In the 1979/80 season, a three-point line was introduced in the NBA and gradually became an important weapon. Since then, having at least a couple of excellent long-range shooters has been a must. Some of them, like Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, or Steph Curry, are among the best basketball players in history. Yet, others barely scored a few treys, including Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal, who both did it once! However, many failed to do so, including All-Star caliber players and NBA champions. On this list, you'll find only guys who played the majority of their careers during the three-point era, as there's no point including the rule-changing Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell. Finally, all these top ten athletes played more than five NBA seasons and had significant roles during their careers. As you'll see, one is still active, so he may be delisted in the future!
10. Wayman Tisdale (21 attempts)
Wayman Tisdale was one of the most promising young athletes during the mid-eighties and three-times selected first-team All-American. In 1985, Indiana Pacers chose him as the second pick in the draft, and he stayed in the NBA for the next 13 seasons. While Wayman was never an all-star athlete like many predicted, he was still a solid starter, easily averaging over 15 points and 7 boards during his career. His best moments came in 1989-90 when he was Robin to Mitch Richmond's Batman, with 22 points and 7.5 rebounds.
However, with 21 missed three-point shots, he is among the worst in NBA history. That is a surprise as he was an excellent shooter from the foul line and scored most of his field-goal attempts. We'll remember Wayman as a very talented and successful jazz musician who was very unfortunate in his later life. In 2008 he lost his leg fighting cancer and died only a year later.
9. Nikola Peković (0 attempts)
Even though selected in the draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2008, Montenegrin Nikola Peković joined the team two years later. It sounds incredible, but when making his NBA debut, he was already a European Champion with Panathinaikos and won many other trophies and awards. Yet, he was only 24 and not much older than rookies coming from the NCAA. Due to his vast experience, Nikola quickly established himself as a star for the Wolves, staying there for six seasons. In four of them, he averaged a double-double in points and rebounds. Unfortunately, he ended his career aged 31 due to numerous injuries.
Peković never hit a three in his career, but what's even more impressive is that he never even tried to do it! It's incredible for someone who played 271 games, averaging 25 minutes on the court, never to launch at least a desperate last-second attempt. Yet, we guess he was aware of his biggest weakness, as did everyone around him. Despite his early retirement, Peković is still active in basketball, working as an executive in Europe.
8. Dale Davis (8 attempts)
The best thing about Dale Davis is that he was consistent during his career, which lasted for an incredible 17 years. Davis quickly established himself as a starter for the mighty Indiana Pacers during his decade-long tenure in the team. The Pacers were among the best ball clubs in the East at the time, and they were the only team that took Jordan's Bulls to the seventh game (1998). Furthermore, Indiana lost the NBA finals in 2000, and Davis was an All-Star, averaging just shy of a double-double. Even much later in his career, he was still a solid rebounder.
Elliott (that's his real name!) scored 8706 points in the league, but none of them was a three-pointer. He attempted it eight times, and four came in a single season (2000-01). While pretty versatile, playing as a center or power forward, he was much more interested in grabbing boards, as shown by his impressive 7.9 career average.
7. Armen Gilliam (17 attempts)
Like Wayman Tisdale, Armen Louis Gilliam had a terrific college career, but in 1986, he also won the FIBA World Championship! This was a massive surprise, as the team consisted only of university players, including very young Steve Kerr, David Robinson, and Sean Elliott. In 1987, Phoenix Suns selected him as the second pick on the draft, and the same season, he was in All-Rookie First Team. Incredibly, his career continued to mirror Tisdale's, as he was a reliable starter, easily averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds. Unfortunately, he usually played for some of the worst teams in the league, staying off the radar.
Gilliam was all about offensive rebounding as a power forward, yet he still managed to miss 17 three-point shots. In five of his 13 seasons, he never shot a single one! Despite his relatively invisible status, Gilliam was a very colorful character. Late in his career, he changed his name from Armon to Armen, as people struggled to say it correctly. Yet, he still had to explain that his name isn't religious nor Muslim. Furthermore, he made a comeback in 2005, and at the age of 41, he was the MVP of the ABA All-Star Game. Unfortunately, he died only five years later while playing basketball.
6. Tyson Chandler (11 attempts)
By now, you'll see there's a pattern here, as Tyson Chandler was another second pick in the NBA draft. The hype around him was hard to describe, as he became a sensation during his high school days. Despite offers from the best universities, he became a professional at only 18. Yet, this wasn't the best idea. Chandler was a role player and a solid rebounder while playing for the Bulls before the move to New Orleans made him shine a bit more. For the next decade, he regularly averaged double-doubles, finally becoming an All-Star in his 12th NBA season! Chandler also has an NBA title with the Mavericks and numerous defensive-related awards. Finally, he won gold with the USA in the 2010 FIBA World Championship and at the Olympic Games in 2012.
