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Thursday, December 10th, 2009 at 8:00 am  |  52 responses

Decade’s Best: Shooter

Jesus Shuttlesworth comes through in the clutch.

by Aaron Kaplowitz

In assessing the decade’s top shooter I tracked down grainy, pre-HD video montages, scoured through lists of all stars, tried to make sense of stats I didn’t know exist, and… disregarded it all. The true mark of evaluating a marksman is recognizing one when you see one, and Ray Allen, the smoothest of operators, has earned the decade’s superlative while staking his claim as one of the top shooters of all time.

As the prototypical NBA player becomes too athletic for today’s game, the smaller Larry Bird, Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr appear in the rearview mirror. Allen has managed to channel his athleticism into a devastating weapon, keeping defenders honest and allowing himself the few inches of daylight he needs to deliver the basketball in a perfect arc toward the rim. Ray Allen

Allen is a study in consistency. Whether bursting off the dribble or brushing off a screen, Allen plants his left foot, squares his body toward the basket, bends his knees and elevates straight up – not veering this way nor that. He pumps the basketball from his torso with his right hand gripping the seams raising the ball to a crescendo above his head, perfectly between his eyes.  He needs little time, as his left hand guides the ball before the right wrist snaps forward, violently, striking a steady, if uncomfortable, pose, and ensuring optimal backspin all in the matter of a split second as the ball is sent off on its parabolic journey.

Allen, whose self-admitted obsessive compulsive disorder-like tendencies translated into countless hours practicing what has become the NBA’s most enviable stroke, put up sensational numbers throughout the ‘00s while punishing defenders from all over the court. He has proven himself in the clutch, most recently as the Celtics’ top threat in the waning moments of a close game. He’s reliable from the charity stripe 89 percent of the time and has hit nearly 40 percent of his three-pointers – a shot of which only Reggie Miller has attempted more.

Surely, other great shooters were considered. Peja Stojakovic, perhaps the best pure shooter of the decade, never fully regained his form following a back injury in 2006-07. He has failed to shoot 40 percent from the field since and his average has been steadily dropping since 2003-04.  Michael Redd, though deadly from the perimeter, has played in 112 fewer games than Allen this decade and didn’t fully burst onto the scene until ’03-04, giving Allen fRay Allen & Chris Duhonour more seasons of averaging 20 points per game before Redd notched his first. Steve Nash, perhaps the most accurate of the lot, is a point guard before he’s a shooter, just as Kobe Bryant, with the most technically sound form, is a scorer before he’s a shooter.

Having spent most of his career as the his team’s top scoring option, Allen’s outside shooting has become more crucial than ever as Boston’s second, if not third, option. While covering a Celtics-Supersonics game in ’05-06, I noted that Allen, then with Seattle, is the most surprisingly exciting player to watch live. He manages to pull off the most unlikely shots, contorting his elbows, barely glancing at the rim and somehow managing to guide the ball through the net, ever so much as grazing the rim on the rare occasion.

Allen has made an art form out of shooting for 14 years now.  But you have to see him live to fully appreciate why he has truly earned the title of the Decade’s Best Shooter.

***

For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.

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  • JG

    first

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    This is not even a debate. Ray Allen wins hands down. Close the comments.

  • LeoneL

    What Hursty said.

  • Matthew Davis

    I agree with your selection of Allen but not with your reasoning.

    “Steve Nash, perhaps the most accurate of the lot, is a point guard before he’s a shooter, just as Kobe Bryant, with the most technically sound form, is a scorer before he’s a shooter.”
    You’re essentially saying to earn the title of best shooter, you can’t be dominant in anything else.

  • riggs

    co-sign hursty.

  • LeoneL

    I think he meant this is a “designated” shooter recognition. If Nash is more dependent on his shooting as he is in setting people up, he could no doubt be in the running for this recognition. In any cell, there is a designated sniper, while the demolition expert is a great shooter himself, the sniper will no doubt be awarded the “best shooter in the cell” thingy.
    But what do I know? lol

  • LeoneL

    Man, I miss the Sonics… T_T

  • http://hoopmixtape.ning.com/ Simon S.Y Lawy

    co-sign @LeoneL

  • d.j.

    peja is better….. not even a debate…

  • http://nicekicks.com MeloMan2.0

    No contest

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    Man, Ray Allen. Even when his shot is FLAT, it still goes in. True story.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    I think he trails only Reggie Miller in most 3′s made..

