Comparing Stephen Curry to Other Great NBA Shooters


Thursday night was just another day at the office for Stephen Curry. The reigning NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring champion dropped 46 points on 15-of-25 shooting, including eight-of-13 from three-point range, to lead the Golden State Warriors to their 10th straight victory to begin the season, marking the best start in franchise history.

The debate has been brought about before, and it most assuredly will be again. Is Curry the greatest shooter the NBA has ever seen? There are numbers, a lot of them, to back up the idea that Curry actually is the best shooter to have set foot on to an NBA court.

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In the 2012-2013 season, Curry’s fourth year in the league, he broke the record for most three-pointers made in a single season, as his 272 triples surpassed the previous record of 269, set by Ray Allen during the 2005-2006 season. The next year, Curry led the league in three-pointers made again, although his 261 fell a tad short of his own record. In 2014-2015, during the Warriors’ magical championship run, Curry drained 286 three-pointers to break his own record.

This year, Curry is on pace to obliterate that record, as his 5.2 three-pointers made per game through the first 10 games puts him on pace to make 426, 140 more than Curry’s current record. Obviously, the “on pace for” almost never pans out the way it’s supposed to.

After his eight three-pointer performance on Thursday, Curry pushed his career total to 1,243 made three-pointers, already the Warriors’ team record. It has taken him just 426 games to reach that total, at 2.92 per game. Curry’s teammate, Klay Thompson, is second on that list, at 806 made threes in 316 games. If Curry were to simply stop shooting three-pointers right now, Thompson would have to make 3.97 three-pointers per game for the next 110 games to reach Curry’s total in the same amount of games.

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Behind those two are Jason Richardson, who made 700 threes in 438 games (1.6 per game), Tim Hardaway, who made 602 in 422 games (1.47 per game), and Chris Mullin, who made 590 threes in 807 games (0.73 per game).

Of the top-10 three-point shooters of all-time, no one reached the heights of shooting that Curry has so quickly. Ray Allen, the most prolific long-range shooter in NBA history, hit 858 threes in his first 426 career games, 385 less than Curry has at the same point. Of course by comparison, Curry has also taken 704 more shots from beyond the arc than Allen did through the same number of games. Curry has made his attempts at a 3.6 percent higher clip than Allen.

Over the course of his career, Allen made 2,973 three-point shots in 1,300 career games. If Curry can continue his current pace of 2.92 threes per game, he will have 3,795 made by the time he reaches his 1,300th NBA game, 820 more than Allen at the same point.

There are 12 active players (currently on an NBA roster) with more made three-pointers than Curry: Jason Terry (2,077), Paul Pierce (2,060), Vince Carter (1,879), Jamal Crawford (1,821), Kyle Korver (1,741), Joe Johnson (1,717), Kobe Bryant (1,704), Dirk Nowitzki (1,591), Mike Miller (1,566), J.R. Smith (1,477), Manu Ginobili (1,284), and LeBron James (1,262).

Of those 12 players, all of them, save for one, have played more than twice as many games as Curry. The lone exception is J.R. Smith, who has played 341 more games than Curry. Not one of those dozen players even comes close to Curry’s rate, as Korver’s 1.95 threes per game is the second-highest to Curry’s 2.92.

Only one player in NBA history who has taken at least 1,500 three-pointers has a higher shooting percentage than Curry’s 44.2 percent, and it’s someone with whom Curry is very familiar. His head coach (currently on leave because of complications from back surgery), Steve Kerr, owns a 45.4 shooting percentage from downtown, the only shooter more accurate than Curry in league history. Over his 15-year NBA career with six teams, Kerr took 1,599 three-pointers and made 726 of them.

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Of course, these numbers leave out some all-time great shooters who didn’t have the benefit of the three-point line, which wasn’t implemented in the NBA until the 1979-1980 season. Pete Maravich, one of the best shooters in NBA history, played 10 years in the Association, but only had a three-point line in his final year, when he made 10 of his 15 attempts. Shooters like Jerry West, Austin Carr, and Gail Goodrich, just to name a few, didn’t have the benefit of a long-distance shot being charted differently.

The numbers show that Curry is one of, if not the best three-point shooter to ever grace an NBA floor. He’s certainly the best shooter the Warriors have seen. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but they do paint a compelling picture in this case.