Sports fanatics love debating greatest of all time, or GOAT, picks until they’re blue in the face. Is LeBron James truly better than Michael Jordan, or is Jordan an untouchable peak that will never be topped? Was Kobe Bryant the best pure scorer in league history, or has James Hardin bettered his approach? All leagues go through these debates, often while fans try to buy and sell sports collectibles and memorabilia at reasonable prices. However, there are very few people who will deny Stephen Curry is the best 3-point shooter in NBA history, an outlier like no other.
The Jury is In: And It’s Not Even Close
Even in the notoriously opinion-heavy NBA world, it’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t think Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is the best 3-point shooter ever. While some old-school fans may point to trash-talk king Larry Bird or even cold-as-ice clutch-shooter Ray Allen as the best pure shooters in league history, Curry has the records to prove his dominance. Anyone who’s watched Curry warm up on the court by draining multiple half-court and even full-court triples can attest Curry is a ruthless, precise, and almost automatic 3-point machine.
During his career, Steph has led the Golden State Warriors to multiple NBA championships and helped the team set an NBA record for wins during its 73-9 year in 2015-16. The team started the season 24-0 and had a league-record 34 road victories. Curry joined the rare 50/40/90 club that season (50% field goal percentage, 40% 3-point percentage, and 90% free throw percentage) and won the first unanimous MVP title in history. While the team ultimately lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in an unlikely come-from-behind win led by LeBron James in the NBA Finals, this single season remains Curry’s best.
Curry’s Stats are Unbelievable
When examining Steph Curry’s deeper stats, it’s hard not to walk away impressed. For his career, Curry shoots better than 45% from the field, better than 40% from 3-point range, and above 90% from the free-throw line. He averages nearly 25 points per game over a career stretching past 800 games. While not a tall player, Curry still has nearly 4,000 rebounds in his career, with about three-fourths of those coming on the defensive end. Curry is also an excellent defensive player, with nearly 1,500 career steels and about 186 blocks. As a point guard, Curry makes wise ball choices and has more than 5,000 assists to his name, proving he’s a well-rounded player.
That said, most people came here to read mind-boggling stats detailing Curry’s 3-point dominance. Curry currently leads the pack in all-time 3-pointers made with more than 3,100. No other player in NBA history has ever made 3,000 3-pointers, with second-place Ray Allen coming closest at 2,973. There’s a big drop-off after Allen, too, with Reggie Miller sinking 2,560 in his Hall of Fame career. But between Curry and Allen, who was more efficient? Curry, by far. Allen needed 18 years to reach his 2,973 3-pointers, which averages to 165 3’s per year, or about 2.28 per game.
Curry reached 3,101 three-pointers in just 13 seasons and 821 games. That’s an average of nearly four per game, which comes close to doubling Allen’s rate. Those numbers are even more impressive considering Curry’s injury-shortened five-game season of 2019-20 and the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season. If Curry stays at this insane rate and plays another five years to match Allen’s 18 years, he’ll have made close to 4,500 3-pointers in his illustrious career.
His Records are Even More Amazing
Curry’s 3-point dominance isn’t carried by one or two good seasons. Rather, the sharpshooter has been doing this his entire career, as evidenced by some of the shooting records he holds:
- Fewest games played to make 2,000 3-pointers: Curry’s 597-game 2,000 three-pointer rate shatters former record holder Ray Allen’s 822-game rate. That’s 225 fewer games, which is almost three full NBA seasons.
- Most 3-pointers per game: Steph Curry has made about 3.8 three-pointers per game during his 13-year career. This record puts him far above the nearest competitors, Buddy Hield and Damian Lillard, who each average about three 3-pointers made per game.
- Most 3-pointers in a season: In Curry’s 2015-16 MVP season, Curry made history by hitting 402 3-pointers. That record makes him the only player ever to hit 400 in league history. His next closest season was in the 2018-19 season, where he made 354.
- Most 10-plus 3-pointer games: Curry’s statistical dominance in shooting is at its starkest on this stat. Curry has 22 games where he made 10 or more 3-pointers. His Splash Brothers teammate, Klay Thompson, is second with five. Put another way, Curry produced nearly 40% of all 10-plus three-pointer games in league history.
