On December 15th, Steph Curry confirmed the statement that most NBA fans have been making for years prior: he is the greatest three-point shooter of all time.
Curry surpassed Ray Allen’s career mark of 2,973 career threes to become the all-time leader, with still plenty of time to create a cushion for the next heir of the throne. And if the three-point trend continues to grow as it has in its 43 years of creation, Curry better continue launching from downtown.
Although it seems as though 3,000+ threes seem as though it will be untouched for a while, it only took Allen’s 2,900 makes seven years to be surpassed, which was set just six years after Reggie Miller ended his career with the record of 2,560.
Before looking into the future of who will potentially leave Curry in the runner-up spot for most threes made, let’s look back to those amongst the top today. Curry, Allen, and Miller all played in very separate eras, where Curry significantly received the benefit of a shooter’s league.
So, how much of his success does he owe to the league he played in? Here is the inflated comparison of the top-five three-point shooters of all-time.
*Numbers for Curry and Harden are last updated 1/25/2021
If all five of these sharpshooters were to play in the same era, Miller would see his career threes increase by 63.8%. This makes sense considering his attempts per game were 3.7 higher than the average player throughout his career.
Miller’s percentage from deep is significant though, as he only leads James Harden despite Harden attempting about 4 fewer threes a night before inflation. He leads the group in field goal percentage inside the arc, which helps him take a slight advantage in points per game over Allen, who also saw a significant boost in career threes.
Outside of Kyle Korver, who took about half of the average field goals per game as the rest of the group has, Allen is the only one who really rivals Curry for the best percentage from deep at a similar volume.
But there is something to be said about how the league’s percentage from deep has improved as well, inflating 10.8% since Miller debuted in 1988. While this is mostly due to players practicing the shot more and growing up with the three-point line, but also because of the differences in defending from downtown.
When Miller was shooting from deep, he was the team’s only true threat. Today, in the “five-wide” approach most offenses run through, it gives more opportunities for quick ball movement or transition three opportunities that come with less pressure on the contest.
In all, it is true that Curry and Harden do receive the benefit of playing in a league better tailored for the styles. But this is only because Curry and Harden played a large part in the birth of this type of league.
If it was not for Harden’s usage percentage and high volume of field goal attempts off the dribble, and Curry’s overall reinventing of what is a smart shot and a feasible range to shoot from, we would not have the monstrous league-averages we see today.
Even with Miller and Allen regaining ground in the three-point rankings above Curry, he mays still have of time to make up for the inflated totals.
At their current rate, Curry will surpass Miller’s 4,194 threes in about 587 more games (roughly 7 seasons without playoffs), whereas Harden on the other hand would need 971 games (about 12 seasons).
Who else do you think should be considered in this debate? Leave a comment to see how that player would compare!