NBA games have taken revolutionary changes for the past two decades from a mid-range game to 3 points line game, and many times, NBA players will shoot beyond three points line.
When does this start?
Three points shot is not new to the game, it is always around, but it was not as focused as we have seen in today’s NBA game.
Let us compare the three points field goals per game and attempts over two decades.
3P = 3 points field goals per game
3PA = 3 point field goal attempts per game
- Years 3P/3PA
- 2000-01 – 4.8/13.7
- 2009-10 – 6.4/18.1
- 2010-11 – 6.5/18.0
- 2011-12 – 6.4/18.4
- 2012-13 – 7.2/20.0
- 2013-14 – 7.7/21.5
- 2014-15 – 7.8/22.4
- 2015-16 – 8.5/24.1
- 2016-17 – 9.7/27.0
- 2017-18 – 10.5/29.0
- 2018-19 – 11.4/32.0
- 2019-20 – 12.1/33.9
From the numbers above, we can see a slight increase in three points game from 2000-2009. But the NBA game starting to change after 2009.
The best three-pointers during 2000-09 are Ray Allen, Allen Houston, Peja Stojaković, Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Jason Kapono, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kids, and etc.
We can see the NBA game starting to change in 2009 and then we can see significant changes in 3 points era in the year 2012-2013 NBA season.
What Happens in 2012-2013?
- 2009, Stephen Curry declared to join Golden State Warriors.
- 2011, Klay Thompson declared to join Golden State Warriors.
- 2012-2013, Curry and Thompson formed the best shooting duo in NBA history.
This is when the Splash Brothers era started. Two of the best shooter joined together to form the best shooting duo in NBA history and won three NBA Championships with Warriors.
In 2012-13 season, Curry and Thompson combined with 483 three pointers made. They set the record of most three points made by NBA duo. Curry set the NBA record with 272 three pointers and Thompson set the NBA record with 211 three pointers.
Changes in NBA Game
Since the Splash Brothers era, we can see more NBA players attempts to challenge the splash brothers duo in their three-pointer games, and this is the start of the NBA revolution from mid-range to behind the arc.
The 3P/3PA in 2000-01 was 4.8/13.7 and 2019-20 was 12.1/33.9.
What do these numbers represent?
NBA players are shooting an average of 2.5 times more in three pointer than two decades ago.
Top 10 NBA Greatest Three Point Leaders All Time
10. Dirk Nowitzki
Career: 1982 3PT Made| 5210 3PT Attempted| 38% 3PT%| 47.1% FG%| 1522 Total Games| PTS 31560
- 1998-2019 Dallas Mavericks
- NBA Champion 2011
- Named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP)
- NBA MVP 2007
- NBA Three Point Shootout Champion 2006
- 11th place NBA three point leaders all time
Dirk Nowitzki is a seven-footer who is one of the best power forward and one of the best shooters in NBA despite his height.
Nowitzki is one of a few big men in the early 200os who shoot the accurately mid-range jumper and behind the three points line. His signature move is one-legged Fadeaway shot, and it is one the toughest shot to block when a seven-footer does one-legged fadeaway.
Nowitzki was born in West Germany. He came to the NBA league in 1998 NBA draft with 9th overall pick by Milwaukee Bucks. He was traded to Mavericks on draft night. Nowitzki represented Mavericks for 21 seasons and became franchise players.
Nowitzki’s first season average 20.6% in three pointer per game in the regular season. His next season, he increases his three-pointer for the season to 37.9%. For his 21 seasons in NBA, he maintains 18 seasons with over 35% in three-pointers per game.
Nowitzki’s ability to score under the basket, mid-range jumper and three-pointer won a lot of respect from the players. On January 27, 2004, Nowitzki scored career-high eight three points made, eleven three points attempted, and 72.7% three points field goals percentage. On December 2, 2004, Nowitzki scored career-high 53 points, 21 out of 22 free throws.
In the current NBA, you will see more big men who can shoot three-pointer accurately. For example, Pau Gasol, Nikola Jokic, Demarcus Cousins, and Kristaps Porzingis.