  • Tom

    Dirk needs to be mentioned in this conversation. Although the last few seasons he doesn’t really venture out to 3pt territory, his shot is just deadly. From 17ft and in, if he gets that jumper off its pretty much guaranteed 2pts. And i’m pretty sure he’s around 40% from 3pt territory. The only thing Allen really has on Dirk is a much quicker release, but Dirks high-arc combined with the fact he’s 7ft, makes that J unblockable

  • Hussman25

    Its been 10 plus years since spike released “HE GOT GAME” and the name “Jesus” has stuck to Ray ever since… It realls suits him… I still call him Jesus Shuttlesworth more than Ray Allen… LMAO! The SLAM mag w/ Jesus on the cover was oooo ill… A mass reprint should be done whenever decides to hang em up! *Wonder y there was never a sequel??*

  • Foobar

    @Tom Dirk’s shots are ugly. He’s always falling in some direction, never steady. His fadeaway is one of the ugliest in the NBA. It’s OK though, because he can score and has high percentage, but you can’t say he’s has a perfect jump shot model.

    Allen’s jump shot is the epitome of perfection and beauty.

  • Hussman25

    @Foobar: AGREED! Jesus has the best form I have ever seen! Period!

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    The Ken Griffey of Basketball.

  • http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    Ray Allen is the REAL machine.

  • http://www.teflinprague.com SAB

    not getting much NBA over here, we were real excited to see Wolves-Celtics in London 2 years ago… definitely the highlight was seeing Ray Allen’s shot in “real life”… such a thing of beauty…

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Put Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Michael Redd, Steve Nash, and Peja Stojakovic in the three point contest and we know who wins. Peja got the best of him during one of the all-star breaks but they had a couple of years in a row where they duelled it out like no others. Kobe had a terrible three point contest experience, as did Paul Pierce, so I agree with the “scorer, not shooter” assessment. Where Kobe and Pierce are scorers who can shoot, Ray Allen is a shooter who can score. He’s always great at both.

  • Joe

    Yes I totally agree, in that you have to see Ray Allen live,to appreciate who he is as a shooter. As a Celtics fan living in Indiana, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the IND-Bos game when the C’s came to Indy. My fav. player is KG, so i was anticipating seeing KG live for the first time. But he had got hurt the game before and did not play.So I was dissappointed, however, watching Ray Allen, I completely forgot about KG. hahaha. I fell in love with his shooting form, I was more concentrated on Ray, then i was the score or how the game in general was going. Rays jumper is a thing of bueaty on TV. Rays jumper live is like a Basketball-spiritual-awakening-bliss!

  • Clark

    C’mon guys. How is Sasha Vujacic not in this conversation? He’s my best shooter of the decade.

  • Hot Sauce

    Sasha Vujacic sucks. Clark must be gettin some from Sasha

  • stevenashjr13

    Agree with every part of the story except this line “just as Kobe Bryant, with the most technically sound form, is a scorer before he’s a shooter.” Kobe really has better form than Ray???? Really??? Ray has absolutely perfect form and Kobe’s is actually kinda goofy with the off hand shifted way over top of the ball.

  • Trout

    I don’t think we’ll see such fluid form for a long time.

  • tmw554

    yeah i know kobe’s always covered but he still doesn’t seem to square up like ray

  • Tommy Muss

    ray wins but u gotta show michael redd love’ an 4 a big man rashard lewis

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    “As the prototypical NBA player becomes too athletic for today’s game…”
    This doesn’t make sense.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Best form? Allan Houston. Ray’s a better shooter and a much better player, but Allan Houston’s shooting form IMHO is perfection.

  • Kyle

    People who think Dirk’s shot is ugly are effing crazy. The guy has the highest arc… oh and Peja and Nash are far better than Allen at shooting. Nash has shot 50 percent or better from the field the past 5 seasons(and is shooting .524 percent this season.) From 3 and the free throw line he’s far better for his career. Nash almost shoots 3′s at the same percentage Allen does from the field for his career. A real sniper is Reggie Miller. Allan Houston had the best looking 3. Allen is overrated like all the Celtics.

