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5 Longest Shots in NBA History

Publish Date: 01.11.2021
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

The NBA has become more and more long-range focused over the past few seasons, and for good reason. Threes are exciting and bring a whole new dimension to offensive play. That is why extremely long shots, though rare, are so much fun to watch.

As a basketball player/spectator who has spent more than 25 years both in and around the game, I have first-hand knowledge about the sport and the NBA. My own experience, backed up by further study, allowed me to compile the list in this guide. I’ll go over the longest shots in basketball history, covering who shot them, when they occurred, and their significance to the sport as a whole.

Going Beyond the Line

While the NBA is now undoubtedly a three-point focused league, long shots are much rarer than many of you might assume. In fact, the most half-court shots ever made in an NBA season is 13, which is mainly because there aren’t too many opportunities to heave the ball.

In addition, shooting (and missing) long range shots tends to bring down a player’s 3-point percentage. Many do not want that, and actively try to avoid heaving up, at least when they are unlikely to make the shot anyway. That being said, more than enough long shots have dropped over the years.

1. Baron Davis, 89 feet (2001)

There have been many, many long shots made throughout NBA history, but none of them have been as long as the bomb Baron Davis dropped while playing with the Charlotte Hornets in 2001. At the end of the third quarter, he tossed the ball 89 feet and threw the net. For reference, a basketball court is 91.86 feet long. That means Davis shot the ball with just 2 extra feet to spare.

Most long shots are shorter than 89 feet because, even with only a few seconds left on the clock, players take a dribble or two up court before shooting the ball. Davis didn’t have that luxury, there was only 0.7 seconds to go before the whistle, which is why he managed to make history on that day in 2001.

2. Norm Van Lier, 84 feet (1977)

To further give reference to just how hard it is to even have an attempt as long as Davis did, the next longest shot in NBA history occurred twenty-four years earlier, when Norm Van Lier made an 84 foot shot for the Bulls, while facing off against the Spurs in San Antonio.

The heave falls five feet short of Baron’s, and reinforces the elements that need to come together for an 89 footer. Even so, Lier’s was also extremely surprising (and no doubt lucky) but it held the record for a long time. Even though it doesn’t sit at number one, even now,  many years after the event, only one other player has been able to get three points from so far back on the court.

3. Lebron James, 84 feet (2007)

It wouldn’t be a true NBA list without the King. Lebron has never been known as a three shooter. However, you don’t need to be a sharpshooter to hit extremely long shots. You just need a lot of strength. And there’s no doubt that James has more than his fair share of that.

As strong as he is even today, he was a lot more powerful in his younger years. That’s especially true during his impressive Finals run in 2007. It was during that season, when facing off against the Celtics, that he chucked up an 83-foot prayer that was answered with a swish. Like most other record long shots, Lebron’s occurred with almost no time on the clock (1 second) at the end of the third quarter. He just grabbed the ball, got to throw it up uncontested, and somehow it made its way home.

4. Vince Carter, 82 feet (2016)

Another true anomaly on the longest shot list is Vince Carter’s 82-footer he managed to get home in 2016. Not only is this easily the most recent on the list, but Carter was well past his prime when it occurred.

During a regular season game with the Memphis Grizzlies, he got a rebound at the end of the quarter. After a short hesitation, and realizing how much time was left, he put all of his strength into a heave that went through on the other end.

It takes a lot of strength to be able to do that at any age. Carter doing it at 39 after being in the league so long makes it one of the most impressive long shots ever.

5. Bruce Morris, 89 feet (1985)

While not an NBA shot, this wouldn’t be a complete list of the longest successful basketball shots without mentioning Bruce Morris. While playing for Marshall in 1985, the college player set a record (that would later be tied by Baron Davis) for the deepest official three pointer on record.

That is still by far the longest make in NCAA history and, as the above list shows, is something only one other person has ever been able to do at any level. Players simply don’t get the chance too often, but Morris sure took advantage of the opportunity when it came.

Proof that longshots can (and do) pay off

Long shots are mostly luck, but that doesn’t make them any less exciting or fun to watch. Being able to chuck a ball the length of a basketball court requires a lot of strength, and being able to aim it accurately towards the basket is pretty damn tricky as well. You need some serious athleticism.

The players included in my list were not necessarily sharp, or long-range threats, they were simply pure athletes who had the ability to hit a hoop more than 80 feet away. If you ask me, that’s pretty dang impressive.

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