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.294%. That’s Michael Jordan’s career 3PT% from the standard three point line distance. It rises all the way up to .327% when you include the seasons where the league shortened the three point line in an attempt to improve scoring (1995 to 1997).

LeBron’s career 3PT% is .341% (which is superior to Kobe Bryant’s .335).

Not bad.

Consider the following…

There are only 7 players in history who have scored more than 23,000 points and have a career 3PT % of .335% or better. The list includes some of the greatest three point shooters of all time:

  1. Ray Allen – 24505 points, .400%
  2. Reggie Miller – 25279 points, .395%
  3. Dirk Nowitzki – 26786 points, .383%
  4. Vince Carter – 23190 points, .378%
  5. Paul Pierce – 25031 points, .370%
  6. LeBron James – 23170 pints, .341%
  7. Kobe Bryant – 31700 points, .335%

(And LeBron’s career 3PT% is only rising – since he’s been in Miami [3 seasons] he’s shot .385% from distance, which is excellent.)

Not bad at all.

Furthermore, there are 33 players in history who have scored over 23,000 points, but only 6 of the 33 have 7 or more seasons of 100 or more made threes.

  1. Ray Allen – 17 times in 18 seasons
  2. Reggie Miller – 15 times in 18 seasons
  3. Paul Pierce – 14 times in 16 seasons
  4. Vince Carter – 11 times in 16 seasons
  5. Kobe Bryant – 8 times in 18 seasons
  6. LeBron James – 7 times in 11 seasons

That’s rare air.

Now let’s look at some other numbers that directly compare LeBron to Jordan.

Career Three Point Field Goal Percentages (lowest to highest)
*denotes season w/ shortened 3 pt line

Jordan: 13%, 17%, 17%, 18%, 19%, 24%, 27%, 28%, 29%, 31%, 35%, *37%, 38%, *43%
Threes made in 15 seasons: 581

LeBron: 29%, 32%, 32%, 33%, 33%, 34%, 34%, 35%, 36%, 38%, 40%
Threes made in 11 seasons: 1136

(Jordan had 5 seasons shooting under 20% from three.  I know it was a different league then, but still…)

Or we can look at this another way:

LeBron has 2 games of eight or more threes in his career. Jordan has 0 games of eight or more threes. +2 LeBron

LeBron has 6 games of seven or more threes in his career. Jordan has 0 games of seven or more threes. +6 LeBron

LeBron has 16 games of six or more threes in his career. Jordan only has 4 games of six or more threes. +12 LeBron

LeBron has 27 games of five or more threes in his career. Jordan only has 8 games of five or more threes. +19 LeBron

LeBron has 75 games of four or more threes in his career. Jordan only has 26 games of four or more threes. +49 LeBron

(Okay, you get the point.  LeBron takes and makes threes at a rate that Michael Jordan could only dream of.)

Interesting teedbeet: LeBron holds the record for most career threes in the All-Star game.

So we can say with much confidence that LeBron James is a better three point shooter than Michael Jordan. Not only that, but a much better three point shooter than most people realize.

Some Jordan fans may still be hesitant to call James the superior long range sniper, but they must concede that he is a far more prolific three point shooter than Michael Jordan was.  That much is indisputable.

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. You’re right, the game has changed. Notice how in both of your lists, everyone is active except Reggie? That’s probably directly related to the fact that the NBA didn’t have a 3 point line until the 79-80 season. The 3 pointer is used more today than it ever has been and is possibly easier to make with the rules being what they are. Larry Legend never made more than 100 in a season, but I don’t think we would really say that Lebron’s a better 3 point shooter, it’s just a different game.
    You should compare Jordan’s 3 point % ranking in the NBA each of his seasons to Lebron’s 3 point % ranking in order to see how they compare relative to the rest of the league each season.

    Reply
    • Well you don’t even need to do all of that. I understand that the eras are different, but it doesn’t change the fact that Jordan just was not a good three point shooter at the standard distance. There’s no way around that – do any comparison you want and his career 3PT% will still be .294. And even if that is a good number for guards in his day (it isn’t), it is terrible for this era and there isn’t anything MJ can do about that.

      And Bird led the league in three point attempts and three point makes. He has several seasons shooting above 40% from three at the standard distance. So it’s different with him. We have no problem imagining Bird maintaining accuracy with more attempts. But that’s not the case with Jordan.

      There’s a reason why MJ shrugged when he was making those threes in the Finals. He was surprised because he usually doesn’t take or make that many threes. And he only made 6 – which is his career high.

      And it’s not like Jordan played in an era where people didn’t shoot threes or didn’t shoot them well. When he shot 27% from three in 1992, the league leader, Dana Barros, shot 45%.

      When Jordan shot 23% from three in 1998, the league leader, Dale Ellis, shot 46%.

      That’s not much different than what we’re seeing from league leaders today.

      And Jordan made 42% of his threes in 1996 after the moved the three point line in. The league leader in 1996 – Tim Legler – shot 52%.

      By 1997-98 players were taking and making a lot of threes:

      Wesley Person made 192.
      Reggie Miller made 164.
      Eddie Jones made 143.
      Mitch Richmond made 130.
      Rex Chapman made 120.
      Chauncey Billups made 107.
      Clyde Drexler made 106 threes.
      John Starks made 103 threes.

      Overall, 32 players – a lot of them shooting guards – made over 100 threes.

      In 1997-98 Michael Jordan made 30 threes. And he played all 82 games that year.

      This goes back to my main point – even in an era with increased three point shooting – Michael Jordan still was not a confident or comfortable three point shooter. He never was. There’s no way around that!

      LeBron never had that problem. Watch this sequence of 4 threes – it’s short – LeBron makes them all in about 80 seconds. Make sure you get to the fourth three at the 3:33 mark – it’s a dusey.

      You’ve never see Michael Jordan do something like that because he wasn’t confident enough in his three point shot to pull off something so brazen:

      So the two players are an ocean apart when it comes to three point ability. LeBron can make 4 threes in 80 seconds, while shooting some of them 2-3 feet behind the three point line. Michael Jordan went entire seasons without making 4 threes in a single game, including 1998 when there was no shortage of shooting guards chucking up tons of threes.

      Reply

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