Best Shooters

With everyone donning the title of "Best shooter ever" upon Steph Curry for the recent championshop run, I find it difficult to see him as the best shooter ever for two reasons. First, I cannot accept that you can truly compare people from different eras. The rules are different, the teams are different, the challenges are different, and the competition is vastly different. Second, people forget how good some of those from the past really were!

So since I feel so strongly that is should not be done, here is my attempt at doing exactly that. I started watching the NBA in the 1969-70 season, with the Knicks team. I never saw Bob Cousy, Lenny Wilkens in his prime, Maurice Stokes, Elgin Baylor, or Tommy Heinsohn. I have heard about what great shooters they are, and have seen some film, but I have not included them. I also wanted to give extra credit to someone that was the best of their era, even though they may not compare directly to others on the list. I wrote down all the good shooters I could think of, then pared it down to 20. You wont agree with me, but here I go...

20. Lloyd "World B" Free - (Several teams - 76ers): He moved around the league a lot, and was also a great dunker for 6-2, but he could fire from anywhere. He would have greatly benefitted by a 3-point arc earlier in his career.

19. Freeman Williams - (Clippers): Okay, I only added him because he went to Portland State. I went to several games and watched him in person in college. (Students could watch the games for free.) He invented the of the "Shooters Jog" that Reggie Miller later perfected. (You shooot from 40-feet out, then start jogging back to defense, because it was definitely going in. Do not worry about rebounding. He also gets bonus points for his performance as "Duck Phillips" in White Men Can't Jump.

18. Klay Thompson - (Warriors): The other half of the "Splash Brothers" can always be counted on for that key three, unless it is the NBA Playoffs.

17. Paul Pierce - (Celtics, Wizards): He was awesom at Kansas, and each year found another element of shooting to improve. He was at his peak at the best time for him, a championshiop season.

16. Dan Majerle - (Suns, Heat): Great shooter. Killed the Blazers several times, but not as many as....

15. Jeff Hornacek - (Suns, Jazz): I hated it when he was on the floor playing against those great Adlemam/Porter teams. He was truly money. (I refuse to call it the Drexler era.)

14. Kobe Bryant - (Lakers): During his prime, he was the best player in the world. He was a great shooter, mainly because he spent 12 hours a day in the gym. He is not there now, because he is now a walking bandage. I choose to remember the best.

13. Steve Nash (Mavericks, Suns, Lakers): Not sure how he did it, but did it seem he was always open as a shooter? Not sure he'd make the list if he was ever guarded by anyone.

12. Drazen Petrovic (Blazers, Nets): One of three Blazers on the list. He was truly great. Might have been higher had he lived longer. Loved the long bombs from just in front of the bench.

11. Dirk Nowitski (Mavericks): One of two big-men on the list. Always like watching the turn-around jumper from the corner. 15 years in the league, he's still got it.

10. Pete "Pistol Pete" Maravich (Hawks, Jazz, Celtics): You are wondering where I'd put him, I put him here. You could make a case for him at #1 and #20. I don't think you can NOT include him on the list. He was the best shoooter I can remember when the game was NOT on the line. I loved watching him, but I do have one of his contemporaries ranked higher. (Gee, Blazer fan, I wonder who THAT could be.)

9. Steve Kerr (Bulls, Spurs, Blazers): The "second" Bulls had Uncle Phil, MJ, and Scottie, but they always needed a "Banger" and a "Hit Man." Rodman was the banger and Kerr was the hit man. A great guy who won 5 rings as a player, was a successful GM, is great on TVas a color analyst, and now has a ring as a coach. A phenominal shooter.

8. Chris Mullin (Warriors, Pacers): A Perfect pure shooter, you'll agree.

7. Steph Curry (Warriors): He's only been in the league six years, and many have annointed him the best shooter ever. I always balk at "best ever" arguments and it prompted this column. All that said, where does he belong among giants? I have him at seven. He was impressive this year. He'd then have cold games and and start hoisting up bad threes like Clyde used to. Once he can put the bad games behind him, he might make the top five. Still, in this company, #7 is pretty awesome.

6. Ray Allen (Sonics, Celtics, Heat): One of four players I want to have the ball when its all on the line.

Now, here are the top five.

5. Geoff Petrie (Blazers): My favorite team ever was the 1970-71 Trail Blazers (There was a space between "Trail" and "Blazers" back then) and Petrie was their best player. He's been a good exec in the league and was highly respected as a player. He had an overhead shot that was very unique. (I tried to imitate it as a 10-year-old, and couldn't get the ball 10 feet.) His career was very short, and he had difficulty guarding a bar-stool much less a real player. Lenny Wilkens ate his lunch for for four years. (Early on, Portland and Seattle played several times a year, to cut travel costs.) Contrary to the legend it was NOT Petrie, but Jim Barnett, that made the shot that began "RIP CITY!"

4. Rick Barry (Warriors, Oakland Oaks, Rockets): Best free-throw shooter ever. He definitely would be higher with the three-pointer. (Remember, he DID have a three-pointer for awhile. He spent some time in the ABA, with the Oaks and Nets, where the three point shot was already in place.)

3. Reggie Miller (Pacers): He is one of the best shooters ever, and one of the most fun to watch. He was on a team that was always competitive and played for great coaches. (Larry Brown, Larry Bird, Rick Carlisle.) I see his highlights and they still amaze me. One player we didn't get to see on SportsCenter was.....

2. Jerry West (Lakers): Two of his knicknames were "Mr. Clutch" and "The Logo". He was the NBA. He was often double-teamed and still found a way to get a great shot off. He was Pistol before Pistol Pete was. Don't believe me, ask the Celtics and Knicks. You had to see him to believe it.

1. Larry Bird (Celtics): I was thinking of any reason not to make him #1. Can't think of it. Can't think of a shot he could not make. He made them by himself, under pressure, in a trap, from a corner. He was offended when he was not given the ball at the end of a game. Known to have quoted Jimmy Chitwood in a huddle stating "I'll make it, coach!"

Who's missing? Here is my Honorable Mention: Robert Horry, John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Gary Payton, Tony Parker, Michael Jordan.