made puts his percentage at 36.3%. Still, his sheer quantity of threes made and his respectable rate earn him a firm spot on our list.

On top of it, Harden is not just a shooter. He's a complete offensive player who has played for four teams over 14 seasons, averaging almost 25 points per game with 7 assists and 5.6 rebounds. He's played in 10 All-Star games, has won the NBA MVP, and has even won a Sixth Man of the Year award. 

8. Steve Kerr

Kerr is eighth on our list only because he didn't attempt or make nearly as many three-pointers as some of the other top shooters of all time. Still, Steve Kerr deserves a place in the upper echelon despite a lack of shot attempts.

He has achieved the highest success rate for any shooter with a track record worth discussing. With 726 regular season three-pointers made and a 45.4% three-point percentage, he is in a league of his own regarding accuracy. It is impossible not to include the relevant player with the highest three-point percentage of all time while playing considerably more games than almost anyone else toward the top of the percentage list.

Of course, Kerr was more of a role player during his career as a player and never achieved the sheer volume of shots of some of the other stars on our list. On top of it, he played before three-pointers became as prevalent of a part of NBA strategy as they are today. It is possible and probable that had his career occurred later in the development of NBA game plans, his total career threes would be considerably higher. 

7. Mike Miller

While Mike Miller never led the NBA in three-point percentage, attempts, or three-pointers made, there is no doubt that he is one of the top long-range shooters of all time in terms of talent. He played nine seasons with at least 100 attempts and a 40-plus three-point percentage. This puts him in rare company as only Steve Nash, Kyle Korver, Stephen Curry, and Reggie Miller have more seasons having achieved this distinction.

Miller was the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year and played for seven total franchises over a long career, winning multiple rings playing for the Miami Heat in his later years. He made 1590 career regular season threes and boasted a lifetime three-point percentage of almost exactly 40%.

Miller was known by his NBA colleagues for being a clutch shooter in essential moments. He is famous for his 2014 NBA Finals three-point shot made while wearing one shoe, highlighting his ability to perform in big moments even in suboptimal situations.

6. Steve Nash

Steve Nash is another on our list of great three-point weapons who was more than a shooter. The Hall of Fame two-time MVP point guard is considered one of the greatest passers in the history of the NBA. The famed Canadian star boasted a 42.8% three-point percentage (11th all-time) with 1685 career regular-season three-pointers made (30th).

A fantastic pure shooter, Nash not only excelled from three-point range, with a 49% field goal percentage overall. He also shot at 90.4% from the free-throw line, making him second of all time. 

Nash also achieved considerable success from three-point range in the postseason, 31st of all time in total threes made with 178. For a man who made much of his reputation on his passing, Nash is unquestionably one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

5. Klay Thompson

Despite missing considerable time due to lengthy injuries, Klay Thompson has 2,213 lifetime regular season three-pointers, putting him at 11th on the all-time leaderboard. With a 41.6% lifetime three-point percentage, Thompson is undoubtedly one of the best shooters from three-point range in league history.

Klay has also been clutch in the playoffs, with 451 postseason threes, which is good for second of all time. Of course, these numbers are skewed a bit by the considerable playoff success Thompson's Warriors have enjoyed, yet, he has shown that he does not shy away from the big moments.

Thompson is only 33, meaning he likely has several productive seasons ahead of him. We should only see him move up the leaderboard further and cement his standing as one of the all-time greats in the years to come.

4. Kyle Korver

Kyle Korver fits into a peculiar place in the pantheon of the best shooters in NBA history. As a career role-player, he is not exactly a household name in the same way as some of the superstars on our list.

Yet, with 2,450 regular season three-pointers, Korver is 5th all-time, despite not cracking the top 10 of most three-pointers attempted. On top of it, he boasts the highest three-point percentage of any player in the top 100 of all-time three-pointers. He only averaged 9.7 points per game, making him a true specialist, yet, that is what he was, and his specialty was the three-pointer.

With his 42.9% career success rate, he is 10th of all time in NBA career three-point percentage. Even some of the other top all-time best shooters on our list have never had a season approaching this level of consistency from three-point range. Korver did not take unnecessary shots, knew when he had an excellent opportunity, and jumped on it when he did.

Plus, his postseason success from behind the arc is sneakily among the best of all time. He had 254 playoff three-pointers made in 145 games (17th all-time) for a 39.1% percentage. Korver is undoubtedly a bit of a dark horse in the discussion of the top four three-point shooters of all time but has certainly earned his spot at the table for now.

The Top Three Best Three-Point Shooters in NBA History

Here we are getting down to the nitty-gritty of the true best-of-the-best. Most will agree on the top three, yet, a slot in this upper echelon may rotate depending on who you ask. Still, when it counts the most, these are the all-time guys you want on the three-point line.

Of course, when it has all been said and done, some of the younger players on our list may likely inch their way into this upper tier. All the more so considering the higher dependence on three-pointers in today's game. Still, these are our top long-range shooters of all time, looking at total threes made, three-point percentage, postseason numbers, and other essential criteria.