9. Paul Pierce
Career: 2143 3PT Made| 5816 3PT Attempted| 36.8% 3PT%| 44.5% FG%| 1343 Total Games| 26397 PTS
- 1998-13, Boston Celtics for 15 seasons
- 2013-14, Brooklyn Nets.
- 2014-15, Washington Wizards.
- 2015-17, LA Clippers for 2 seasons
- NBA champion and Final MVP in 2008
- NBA three point shootout champion in 2010
- 9th place NBA three point leaders all time
Pierce was an NBA player for 19 seasons. He was born in Oakland, California, played for the University of Kansas for three years.
Pierce started his NBA career with Boston Celtics as a 10th overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft.
2007-08 Season Championship
Celtics recruited Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to form “Big Three” along with Paul Pierce. Boston Celtics defeated the Lakers 4-2 series in NBA final and won their 17th championship for Boston Celtics. Pierce was named NBA final Most Valuable Player.
On November 9, 2001, Pierce scored a season-high three points percentage (66.7%) with eight out of twelve three pointers. He also scored 35 points for the night.
On July 17, 2017, Paul Pierce resigned with Celtics in order to retire with the team.
8. Vince Carter
Career: 2290 3PT Made| 6168 3PT Attempted| 37.1% 3PT%| 43.5% FG%| 1541 Total Games| 27528 PTS
Carter has played 22 NBA season, and he is currently playing for Atlanta Hawks
- 1998-04, Toronto Raptors for 7 seasons
- 2004-09, New Jersey Nets for 5 seasons
- 2009-10, Orlando Magic
- 2014-17, Memphis Grizzlies for 3 seasons
- 2017-18, Sacramento Kings
- 2018-present, Atlanta Hawks
- NBA Rookie of the year in 1999
- NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion in 2000
- 6th place NBA three point leaders all time
Vince Carter’s career highlight is known for his incredible dunk over his opponents. Even though his dunks are awesome, his shooting behind the three points line is very solid. He is sixth place three-pointers in NBA history. On December 11, 2006, Carter scored career-high nine three pointers made in the game.
Vince Carter was born in Daytona Beach, Florida. He played for the Mainland High School basketball team. Later joined North Carolina in college.
Carter declared the 1998 NBA draft, was selected by Warriors in the 5th overall pick but was traded Toronto Raptors.
Carter won Rookie of the Year award with an average of 18.3 points per game. He was known for his explosive offensive and ability to dunk over his opponents.
In 2000 NBA All-Stars weekend Slam Dunk Contest, Carter demonstrated great performance in dunk contest by showcasing various dunks to win the 2000 NBA All-Stars Slam Dunk Contest. The dunks which he demonstrated were between legs bounce dunk, 360° windmill dunk, and elbow in the rim dunk.
Carter’s ability to score on the court made Raptors resigned six years contract which worth as much as $94 million. He averages 27.6 points per game in 2000-01.
But what follows Carter was a series of knee and hamstring injury which he suffers during 2001-02. He missed the final 22 games on the regular 2001-02 season due to injury. Raptors were defeated by Detroit Pistons in the 2002 NBA Playoff game with the absence of Carter.
Carter’s career in Raptors was not as successful after his offseason surgery in 2002. The following 2002-2003 season, Raptors failed to make it to the 2003 NBA Playoff.
Carter traded to New Jersey Nets on December 17, 2004. He played for Nets for 5 seasons. He later played with multiply NBA teams like Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and Atlanta Hawks.
On September 20, 2019, Carter resigned with Hawks. He plans to retire after the end of the 2019-20 season. At age 43, Carter becomes the older player in NBA history.
7. Klay Thompson
Career: 1798 3PT Made| 4291 3PT Attempted| 41.9% 3PT%| 45.9% FG%| 615 Total Games| 11995 PTS
- 2011-present, Golden States Warriors for 9 seasons
- Three-time NBA champion in 2015, 2017, 2018
- NBA three point shootout champion 2016
- 18th place NBA three point leaders all time
Klay Thompson was known as the Splash brothers with Stephen Curry. He is also referred to the Luigi (best sidekick of Mario) to Curry. Their teamwork and ability to score two pointers or three pointers earned them the best duo in NBA history.