- Most 3-pointers in a calendar month: In April 2021, Curry went on an insane streak and hit 96 3-pointers. Considering his team played 16 games that month, he averaged about six treys a game. In fact, he had a period during this month when he hit 10 or more 3’s in four of five games.
- Most 3-pointers in NBA playoffs: Steph Curry has hit an astonishing 470 three-pointers in the playoffs thus far, which beats second-place LeBron James by nearly 40. Amazingly, Curry has earned these 3-pointers while playing in 154 fewer playoff games than James, which makes his record even more shocking.
- Most 3-pointers in the NBA Finals: Again, Curry dominates this field by scoring 121 3-pointers in NBA Finals history in 28 Finals games. LeBron James again nips far behind Curry’s heels with 101 3-pointers in the Finals. However, James has played in 55 NBA Finals games.
- Most games with 50-plus points and 10-plus treys: Steph Curry currently has seven 50-plus point games in which he hit 10 or more 3-pointers. Klay Thompson and James Harden tie for second in this category with two games each.
- Most seasons with 200 made 3-pointers: Steph Curry has made over 200 3-point shots in eight seasons so far in his career and probably would have nine straight were it not for his injury-shortened 2019-20 season. Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard come in second at seven seasons each.
Reasons for Curry’s Dominance
A player doesn’t become this good by mistake, and there are always tangible reasons to explain how an athlete became such a master of their craft. Curry is no different, and he’s grown into the player he is thanks to the following reasons:
- Years of practice: As a young boy, Steph Curry would often practice 3-point shots at his grandfather’s home. His grandfather’s basketball hoop was set up so every missed shot forced Curry to scramble down the driveway for the ball. Annoyed with this quirk, Curry quickly focused on improving his accuracy from anywhere he shot.
- Excellent in-the-paint shooting: Curry’s signature move may be the quick-release 3-pointer, but he is a dangerous player in the paint, too. While not large enough to bully his way to the bucket like Harden or James, Curry’s speed and shooting accuracy make him a problem anywhere on the court.
- Quick shooting speed: Steph Curry rarely gets blocked because of his 0.4-second ball release speed. By far the fastest shooter in the league, Curry releases the ball as he jumps, rather than at the apex of his shot. He taught himself this method in high school, and that 0.4-second speed means he gets off shots other players would not.
- Nearly completely red shot chart: Curry’s shot chart is red on nearly every spot on the court. This means Curry makes shots frequently at these spots and shoots from these positions regularly, which gives him a very diverse attack.
- Other dangerous shooters on his team: As part of the Warriors’ Splash Brothers 3-point attack, Klay Thompson is nearly as dangerous a shooter as Curry and can pick up the slack when Steph has a bad shooting night. This dual-threat means Curry is rarely double-teamed when on the court with Thompson, leading to plenty of open looks.
Curry’s Popularity Among NBA Fans
Gauging player popularity in sports leagues remains a challenging proposition. Sports fanatics in all leagues often weigh player popularity by sales of officially licensed sports apparel. In a nationwide survey examining jersey sales, Stephen Curry was No. 7 in jersey sales. Other popular players include the Nets’ Kevin Durant, a former Curry teammate on the Warriors, and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Interestingly, Curry’s sports collectibles and memorabilia remain very popular in the Philippines, where he still leads the pack. This fact highlights an interesting reality: the sporting collectible market varies heavily from country to country. Players popular in some countries are ignored in others, usually because of different cultural perspectives and ideas. For example, some countries may prefer LeBron’s well-rounded offensive and defensive dominance, while others prefer James Harden’s more tactical, foul-based approach. Others may rate Curry’s pure shooting skills as more important than Anthony Davis’ paint-dominating skills.
Whatever the case, it’s hard to imagine anybody catching up with Curry’s pure shooting skills any time soon. With his quirky combination of accuracy, fast shooting speed, and unique shooting mechanics, Curry has created a legacy that may last for many decades. And with at least a few more years of potential greatness left in his career, his records might become even harder for someone else to top.