There’s a club so exclusive in the NBA that just six players since 1979-80 have gained entry. There’s no velvet rope, no bouncer at the door — just a simple set of numbers that separate its members from the outside world.
The 50-40-90 group, also known as the 180 club —is formed by players who cap a regular season by shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the free throw line.
The player must log at least 300 made field goals, 125 made free throws, 82 three-pointers made to prevent players like Keith Bogans and Meyers Leonard, who each logged less than 1,000 minutes on court during the seasons that they fulfilled the percentage requirements, from sullying the group.
Just 10 times in 37 years has a player satisfied each of the benchmark requirements: Larry Bird (1986-87, 1987-88), Mark Price (1988-89), Reggie Miller (1993-94), Steve Nash (2005-06, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10), Dirk Nowitzki (2006-07) and Kevin Durant (2012-13).
And yet no customized trophy is handed out to a player who reaches the marks, no press conference is given. Two players in the club — Nash, 05-06; Nowitzki, 06-07 — took home MVP honors in their respective seasons.
Scoring is reaching unprecedented rates this season: More than 73 percent of the league’s teams are averaging triple digits in the scoring column; only 10 percent were four seasons ago. With the proliferation of scoring and teams increasingly fixating on efficiency, it’s less surprising that three players could join the 180 club this season — which would mark the first season in which more than one player accomplished the feat.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who is running buckshot on the league, is the only player projected to accomplish the feat, but Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard are within striking distance, as well.
- Curry: 50.5 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from three-point range, 90.1 percent from the line
- Durant: 50.7 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from three-point range, 89.3 percent from the line
- Leonard: 50.8 percent from the field, 45.8 percent from three-point range, 88.3 percent from the line
“I think he can do it,” Draymond Green said about Curry’s chances.
Curry is projected to be the first 30-point scorer to join the group, and would tout a true shooting percentage (67) that would dwarf all other members.
That the reigning MVP is barreling toward the revered group is made more impressive by the key snare of the group itself: The higher a player’s three-point rate, the less likely the player is to qualify for the group — because a player’s accuracy from beyond the arc affects both the player’s three-point percentage and field-goal percentage.
Curry notwithstanding, players almost always connect on lower percentages from beyond the arc than they do from, say, the restricted area: The NBA record for three-point percentage in a season is 53.6 (Utah’s Kyle Korver in 2009-10), while the record for field goal percentage is 72.7 (Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain in 1972-73). Worth noting, then, is Curry has taken 796 three-pointers this season, nearly 200 more than any other player in the league; he’s projected to finish the season with nearly 200 more attempts than the previous single-season record holder, George McCloud, who hoisted 678 in 1995-96. Players like Korver and others who primarily chuck from beyond the arc are less likely to reach the required percentage marks.
As Redick put it: “It’s hard because I don’t shoot a lot of layups… most of my shots are threes and then long two-point jumpers, so it’s hard to get to 50 (percent overall).”
The number of players qualified for the club varies from season to season, but surprisingly the free throw percentage requirement is often the most arduous.
Both Leonard and Durant will need to up their respective percentages from the stripe to qualify, and Durant will need to bury a few more threes.
There are more than enough reasons to watch the end of the NBA regular season; one of them certainly is the fact that three players have a shot at joining the most elusive of NBA clubs.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Pacific Standard and VICE, among other publications. He has been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.