Thompson was born in Los Angeles, His mother was a volleyball player in college. His father was a first-round overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft.
Thompson declared for the 2011 NBA draft after his Junior season at Washington State University. He was 11th overall for Golden State Warriors. He teams up with Stephen Curry to form the best shooting duo in NBA history.
On May 8, 2013, Thompson score career-high 34 points against San Antonio. Thompson and Curry combined with 483 three pointers made with 211 three-pointers.
First NBA championship, Warriors defeated Cavaliers in six games.
Thompson scores career-high 52 points against Sacramento Kings on January 23, 2015.
Second NBA championship, Warriors defeated Cavaliers in 4-1 series
Third NBA championship, Warriors defeated Cavaliers in 4-0 series
Klay Thompson is one of the top three-pointers in the current NBA. The reason he is in 10th on this list because he has the potential to be the top 10 NBA three point leaders all time. As long as he recovered from his ACL injury, he will continue to dominate behind the three points line.
6. James Harden
Career: 2296 3PT Made| 6320 3PT Attempted| 36.3% 3PT%| 85.8 FG%| 826 Total Games| 20723 PTS
James Harden has been in the NBA League for 11 seasons
- 2009-12, Oklahoma City Thunder
- 2012-present, Houston Rockets
- NBA most valuable player (MVP) in 2018
- NBA sixth man of the year in 2012
- 5th place NBA three point leaders all time
James Harden’s three points step back shot has become very deadly and unpredictable in the game. With his ability to take the ball up to the basket or mid-range jumper, he makes his three points step back tougher for his opponent to defend. Harden’s style has changed how the current NBA players defend from these deadly step-back three.
Harden went to Artesia High School in Lakewood, California. He went to the Arizona States for a college basketball career. He declared for the 2009 NBA draft pick with a third overall pick by Oklahoma City Thunder.
Harden’s career in Thunder was a support role for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Even though Harden come off the bench as 6th man, he brought to the team was tremendous. His 3 point percentage for 2009 was 37.5% on his first season. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year’s second team.
Harden averaged 16.8 points per game and 39.0% 3 point percentage on 2011-12 season. He was also named NBA 2012 6th man of the year.
Harden was traded to Houston Rockets during his 2012 free-agent period.
Houston Rockets 2012-present
When Harden plays for Rockets, he proves to the league that he belongs to the team stars instead of a support role in his previous team.
For the 2012-13 season, Harden averaged 25.9 points per game. On February 20, 2013, Rockets defeated Thunder 122-119. Harder score season-high with 46 points, made 7 three pointers, and 87.5% 3 point percentage.
Harden improves every season with his signature Step back shot which allows him to shoot over his opponent behind the three points line.
Harden averaged 36.1 points per game. He scored over 40 points for 5 consecutive games between December 25, 2018, to January 3, 2019.
He scored season-high 61 points for two winning games. On January 23, 2019, Rockets defeated New York Knicks 114-110. Harden had a double-double with 61 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 three-pointers.
On March 22, 2019, Rockets defeated San Antonio Spurs 111-105. Harden had 61 points and 9 three points made.
5. Kyle Korver
Career: 2437 3PT Made| 5684 3PT Attempted| 42.9% 3PT%| 44.2% FG%| 1224 Total Games| 11903 PTS
- 2003-07, Philadelphia 76ers
- 2007-10, Utah Jazz
- 2010-12, Chicago Bulls
- 2012-17, Atlanta Hawks
- 2017-18, Cleveland Cavaliers
- 2018-19, Utah Jazz
- 2019-present, Milwaukee Bucks
- 4th place NBA three point leaders all time
Kyle Korver came into the NBA league with his accuracy in long-range shots.
Kyle Korver was born in Paramount, California. He went to Creighton University for College basketball. Korver holds season-high three points made and three point percentage (48.0%) in Creighton.
