Top 10 best shooting guards in NBA history

Profile Picture: Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy

November 26th, 2021

Earlier this week we ranked the greatest point guards in NBA history. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the most sensational shooting guards to ever lace 'em up. From unstoppable scorers to unbeatable winners, our top 10 includes some of the best players to ever grace the hardwood.

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Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11). (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

10. Klay Thompson

NBA team: Golden State Warriors
Accolades: 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 3x NBA Champion

Klay Thompson has been sidelined for so long that it’s easy to forget just how good he really is. Before suffering ACL and Achilles injuries in back-to-back seasons, "Killa Klay" finished in the top three in 3-point field goals seven times while also routinely guarding the opposition’s most lethal perimeter threat. His ability to shine at both ends of the court helped the Warriors to reach the NBA Finals five straight times from 2015 to 2019, and earned him three championship rings in the process.

Thompson’s lights-out shooting was on full display on Dec. 5, 2016, when he scored 60 points against the Indiana Pacers in just 29 minutes. Klay shot 21-for-33 from the field and 8-for-14 from 3-point range, but the most amazing facet of his outing is that he dribbled the ball just 11 times. It was textbook Thompson, and it remains one of the most efficient performances in NBA history.

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Ray Allen. (Photo by Mark Halmas/Icon Sportswire)

9. Ray Allen

NBA teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 10x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 2x NBA Champion

When you think of Ray Allen, you probably think of his silky smooth release and high arcing shots, and that certainly makes sense given the fact he retired with the most 3-point field goals made in NBA history. However, the 10-time All-Star also had a lot of bounce to his game. Allen’s unrivaled ability to launch from deep and get out in transition made him nearly impossible to guard during the first half of his career in Milwaukee and Seattle, where he was just as likely to posterize you as he was to nail a 35-footer.

Allen later accepted more of a complimentary role in Boston and Miami, where his ability to stretch defenses with his spot-up shooting led to a pair of championships. Kevin Garnett and LeBron James both owe him a debt of gratitude for opening up lanes and giving them so much room to operate.

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Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller makes his final appearance at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Anthony J Causi/Icon SMI)

8. Reggie Miller

NBA team: Indiana Pacers
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA

On one hand, Reggie Miller was born at the perfect time in history. The slender marksman entered the league eight years after the NBA adopted the 3-point shoot, and that little bit of serendipity helped him to become one of the top 20 scorers of all-time. On the other hand, he was born at the absolute worst time. His 18-year career overlapped with that of fellow shooting guard Michael Jordan, thereby denying him multiple All-Star spots and a chance of winning numerous championships during his prime. Miller eventually got a kick at the can in the 2000 Finals, but in a cruel twist of fate, he was shut out by Jordan’s heir apparent, Kobe Bryant.

Despite his inability to win the big one, Miller still had a hell of career. The UCLA alum scored over 25,000 points and finished his legendary career as the league’s most prolific 3-point shooter. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

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Michael Jordan (L), Magic Johnson (M) and Clyde Drexler (R) of Team USA sit on the bench during the men's basketball competition at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by John McDonough/Icon Sportswire)

7. Clyde Drexler

NBA teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 10x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 1x Champion

The Portland Trail Blazers were so high on Clyde Drexler that they passed on selecting Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft. That ultimately proved to be a huge mistake – particularly after MJ torched Rip City in the 1992 Finals – but at the time, it was understandable. After all, Drexler had recently been named the Southwest Conference co-Player of the Year at the University of Houston, and had a remarkably similar above-the-rim game as "His Airness".

Drexler used his athleticism to cruise past befuddled defenders and went on to appear on 10 All-Star teams and in the 1992 Summer Games as a member of the U.S. Dream Team. "Glide" later returned to Houston for the 1994-95 season, and helped the Rockets win their second straight championship that year.

6. George Gervin

NBA teams: San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 12x All-Star, 4x scoring champion

George Gervin was far from a perfect player. He never averaged more than 3.7 assists in a season and didn’t seem to be interested in doing anything that required actually breaking a sweat. His laissez faire attitude likely prevented him from winning a championship, but it certainly didn’t prevent him from lighting up the scoreboard.

The Ice Man led the NBA in scoring four times and finished his 13-year NBA career with an eye-popping 26.2 average. His scoring chops made Spurs games must-see TV, even though his many baskets didn’t always result in wins.

