Stephen Curry’s remarkable rise to three-point king

After leading the NBA’s three-point revolution, Curry has broken Ray Allen’s all-time mark

Stephen Curry began his journey to the top of the NBA’s all-time three-pointers list Oct. 30, 2009, as a 21-year-old rookie playing in his second career game.

Two nights earlier, Curry missed the only three-pointer he attempted during his NBA debut. But just before halftime of a road loss to the Phoenix Suns, Curry shuffled a pass to Anthony Morrow, who fed Andris Biedrins on the right block. Curry walked his defender, Steve Nash, into the paint and then quickly curled back to the top of the key. With the help of a well-timed screen, Curry found himself wide open for a pass from Biedrins, launched before Nash could recover and swished his first three-pointer.

Television broadcaster Gary Bender greeted the shot by calling Curry, the son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, “one of the pure shooters you’re ever going to see coming out of college.” Indeed.

In his 13-season career, Curry has won three championships, two MVPs and two scoring titles as the face of the Golden State Warriors while leading the NBA’s three-point revolution. Along the way, the 33-year-old Curry has smashed countless shooting records — and on Tuesday in New York he surpassed Ray Allen’s career record of 2,973 three-pointers.

“I obviously know I’m closing in, but I try not to let it creep into how you play,” Curry said last week. “You just enjoy the journey to get there. It does mean a lot to me.”

[Stephen Curry’s record-setting April scoring spree]

The NBA’s all-time leaders typically claim their thrones thanks, in large part, to their longevity: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons to become the league’s leading scorer, Hakeem Olajuwon logged 18 to become the blocks leader, and John Stockton played 19 to set the records for assists and steals. Likewise, Allen played the last of his 18 seasons in 2013-14 at the age of 38. Reggie Miller, the three-point record holder before Allen, hit 2,560 threes during an 18-year career before he retired at age 39.

While Curry seemingly has plenty of high-level basketball ahead of him, he has reached summit in just his 13th season at age 33.

His rapid ascent is even more remarkable because he got a late start, compared with some of his peers, because he spent three seasons in college at Davidson.

Curry is five years younger than Allen was when he set the record.

Despite significant injuries in his third season and in 2019-20, he broke the record having played fewer than 800 games.

Curry has played 511 games fewer than Allen when he retired with 2,973 three-pointers.

Curry has shattered conventions when it came to the three-point shot, leading the NBA in three-pointers made and attempted for five straight seasons, 2012-13 to 2016-17. During the 2015-16 season, he became the first player to average 10 three-point attempts per game, and in that same season he made a record 402 threes. All told, Curry owns four of the five most prolific three-point shooting seasons. He also has made at least 10 three-pointers in a game 22 times; no other player has done that more than five times.

To get a sense for how thoroughly Curry has rewired conventional behavior when it comes to offense, consider that 50 percent of his career shot attempts have been three-pointers. By comparison, just 7 percent of Michael Jordan’s shots and 21 percent of Kobe Bryant’s shots were three-pointers, while 23 percent of LeBron James’s shots have been threes.

Stephen Curry has attempted 6,940 two-pointers and 6,903 three-pointers in his career.

He made 51.9 percent of two-pointers (3,599) and 43.1 percent of his three-pointers (2,977).

In his first season, he made 43.7 percent (166 of 380) on three-pointers.

In his unanimous MVP season (2015-16), he made 45.4 percent (402 of 886).

In his first 27 games this season, he had made 145 of his 363 attempts (39.9 percent).

When he retires, Curry probably will be joined at the top of the list by Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden, who ranks fourth all-time and could move up to second in the next two or three seasons. Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard also has a chance to crack the top five by the end of next season.

Both Harden, 32, and Lillard, 31, have their work cut out for them if they ever hope to catch Curry, however. Will anyone ever catch up? One sign of Curry’s impact on the sport, though, is that he has influenced an entire generation of high-volume three-point shooters, including Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young. Whether any rising stars will be able to mount serious challenges to Curry’s total remains to be seen, although it’s worth noting that Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield reached 1,000 career three-pointers in 350 games while Curry required 369.

Still, the cumulative power of Curry’s consistency and potential longevity shouldn’t be underestimated. Dell Curry didn’t retire until he was 37 years old, and his son is playing arguably the best basketball of his career this season. Stephen Curry’s shooting range, shot-creation ability and sheer energy should help him age gracefully, and it’s possible to imagine Curry serving as an effective three-point specialist into his 40s if he can avoid serious injury.

Assuming Curry plays into his late 30s or early 40s and enjoys relatively good health, he will zoom past 3,000 career three-pointers, surpass 4,000 and possibly even approach 5,000, which would have seemed inconceivable as recently as 2015. Even if the NBA’s three-point revolution continues to accelerate, Curry almost certainly will reside in a class by himself for the foreseeable future.

About this story

Sources:, and

Washington Post Staff illustrations; Photos by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images, Christian Petersen/Getty Images, Jeff Chiu/Associated Press, Noren Trotman/Getty Images, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images, Focus on Sport/Getty Images, David Zalubowski/Associated Press, Michael Dwyer/Associated Press, Ben Margot/Associated Press, Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press, Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press.

Ben Golliver joined The Washington Post as the National NBA Writer in 2018. Previously, he was a senior writer at Sports Illustrated covering the NBA. An Oregon native, he lives and works in Los Angeles.
Artur Galocha is a graphics reporter focusing on Sports. Before joining The Washington Post in December 2020, he was a graphics editor at El País (Spain).