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28.8%…The Michael Jordan 3 Point Debate

Three point shooting was obviously the weakest part of Michael Jordan?s incredible overall game. When you take out the 181 games he played when the line was moved up to just within his range he is a career 28.8% three point shooter. The year they moved it back and his last dance with the Bulls he was 23.8%.  

He was 23.8% that last year when he was still at the top of the game and the league MVP and scoring champion that season. Even when Jordan returned to the league with the Wizards and desperately needed a 3 pointer to help buoy his aging game he shot 24.1% in Washington. This was after decades of knowing he needed to add a three point shot to his game as his peers around him always had them or added them.

I?ve often had debates with others who claim he would have been a good shooter if he was born later and I reject that notion. Some players just can?t shoot three?s, that?s very obvious and it doesn?t matter what era they were in.  There are many more modern examples like Westbrook, DWade, Jimmy Butler and DeRozan. Gee I wonder if they ever thought they needed to add a three pointer to their games.  Butler and DeRozan are 84% free throw shooters. Westbrook was an 80+% FT shooter 8 seasons. None of that mattered.   

 My counterpoint is that there were certainly many players from his generation that could shoot 3?s or added a credible 3 point shot to their game by the 90?s. Look no farther than his college teammates,  Kenny Smith and Sam Perkins. 

The list is long but to name a few 

Larry Bird

Dale Ellis

Danny Ainge

Trent Tucker

Sam Perkins

John Stockton

Terry Porter

Chris Mullins

Joe Dumars

Jeff Hornseck

Chuck Person

Kenny Smith

Dell Curry

Drazen Petrovic

Mark Price

Reggie Miller

Steve Kerr 

These are all guys from the same era that are 56 to 65 years old. Jordan is 59.  I completely reject the notion that the era had anything to do with his 3 point shooting ability when so many others his age and older had no issue. 

Jordan himself had said he was an ABA fan growing up and they had pioneered a 3 pointer and the NBA had one by 1980. It?s not as if he was never exposed to it growing up. Jordan’s hero’s growing up were David Thompson and Dr J, and he’s said his favorite team was the Carolina Cougars of the ABA. He would have had exposure from the start to a 3 point shot. You don’t need a line painted on a court to understand how far out it is. They don’t have FT lines painted on most blacktops and back yard goals either where he was practicing. 

Even if the lack exposure to a 3 point shot at a young age was true,  In 1982-1983 the ACC had a three point line he was 34-76 and shot .447% from at the age of 19. Not being exposed to a three point shot at a young age was never the issue when you can shoot 45% from a college 3 when it is founded. No issue there, he was completely fine when that was the range or when they moved it up in the NBA.

 Jordan?s problem was the lack of the actual NBA range he had. He was very good when the line was moved to just within his range. When it was the distance it was for the rest of the time he was one of the worst three point shooters ever. Both before and after when he had 2 decades of practice to improve knowing he needed to add this to his game, he just couldn?t in the same way some modern hall of famers can?t. It?s just reality that some players can?t shoot 3?s no matter how many years they try to add to their game.

This is a guy that got beat in ping pong by Christian Laettner and obsessed over how to get better at ping pong just to beat him. Do you seriously think after the humiliation of the 1990 three point shooting contest where he’s the worst performance ever still to this day. Obviously he would have tried to add a good three if he was actually capable. 

With all that said Michael Jordan was clearly a great player and firmly 1st or 2nd in the goat conversation regardless of where you stand we all know the 2.  I had the privilege of watching all of Jordan?s championships and even remember the Bulls losing to the Pistons before any of them before anyone accuses me of being a Lebron fanboy. I watched the shrug game and all the moments in real time. I just think three point shooting was the chink in the armor and it would be really interesting as to how he would fair in the modern NBA as a 28.8% career 3 point shooter. Obviously he could still be great as Butler and DeRozen prove but it would be something to navigate. 

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