Should this spot have belonged to Clyde Drexler, who powered the Portland Trail Blazers to a pair of Western Conference titles? Maybe, but Gervin gets the nod because of his off-the-charts scoring prowess and his graceful finger roll, which remains one of the most iconic shots in basketball.

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Legendary Los Angeles Lakers player Jerry West poses in front of his bronze statue at Staples Center. (Photo by Ringo Chiu/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

5. Jerry West

NBA team: Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 14x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 5x All-Defensive Team, 1x Champion

You didn’t think we would leave "The Logo" off our list, did you? The man with the most famous silhouette in sports was an electric scorer who averaged over 30 points per game four times in his career.

West’s feathery touch made the Lakers a nightmare to face, and helped propel LA to nine NBA Finals from 1962 to 1973. He only won one of those matchups, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. In fact, West became the only player from a losing team to win NBA Finals MVP honors in 1969, when he averaged 37.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 7.4 assists against the Boston Celtics.

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Houston Rockets guard James Harden is defended closely by Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

4. James Harden

NBA teams: Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets
Accolades: 8x All-Star, Sixth Man of the Year, 3x scoring champion

In many ways, James Harden is everything that’s wrong with today’s NBA. He dribbles the air out of the ball, he reduces his teammates to bystanders, and he relies on refs to bail him out. His game can be downright ugly at times, but there’s no questioning its effectiveness.

"The Beard" has led the league in scoring in each of the last three years and is the only player in NBA history to register a 60-point triple-double, or to record at least 2,000 points, 900 assists, and 600 rebounds in a single season.

Harden’s step back threes and Euro steps are a big reason for his many buckets, but it’s his ability to get to the charity stripe that makes him truly elite. The eight-time All-Star has led the NBA in free-throw attempts in seven of the last eight seasons, and is second among all active players in free-throws made. Those freebies may not be thrilling to watch, but they’re a big part of what makes Harden great.

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Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade looks at the court while playing against the Charlotte Bobcats. (Photo by Chris Keane/Icon Sportswire)

3. Dwyane Wade

NBA teams: Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers
Accolades: 13x All-Star, 3x NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP, scoring champion

Dwyane Wade will forever be linked to LeBron James, but it’s worth remembering just how dominant he was before the "Chosen One" brought his talents to South Beach.

The 6-foot-4 Chicago native was a fearless driver and ferocious finisher who led the Miami Heat to their first NBA championship in franchise history in 2006 when he averaged 28.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.2 steals in the playoffs. D-Wade later led the NBA in scoring in 2009, and made his first of two All-NBA First Teams that season.

Wade sacrificed his touches after James and Chris Bosh arrived, but remained an integral part of Miami’s back-to-back championship teams in 2012 and 2013, and was also a two-time Olympian whose clutch shooting and tenacious D were critical to the Redeem Team’s success in 2008.

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Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire)

2. Kobe Bryant

NBA team: Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 18x All-Star, 5x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 2x scoring champion

No player came closer to filling Michael Jordan’s shoes than Kobe Bryant, who modeled every jab step, fadeaway jumper, and spin move after His Airness. Kobe even possessed Jordan’s pathological need to not only beat his opponents, but to thoroughly humiliate them.

The result was 18 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA selections, 12 All Defensive Team selection, five NBA Championships, four All-Star Game MVP awards, and a legacy that goes way beyond basketball.

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Dennis Rodman (91), Michael Jordan (23) and Scottie Pippen (33) of the Chicago Bulls. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

1. Michael Jordan

NBA teams: Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 14x All-Star, 5x NBA MVP, 6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, 10x scoring champion

Was there really any doubt that Michael Jordan would claim our top spot? We could list an infinite number of reasons why MJ is the GOAT, but instead we’ll let Dwyane Wade do the talking for us.

"Every kid that wanted to play basketball, that could play, that couldn't play, you tried to emulate Michael Jordan," Wade said. "That's why there will never be another one of him. He the first of his kind. Everything he did was groundbreaking. He did it with so much flare and so much pizazz that even today people are still trying to be like Mike."

LeBron James may eventually surpass Jordan as the greatest player of all time, but no one will ever erase his status at the greatest shooting guard ever.