Despite staying in the league for almost two decades, Chander shot for three only 11 times, never more than twice in a season. However, he wasn't great at any distance, as he struggled at the foul line for the better part of his stay in the NBA. Like Dale Davis, he was much happier under the basket, collecting boards and scoring some garbage points. After such a disappointing start in the league, Chandler proved that one should never give up!
5. Joakim Noah (16 attempts)
After winning two NCAA titles, a son of famous French tennis player Yannick Noah, Joakim Noah, was the 9th pick in the draft in 2007. He then spent the next decade playing for the Bulls before a few much shorter episodes in Knicks, Grizzlies, and Clippers. While in Chicago, Noah quickly became a starter but was very much injury-prone. In fact, he never played an entire season, going over 70 games only thrice. Despite this, he regularly had double-double seasons and proved to be among the best rebounders while often serving assists.
Yet, his three-point shooting was abysmal, so even 16 tries weren't enough for him to score any. That didn't stop Joakim from winning numerous accolades, including two All-Star appearances and many defensive-related awards. In the era when centers were encouraged to move away from the paint, Noah still played it old school. Like many other athletes on the list, he was more defensive-minded, a team player quite happy with his role.
4. Rudy Gobert (8 attempts)
Without much experience, French center Rudy Gobert joined Utah Jazz in 2013, where he had a disappointing first season. However, he kept improving, and two years later, he was a regular starter. Soon enough, Gobert established himself as a defensive powerhouse and one of the best rebounders in the league. Finally, his excellent shot-blocking skills made him the league leader in 2017. In 2020 he had his first NBA All-Star appearance and won silver at the Tokyo Olympics.
However, his three-point shooting ability is non-existing, as he takes only one per season on average. Yet, in 2020-21, he tried it four times – more than he did in his first seven seasons! Gobert improved his jump shot recently, which may eventually lead him to some three-point opportunities. Once that happens, we're pretty sure it will make the headlines!
3. Mark Eaton (2 attempts)
Despite being almost seven feet tall in his high school days, Mark Eaton looked like he'd never even play college basketball. The lack of skill and proper training made him sit on the bench most of the time and dream about playing water polo. Yet, Utah Jazz has chosen him as the 72nd pick overall in the 1982 NBA draft, not expecting much. However, Eaton figured out he couldn't compete as a shooter, so he became defensive-oriented. Even in his first season, he was among the best shot blockers in the league, with his 3.5 career average still the best ever. This made him the best defensive player of the year twice and gave him an All-Star appearance.
When it comes to three-point shooting, Eaton had his only two tries in his first two seasons, meaning that he never shot one in the next nine years before ending his career. Yet, Eaton transformed the Jazz from regular losers to a playoff team.
2. Dikembe Mutombo (2 attempts)
Sometimes the name says a lot about the athlete, and Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo certainly was unusual. Mutombo started playing basketball only at 16 and enrolled in Georgetown six years later. Despite focusing on becoming a doctor, he and Alonzo Mourning formed a duo that quickly became a sensation. This earned him a high place in the 1991 NBA draft and a contract with Denver Nuggets. During the next 18 seasons, Mutombo was always in the spotlight, as he was a natural showman and one of the best defensive players in the league's history. While he regularly scored in double digits, he was mainly a shot-stopper and rebounder.
Despite playing for almost two decades, Mutombo launched only two three-point attempts in his early seasons and none in his next 15 years, which must be a record! While centers rarely shot threes in his era, scoring none was still rare. For example, Hakeem Olajuwon made 25, Patrick Ewing 19, and even his teammate Yao Ming scored twice. We're sure there were many situations when Mutombo could try a few more, but that just wasn't his thing.
1. Robert Parish (6 attempts)
"The Chief" Robert Parish is the only athlete on this list to start playing before the three-point line came to the NBA. However, he stayed in the league for 21 years, 18 of them after the rule introduction. Of course, Parish is also among the 75 best NBA players of all time and has won four NBA titles. He is also the oldest NBA champion, as he was almost 44 when he won it in 1997 with the Chicago Bulls. Unlike most athletes on this list, the Celtics legend wasn't a defensive specialist but an offensive weapon. Furthermore, you can argue that he is the best shooter among centers, with a terrific jump shoot.
When we know this, it's strange that Parish fired just six three-point shots, never more than one in a season. Indeed, centers weren't encouraged to try them during the eighties and nineties, but he obviously had the potential. We can easily imagine him fitting in the modern game, making his offense even more versatile.
Among all notable NBA players, we could find maybe 20 who never scored a three-pointer, making this feat extremely rare. Most of these guys from our top ten list played in the eras where big men were scorned for getting outside the paint area, so the truth is, they aren't necessarily bad three-point shooters. Instead, we can only wonder if some of them would develop it as their offensive weapon if given a chance.
Are you surprised that none of these athletes ever hit a three? Which one of them could have evolved into a decent shooter from a distance?
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I checked it today, Rudy Gobert still hasn't scored a single three point shot. In this era it is such a rare feat for a prolific player.
September 23 at 08:42:36 AM