Coming into the pros, it was no secret that long-distance shooting was Jon Sundvold’s forte. In 1983, the All-American guard made sizzling shooting his bread and butter while leading the Mizzou Tigers to four consecutive Big 8 Conference championships while boasting a 100-28 record during his four-year stint.
It was the Seattle Supersonics who selected Sunvold with their 16th overall pick in the 1983 NBA draft and got him a chance to continue developing his skills at the NBA level during the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons.
From Seattle, Sundvold moved to San Antonio, where throughout the next three seasons (from 1985-86 to 1987-88), he provided some quality minutes for the Spurs as the back-up point guard. His statistically best NBA season came in 1986-87 when he averaged 11.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, and 1.3 rpg.
But it would be his next career stop that brought Sunvold real recognition at the NBA level. In the 1988 expansion draft, the Spurs left his name unprotected, and one of the two newly formed NBA expansion franchises, the Miami Heat, recognized its chance by immediately snapping up the sharp-shooter.
With the team from Florida on a mission just to win as many games as possible, Sundvold was recognized as a shooting specialist and was given a role accordingly. He came in from the bench and provided the much-needed scoring punch with his ability to knock down threes.
Throughout the 1988-89 season, he hit 48 threes out of the 92 three-point tries for an outstanding, league-leading 52.2% efficiency from beyond the arc! Moreover, that season he was the critical Heat substitute averaging 10.4 ppg, 2.0 apg, and 1.3 rpg in 19.7 minutes per game, coming off the bench.
Sundvold’s name is still up there in the chosen group of the most prolific NBA three-point shooters of all-time – only Kyle Korver (53.6% in 2009-10), Steve Kerr (52.35% in 1994-95) and Tim Legler (52.24% in 1995-96) are ahead of him on the list. But it has to be emphasized that Kerr and Legler did it within three years, during which the NBA shortened the three-point line distance to 22 feet from the basket.
But Sundvold was more than that. His presence was well felt in the historic, first-ever win for the Heat, when on December 14th, 1988, Miami pulled off an 89-88 away win over the Los Angeles Clippers. That night in hot L.A., Sundvold came off the bench and contributed 14 points on 7-10 shooting.
However, the team from Miami continued to lose and finished its inaugural season last in the Midwest Division with a dismal 15-67 record. But, it was Sundvold who came out ready to play and contribute on a nightly basis, displaying a tremendous working ethic and an uncanny ability to knock down big shots.
With Miami on a losing streak, the media tried hard to find a bright spot in the Heat’s season – it became Sundvold, who put a series of mini strings of games in which he scored at least one three-pointer. He made at least one three-pointer in 32 games that season and scored 10+ points in 34 of his 68 games!
Finally, the recognition Sundvold worked for so long after putting so much effort in perfecting his shot, came in the form of the selections and appearances at the 1989 and 1990 NBA All-Star three-point shootouts.
Sundvold stayed with the Miami Heat until after the team’s first ‘trip to the promised land’, the 1st round of the 1992 play-off vs. the Chicago Bulls, when a neck injury forced a premature end to his playing career.
But just being out there in the closing minutes of the series game 1, shoulder-to-shoulder with Glen Rice, a shooting specialist who matured as the Miami Heat leader gave him a sense of calm and joy.
During his 9-year long NBA career, Sundvold appeared in a total of 502 regular-season games and scored a total of 3886 points.