Korver declared the 2003 NBA draft with 51st overall pick by New Jersey Nets. He traded to 76ers during draft day. In 2004-05 season, Korver scored season-high most three pointers made (226) in his career.
Korver continues to demonstrate his three point accuracy during his NBA career. He was an NBA three point field goal percentage leader for 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2017. In the 2009-10 season, his three point percentage in the regular season was 53.6%.
4. Larry Bird
Career: 649 3PT Made| 1727 3PT Attempted| 37.6% 3PT%| 88.6% FG%| 897 Total Games| 21791 PTS
- 1979-1992, Boston Celtics
- Three times NBA Champion in 1981, 1984, 1986
- Two time NBA Finals MVP in 1984, 1986
- Three times NBA MVP in 1984, 1985, 1986
- Three times NBA Three Point Shootout champion 1986, 1987, 1988
Larry Bird is one of the best players in the 80s-90s. During Bird’s era, players don’t normally shoot three pointers during the game. Bird showed the league that big man can shoot beyond the three points line. He is deadly
Bird’s ability to grab rebounds, passes the ball to his teammates, and shooting three pointers have helped him won three championships for Celtics.
Bird is one of the two NBA players who won three NBA three point shootout contest in the history. During Bird’s career, he averages 37.9% in three points percentage. On 1985-1986 season, Bird had one of the best three point percentage (42.3%) in his career with 82 three pointers made and 194 three points attempted. On April 3, 1988, Bird scored season-high 70% in three point percentage with seven out of ten three pointers. For Larry Bird to shoot seven three pointers in the game at his era was not normal.
Career: 2560 3PT Made| 6486 3PT Attempted| 39.5% 3PT%| 88.8% FG%| 1389 Total Games| 25279 PTS
Miller played 18 seasons in NBA.
- 1987-2005, Indiana Pacers
- 2nd place NBA three point leaders all time
Reggie Miller is by far one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history. He is currently second place in three pointers made in NBA history. He was the leader for many years until Ray Allen broke his record.
Miller has a couple of nicknames during the NBA career. He was known as “Miller Time” and “Knicks Killer” due to Pacers and Knicks use to go head to head in the Eastern Conference Final. He was considered the greatest player of all time and the greatest three pointer in NBA history.
- Born in Riverside, California.
- Played for Riverside Polytechnic High School.
- UCLA from 1983-1987 in College.
- Declared the 1987 NBA draft, with 11th overall pick by Pacers.
- He was known for his accuracy in three point shooting.
- Miller was the leader in the free throw percentage five times.
Miller’s scoring ability on the court put a lot of pressure on his opponent’s team. On November 28, 1992, Miller scored season-high 57 points and made 21 out of 23 free throws.
One of the unforgettable moments in Miller’s play was “eight points in nine seconds” in 1995 Game 1 Eastern Conference Semifinals against New York Knicks. Pacers turn the game around with 18.7 seconds remaining when they were losing by six points (105-99). Miller’s overwhelming performance stunned Knicks fans on Madison Square Garden that night by scoring eight points in nine seconds. Pacers stole Game 1 from Knicks with a final score of 107-105.
Miller all-time leader in three point field goals made (2560) until Ray Allen broke his record on February 10, 2011.
2. Ray Allen
- 1996-2003, Milwaukee Bucks
- 2003-2007, Seattle SuperSonics
- 2007-2012, Boston Celtics
- 2012-2014, Miami Heat
- Two time NBA champion (2008, 2013)
- NBA three point shootout champion in 2001
- 1st place NBA three point leaders all time
Ray Allen is the current leader on the NBA three point leaders with a 24505 three point field goal made. He is one of the greatest long-range shooters in history.
Ray Allen was born in Merced, California. He went to high school in South Carolina. He went to college in UConn from 1993-1996. During his college years, Allen was known for his long-range shooting.
Allen declared the 1996 NBA draft, 5th overall pick by Timberwolves, and was traded to Bucks during draft day.
Allen continued to develop his long-range shooting in the NBA. He is the leader in all-time three pointer field goals made. During Allen’s rookie year with Bucks, he averages 13.4 points per game with 23 points on his sixth game. He scored season-high 29 points on April 18, 1997.