  • Sparker

    the celtics top threat in the waning moments of a close game, however, is… paul pierce

  • vtrobot

    @ kyle: you’re funny. he has actually hit the 2nd most amount of 3′s ever. it’s not people’s opinion that he has. i do agree with you about dirk and nash though. i don’t care how dirk fall away looks, it can’t be stopped. jesus is hitting the 20,000 mark tonight. other than elbowing varajeo where a c*ck should be, he’s a total class act. right up there with grant hill. one of my favorite memories of the decade is when the sonics where playing the last game of the season, not going to the playoffs, @ home, and ray had a couple 3′s to make to break Q’s season record for 3′s. he came out locked in and broke it by the second quarter. JEEEEEEEESUUUUUUSSSS!!!!!!!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Jesus!

  • http://www.behindtheback.webeden.co.uk Sam Raphael Chadwick

    im hoping that in a few year stephen curry will be in this conversation and maybe j.j.reddick you never know

  • Don

    ray allen can shoot straight up in a split second even when coming off a curl at 80miles/hour. Peja can’t. but peja is real good as well. props to both of them,

  • ASTEK

    HE GOT GAME!

  • PJ

    peja is the best shooter of the decade.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    Ray Allen is the best shooter of the decade for sure but its not even funny how close Kobe is.

  • Celboogz

    Ray Allen is the perfect choice. He’s played this whole decade (00-09-10) and has proving time and time that he’s dangerous when he’s wide open. Plus his sweet release is a plus. I’d take him in clutch situations over Kobe. But hey, that’s just me. Crazy thing is, I hate those damn Celtics lmao.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Allan Houston was awesome, but he hasn’t played enough this decade to be considered best shooter in the 2000′s. Its a shame his career was cut short by injuries, though.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Wesley Person has maybe the best form in the history of the NBA.
    But to me, Ray Allen is still definitely the best shooter of the decade, hands down. One of my all time favorite ball players.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Ray Allen’s shot looks the best in my opinion, but it isn’t easy to imitate; that’s why it isn’t the “pure” textbook form that people are always talking about. That crazy smooth release is distinctly Mr. Shuttlesworth’s.

  • dmonz

    “Lights out Ray-ray” should be his nickname..
    He’s DEFINITELY THE BEST SHOOTER

  • juliusj14

    peja is in no way as consistent or versatile as ray allen. ray allen can shoot off the dribble, off a screen, set shots, and any other kind of shoot. peja can’t handle the ball well enough, nor is he fast enough with his release to create space for his shots like ray can. if you take into account his form, versatility, consistency, and his entire body of work than ray allen is clearly the best.

  • Shifty

    Ray Ray is by far the best shooter and to me one of the most exciting players to watch, glad he is in boston and got a ring.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Robert Horry is the best shooter of the last decade

  • Robb

    Amen juliusj14

  • J

    if were talking about form, man, MJ’s are ART… oh wait were talking about the last decade? yeah.. its Denzel’s son.

  • dutch rob

    Forget about the last decade Jezus shuttlesworth may even be the shooter off al time

  • The D Train

    Myles hit the nail on the head. Watch how fluid and smooth Ray-Ray looks shooting, then watch Junior Griffey swing. Those two gents look like they were put on earth to do those two particular acts over and over and over again. Sometimes the final result isn’t the only part of public opinion, as aesthetics play a huge role, but it sure doesn’t hurt that both guys were amongst the best in their respective professions (obviously Ray-Ray still is…sadly cannot say the same for Junior)…as an aside: if you’ve never heard Kid Sensation and Griffey’s “The Way I Swing”, you should check it out. Griffey sounds like Alvin the Chipmunk but it’s still a pretty sweet track.

  • J

    shuttlesworth. that’s really an awesome lastname for a baller to have.

  • http://zsmart.blogspot.com Zach Smart

    Peja nowhere near Jesus’ level, no clutch characteristics remember that airball in the clutch when he was with Sac-town? RAY is the quick-strike ratchet man, no question.

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