There’s a veritable host of awards, trophies, accolades and other hardware NBA players can acquire over their careers if they push themselves to achieve such honors. There is one very exclusive, incredibly challenging achievement that has no trophy or ceremonies, and that few players ever accomplish.
The 50-40-90 club. What is that, you ask? 50% shooting from the field, 40% shooting from 3-point land, and 90% free throw percentage. It is the offensive player’s holy grail. In order to qualify, you have to maintain stats at or above 50% 40% 90% over an entire season– and you have to have a minimum of 300 field goals, 55 3-point field goals, and 125 free throws.
Only six players in NBA history have achieved this. Two of them have done it in multiple seasons. Want to know who they are? well, you’ll have to read on. For perspective, two of the most recognized players in NBA history have never done it: Michael Jordan never had such a season, with a career .497% from the field, .327% from 3, and .835% free throws. LeBron James also has never accomplished this in a season, though you know he dearly wants it. His career numbers are .497% from the field (freaky, it’s the same as Jordan), .341% from 3, and .747% free throws.
The bottom line is, the few players who’ve made this list are nothing short of offensive basketball miracles. It’s hard to make this list even just shooting around in a gym over any reasonable sample size. Without further ado, hereafter is the indisputable list of those who have made the 50-40-90.
Honorable Mention: Jose Calderon
It would be hard not to feel gypped if you were Jose Calderon. Not once, but twice Calderon almost officially made the 50-40-90 benchmark. In the 2007-2008 season, he was 52% from the field, 43% on his 3-pointers, and 91% on his free throws. However, he only attempted 109 free throws, which was under the minimum requirement of 125 to qualify as a league leader. The next year in 2008-2009, Calderon was 98% from the free throw line over 154 attempts, and shot 41% on 3-pointers, but only shot 49.7% from the field. As brutal as it is to not make it on technicalities, the line has to be drawn somewhere. Given that some of the players on this list accomplished it over huge samples, it’s only fair. It’s also still quite possible for Calderon to reach this goal. He was quite close in 2012-2013, and with career averages of 48%, 41% and 87%, it stands to reason it’s quite probable he hits the marks again for a season. Especially given that he’s only 9 years into his career. As long as he stays healthy he could continue playing for another 5 to 10 years. Keep at it, Jose.
6. Mark Price — 1988-89 Cleveland Cavaliers
With the first pick of the second round in the 1986 draft, the Dallas Mavericks selected a point guard out of Georgia Tech by the name of Mark Price. In a draft-day trade, they would give him to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a future draft pick. With that pick, Dallas drafted a player named Jeff Hodge who would go on to never play in the NBA. This transaction is often regarded as one of the worst draft day trades in NBA history. Mark Price would go on to become the face of the Cavaliers franchise, a four-time All-Star over the 9 years he played for them.
Before the existence of LeBron James, Mark Price was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ golden child. His number 25 has been retired by the team. Over the course of his stay at Cleveland, Price managed to solidify his place as a true NBA star in the 1988 season, where he averaged 53% shooting over 1,006 field goal attempts, 44% shooting from 3 over 211 attempts, and shot 90% on the button from the free throw line over 292 attempts.
At this time, he was only the second player ever to enter the 50-40-90 club. (the first is an NBA great on this list who did it twice, can you guess who it was?) Unfortunately for Mark, he never won an NBA title over his career, just one of the many greats who never reached the promised land. Still, he accomplished much in the NBA, as indicative of his place on this list. Not bad for a second round draft pick who was ‘too small and too slow’ to make it as a pro.
5. Reggie Miller — 1993-94 Indiana Pacers
The third esteemed inductee of this list historically, Miller reached the 50-40-90 echelon in the 1993 season with 50% field goals over 1,042 attempts, 42% 3-point shooting over 292 attempts, and 91% free throw shooting over 444 free throws. Miller is a bit more of a household name than his closest predecessor, Price, and had the rarefied air of spending his entire career with the Pacers.
Like Price, he also never was able to bring home a championship, showing just how stratified the NBA is in championship quality teams. Not particularly shocking when you know he played his entire career in Indiana, he is their all-time leading scorer, and his jersey number 31 was retired by both the Pacers and his Alma Mater, UCLA.
Despite being an NBA star in terms of production, and having a reputation as a clutch player winning games over the years for Indiana, Miller along with other stars in the East like Patrick Ewing were plagued with having to face Michael Jordan‘s Bulls in the playoffs perennially. This easily is the biggest contributing factor to the lack of championships owned by either player, or really most players of that generation.
