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Ball Don't Lie

J.R. Smith declares himself one of the greatest shooters in basketball history

Ben Rohrbach
Ball Don't Lie

I have a hard time interpreting J.R. Smith's Instagram account, but I'm pretty sure the Knicks guard just declared himself one of the greatest shooters in basketball history, which is ... interesting?

"They said I wouldn't make it! I did! They said I wouldn't stay! This is my 11th yr! They said you can't shoot like that in the league! I'm on pace to be one of the best shooters the game had ever seen! Bottom line what yall say don't me sh@$ What I do says everything! #Gone"

After everyone enjoyed another good laugh at the expense of a man Adrian Wojnarowski once dubbed "the clown prince of basketball," Smith offered up his own defense in a follow-up Instagram post with a caption that read, "Men lie women lie but ..."

Your eyes do not deceive you. That is J.R. Smith's 1,312 three-pointers ranked 30th behind newly enshrined Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond on the NBA's career list. Even when you toggle that Wikipedia list to sort the 50 most prolific three-point shooters in league history by percentage, Smith still ranks 30th.

Wikipedia don't lie, apparently.

But you'll also notice a host of names conspicuously absent from that list: Larry Bird, Alex English, George Gervin, Jeff Hornacek, Michael Jordan, Chris Mullin, Calvin Murphy, Jeff Hornacek, Mark Price and Jerry West to name 10. And that's because three-pointers made does not necessarily anoint you an all-time shooter, even if Ray Allen — arguably the greatest marksman ever — ranks first on that list.

There are a whole host of reasons this is true, starting with the fact the NBA didn't institute a three-point line until 1979 and didn't shorten the distance from nearly 24 feet to 22 until 1994. Generations of great shooters simply didn't attempt all that many triples, and the presence of folks like Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Antawn Jamison, Quentin Richardson, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams alongside Smith on that list is a testament to the proliferation of the three-point shot as a recent phenomenon.

Take Bird, for example, who led the league in 1985-86 with 82 makes on 194 three-point attempts. A grand total of 119 players attempted more threes this season than Bird did almost 30 years ago. Stephen Curry led the league with 615, and Smith attempted 480, including an NBA record 22 in a single contest. It took Mullin 22 appearances to try that many threes in his first All-Star season. It's a different game.

Sure, Smith owns an NBA Sixth Man of the Year trophy and a respectable career 37.1 three-point percentage — even if his playoff numbers beg to differ — but using a Wikipedia list to declare himself one of the game's greatest shooters shows a profound lack of historical perspective.

Then again, what I say, according to Smith's Instagram account, don't mean sh@$.

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