Skip to main content

Why Michael Jordan didn't want to excel at three-point shooting

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan attempted 1.7 threes per game in his career, and with that average, he is shooting well below the league average nowadays

Michael Jordan attempted 1.7 threes per game in his career, and with that average, he is shooting well below the league average nowadays. MJ’s three-point peak happened in ’96/’97 with 3.6 attempts a game; those are Larry Nance Jr. levels in ’20/’21. The three-point revolution changed the game, and in all those “MJ vs. LeBron” and similar discussions, Jordan’s lack of perimeter shooting is always brought up. 

Developing a three-point shot

If we look at percentages, as he started taking more threes and presumably working on that part of his game, MJ got much better at it. So even if we avoid the “He would’ve been great because he’s MJ,” the numbers back up Jordan’s ability to drain the three. 

  • '84/'85 - 0.6 attempts - 17,3%
  • '88/'89 - 1.2 attempts - 27.6%
  • '89/'90 - 3 attempts - 37.6%
  • '95/'96 - 3.2 attempts - 42.7%
  • '96/'97 - 3.6 attempts 37.4%
Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Jordan would surely take more threes if he, hypothetically, played in today’s NBA. But we shouldn’t assume he would necessarily reach the Curry/Harden levels. Back in ’92, MJ was asked about the three-pointer and his (lack of) willingness to take it.

“My three-point shooting is something I don't want to excel at because it takes away from all phases of my game. My game is fake, drive to the hole, penetrate, dish-off, dunk. When you have that mentality of making threes, you don't go to the hole as much. You go to the three-point line and start sitting there, waiting for someone to find you. That's not my mentality, and I don't want to create it because it takes away from the other parts of my game.”

Settling for the outside shot

One of the reasons Steph and Harden are such deadly three-point shooters is that they both have the skill to attack the rim. So developing an all-around game unlocked their outside shot. Unfortunately, they are the exception, and MJ was right in his diagnosis. 

Today, we see too many players settling for shots from the outside, becoming predictable and stagnant because of their addiction to the outside shot. There’s no doubt in my mind Jordan would take more threes than he did and would drain a lot of them if he played today.

But no matter what analytics say, he would never let it dominate his game and attitude. Instead, the key to a healthy shot chart is the same as to a healthy diet – balance.

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

Zach Snyder on directing Michael Jordan in "Playground" — “He’s a natural.”

One went on to make Space Jam, the other 300, Justice League, Army of the Dead, Man of Steel, Watchmen, and Dawn of the Dead. Two great movie careers, starting in 1990.

Miami Heat forward LeBron James and team president Pat Riley

The moment Pat Riley should've known LeBron James would one day leave Miami

Upon his arrival to Miami, LeBron made a request that should've let Riley know a new era was coming.

Dennis Rodman

How Dennis Rodman's gay bar double-date led to the Chicago Bulls winning the 1996 NBA Championship

Remember Jack Haley? It turns out he was crucial for the Bulls winning in 1996 because he was “the only person who speaks fluent Rodman,” and knew how to convince Dennis not to quit the team before Game 6 of the Finals.

Detroit Pistons center Bill Laimbeer and guard Isiah Thomas

“I don't need to take that s**t!” — when Isiah Thomas broke his hand after punching Bill Laimbeer

Isiah Thomas punched Bill Laimbeer so hard he broke his hand during one of Detroit Pistons' practices.

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

“I don’t know if I could’ve survived in this Twitter (era)” — Michael Jordan on social media and cancel culture

There's no hand-checking and hard fouls in 2022. But there's Twitter, political correctness and almost no privacy whatsoever.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Remember when KCP played with an ankle monitor?

In terms of serving time, continuing to play games while in prison is not that bad.


Jason Williams shares who is the GOAT between Michael Jordan and LeBron James

The "White Chocolate" thinks one guy is the GOAT, while the other one would be his pick if he has a must-win game.


“As trophies are concerned, that was the highlight of my career.” — the heartwarming story behind Bill Russell's favorite trophy

The NBA will retire the No. 6 league-wide honoring Bill Russell. The story of his favorite trophy makes it clear why he's the first person ever to receive that honor.