3. Reggie Miller

Reggie Miller’s inclusion should not surprise most of those reading this list. The notorious "Knick Killer" wasn't simply known for his ability to pull off demanding three-pointers but for his proclivity for hitting difficult three-pointers under pressure. 

That is a critical difference between Reggie Miller and some other greats. Miller knew how to pull out all the stops at the right moments. He had that knack for making unlikely shots his team desperately needed under challenging circumstances, and few have ever exceeded Miller or ever will in this category.

There’s a reason Miller’s #31 was retired by his lifelong team, the Indiana Pacers. Few players have ever had more of a long-standing positive impact on a franchise. Miller was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 for his many achievements and notable contributions to the game. 

Reggie Miller's 2,560 three-pointers, good for fourth of all time, have stood in the leader books despite his career ending in 2005. He is also fourth of all time in three-pointers attempted, with 6,486.

His career regular-season success rate was 39.5%, which is not as high as some of the other top shooters on our list. Still, combined with his all-time threes, there is no question that he belongs high on the list of the best three-point shooters in the history of the NBA. Few have achieved the same level of consistency and volume over a long and successful career.

On top of it, Miller was often heavily covered from three-point range as a star player known for his game from behind the arc. He took a lot of three-pointers, many heavily contested, and would have likely had a higher percentage if he had operated as more of a role player as some of the other highest percentage three-point shooters have done.

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2. Ray Allen

No respectable list of the top three-point shooters of all time doesn't include Ray Allen in the top three. Allen played for 18 seasons in the NBA and won the NBA Championship twice, in 2008 and 2013. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2018. He even enjoyed some success as an actor, increasing his public profile as a famous face of the NBA.

Until recently, Ray Allen would have been considered the greatest shooter of all-time from three-point range based on his combination of three-point percentage and lifetime threes. Since then, he has been surpassed by a player we will not yet name who is almost indisputably considered the all-time great in the category. Still, Allen almost unquestionably belongs in second place.

In terms of raw statistics, Allen made 2,973 out of 7,429 regular season three-pointers attempted for a three-point percentage of precisely 40%. Despite playing his final year in 2014, he still has over 200 more career three-pointers than any other player aside from the number one on our list. He attempted almost 1,000 more threes in his career than all but two of the next-closest players who made our top cut.

Allen is also a pioneer in the three-point shooting landscape, having been considered the standard-bearer for the practice for years before its current rise to ubiquity. Plus, he was known for his clutch threes when they were most integral, such as his famous game-tying three-point shot for Miami in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA finals. The Heat won the NBA championship against the San Antonio Spurs that year and couldn’t have done it without Allen.

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1. The Best Three-Point Shooter in NBA History: Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry hit the NBA back in 2009 and has made a massive impact on the league's landscape, particularly in the importance of the three-pointer. Curry is all but unquestionably the best three-point shooter in NBA history, having surpassed Ray Allen's previous record in 2021. He is the only NBA player ever to surpass 3,000 three-pointers, and he has done it by a considerable margin and is still going.

Regardless of what criteria you are looking at, Curry checks all the boxes with no caveats. While many three-point shooters may boast unfathomable success rates, some lack volume of attempts or threes made. Others may have a high career total but a relatively lower percentage, achieving their three-point success more on volume than pure shooting ability.

The two-time MVP Curry has the best balance of all of the above. Let's dive into some of the pure stats to back this up.

For one, Curry has the most all-time three-pointers with 3,390 and counting. He has over 400 more career threes than the next closest contender in the retired Ray Allen and may have seasons to play at 35 years of age. The next closest on the leaderboards is James Harden, and he trails by over 600 threes despite considerably more career regular season games played.

When you get into the three-point percentage discussion, Curry is 12th of all time with a 42.8% regular season accuracy rate from behind the arc. The vast majority of players that are anywhere near his echelon of total three-pointers made have significantly lower percentages. In fact, almost no players aside from sharp-shooting role-players can come close.

On top of lifetime totals and percentages, on a per-game basis, Curry averages 3.8 three-pointers per game, with the following closest players tied at 3.1. He has also attempted the most threes by an equally considerable margin.

Then, let's get into his illustrious playoff success. Curry's Warriors have won four NBA championships over a span of eight years, and he was named the NBA Finals MVP in 2022. 

While it is fair to note that Curry has enjoyed a lot of playoff opportunities, he has the most all-time postseason three-pointers by over 100, with 561 (his Warrior "Splash Brother" Klay Thompson is second). His postseason three-point percentage is 40.1%, interestingly tied with the second on our list, Ray Allen. The list of distinctions goes on.

Again, Curry is 35, and barring an unexpectedly early retirement (based on comments to the media, Curry is expected to play until he is 40), he has years to go. He is already far above the pack and holds the almost indisputable honor of being the best shooter in NBA history from three-point range. It appears unlikely that Curry will ever be displaced as the most excellent three-point shooter of all time, despite the NBA's ever-increasing proclivity for the three.

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