In his second year in the league, Allen 19.5 points per game. He scored 29 points and six three point field goals made on the first game on the regular season. On April 18, 1998, Allen scored season-high 40 points and six three point field goals made on the last game of the regular season.
Allen joined Boston Celtics from 2007-2012. He joined with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to form “Big Three” in Celtics.
During the 2007-08 regular season, Allen averaged 17.4 points per game.
November 4, 2007, Allen had season-high seven three point field goal made.
January 16, 2008, he scored season-high 35 points, four out of ten three pointers made, and seven out of eight free throws made.
June 17, 2008, Celtics defeated Lakers in Game 6(4-2 series) during the 2008 NBA Finals. Allen earned his first NBA championship.
During the 2012-13 season, Allen joined Heat’s “Big Three” with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh during 2012-13 as the backup unit with an average of 10.9 points per game, and 25.8 minutes per game. On June 20, 2013, Miami Heats defeated San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 (4-3 series). Allen earned his second NBA championship.
1. Stephen Curry
Career: 2495 3PT Made| 5739 3PT Attempted| 43.5% 3PT%| 90.6% FG%| 699 Total Games| 16419 PTS
- 2009 – present
- Three times NBA champion (2015, 2017, 2018)
- Two times NBA most valuable player (MVP) in 2015, 2016
- NBA three point shootout champion in 2015
- 3rd place NBA three point leaders all time
Stephen Curry came into the league with his precision in long-range three pointers and quickness in his one motion shooting form. He is the current third place in all-time three point field goals made in NBA history.
Curry was born in Arkon, Ohio. He played for Charlotte Christian High School basketball team in North Carolina. He played for Davidson College in North Carolina from 2006-2009.
Curry declared the 2009 NBA draft in the 7th overall pick by Golden States Warriors.
Curry came into the NBA league with his ability to score behind three points line and his quickness around the court. He averages 17.5 points per game in his rookie season. On December 18, 2009, Curry scored 26 points with six out of six three points (100% three point percentage).
Curry has a history of ankle injuries from 2010-12. He had his first right ankle surgery in 2011 to repair “instability that existed in the ankle due to recurrent ankle sprains”. He continues to have multiple occasions of ankle sprains during the 2011-12 season which causes him to miss 40 games. His average points per game for 2011-12 dropped to 14.7 points.
Curry’s Carrer at Risk
Curry’s NBA career was at risk due to his injuries. He went for his second surgery to clean out “loose debris and scar tissue”. Warriors resigned Curry with a $44 million contract for four years. Many people believe Warriors took a very risky approach in resigning Curry. But who would have known Curry’s recovery bought Warriors to a new height for the team with three championships.
With the addition of Klay Thompson to the Warriors, Curry and Thompson form the best shooting duo (splash brothers) in NBA history. they won their first NBA championships.
During the 2015-16 season, Curry’s points per game were career-high in his NBA career at 30.1 points per game.
On October 31, 2015, Curry scored season-high 53 points.
February 3, 2016, Curry had a season-high 11 out of 15 three points made, and 51 points.
On November 7, 2016, had career-high thirteen three points made in a game.
With the addition of Kevin Durant in 2016, Warriors won back-to-back NBA championships in 2017 and 2018.
Curry is listed first on this list as the top 10 three pointers all time due to his potential. He is currently the third place on the all-time three points field goals made in NBA history. Curry is trailing behind Reggie Miller by 65 three points made and Ray Allen by 478 three point made. But I believe Curry will overcome Reggie Miller and Ray Allen to become the leader in all-time three pointers in NBA history in a couple of years.
NBA games have shifted from two pointers to slightly more three pointers. More and more players starting to shoot three and it is not weird to see a big man shoot three in the current NBA. I still like it when the player takes the ball up to the hoops with a high light finish. But I also enjoy NBA player takes crazy long-range shots way beyond three points line on a regular basis. I am looking forward to more exciting games in the next NBA season.
You can check out Basketball Reference for their full list of 3 pointers leaders of all time.