4. Kevin Durant — 2012-2013 Oklahoma City Thunder
That’s right, you may not have heard about it, but last year’s MVP runner-up placed himself in a category with some all-time greats. The youngest and most recent player to reach 50-40-90 status, last year Kevin Durant shot 51% from the field over 1,433 attempts, made 42% of his 334 3-pointers, and shot 91% of his 750 free throws. I’ll say that again. 750 free throws. The next closest player in this club has about 200 less free throw attempts. Just, wow.
It would appear the slim reaper entered this club with two lit m-80s in his hands. He also tops the entire list with 2,280 points that season. For perspective, #6 on our list Mark Price is 6th out of 10 50-40-90 seasons with 1,414 points. With his 3 point shooting accuracy steadily increasing, and his field goal and free throw shooting hovering just below 50% and 90% respectively, he’s also a strong candidate to repeat entrance into the club, being only 7 years into his career.
Given the intensity in which he is guarded by opposing clubs, and the incredible efficiency he continues to display as a scorer and an all around player, one can argue he’s the best player in the NBA, or at least neck and neck with LeBron. The main edge LeBron has on him now is defense. It stands to reason, given that he’s younger than LeBron and is without a doubt a better jump shooter, as time goes on it is quite likely we will see Durant overtake Lebron as the best player in the league. Just sayin’.
3. Dirk Nowitzki — 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks
There are few players in the association respected more than Dirk Nowitzki. It’s well known how much Nowitzki struggled when he first started in the NBA at the age of 20. He had played professionally in Germany, but the game was wildly different in the NBA. Playing as a power forward, Dirk struggled defensively and felt undersized compared to many stronger power forwards: “I was so frustrated I even contemplated going back to Germany. . . [going to the NBA from German leagues] was like jumping out of an airplane hoping the parachute would somehow open.”
With patience and a strong work ethic he learned to focus on his strengths: his height, and his incredibly fluid jump shot. His second year in the league he came into his own, finishing runner-up for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. Six years later, during the 2006-07 season, Dirk entered the club: Shooting 50% of 1,341 field goals, 42% of 173 threes, and 90% of an incredible 551 free throws.
Five years later, as we all know, Dirk and the Mavericks would beat the Heat in the finals, with the MVP trophy rightfully going his way. Outside of winning the big one, he could fill a large treasure chest with all the other hardware and accolades he’s earned over his career. Most notably, he’s now 10th all time in scoring in NBA history, passing Oscar Robertson on April 8th of this year. International success story, unconventional basketball star, and he’s pretty easy to make fun of on SNL. Taking the trophy home sure took the edge off, though.
2. Larry Bird — 1986-87 and 1987-88 Boston Celtics
One of only two players to ever repeat this crazy feat, Larry Bird was also the gent to kick off the party. He was the first person ever to achieve a 50-40-90. The three point shot was only introduced in the NBA in 1979, so it was only six or seven years into its existence before Bird started the club, so to speak.
There was a staggering consistency to his back to back 50-40-90 accomplishments (and a staggering consistency to his game in general). Bird went 53% of 1,497 shots, 40% of 225 threes, and 91% of 455 free throws in the 1986 season, then followed it up in the 1987 season going 53% of 1,672 shots, 41% of 237 threes, and 92% of 453 free throws. He scored over 2,000 points in each season (2,076 and 2,275), the only person on this list to do so other than Durant.
Along with an army of trophies and accolades, he’s a 3-time NBA champion, and widely regarded as second only to Jordan as best basketball player of all time. Really, any Basketball fan worth his salt knows just how large Bird looms in the scope of basketball legacy. He’s also very well known for being trash-talking savant on the court. Possibly the best such story was during a Christmas Day game vs. the Pacers, when Bird told Chuck Person (who had talked a bunch of trash before the game about him beating Bird) that he had a Christmas present for him. In front of the Pacers bench, Bird shot a spot up three pointer. As soon as the ball left his hands, Bird turned to Person on the bench and said “Merry #$%ing Christmas” and walked away as the shot went in. Classic burn.
1. Steve Nash — 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 Phoenix Suns
Kaboom. The timeless point guard Steve Nash reigns atop the 50-40-90 club (and probably will for a long time) with four seasons of superb offensive prowess. The cherry on top of it all is the fact that he did it while averaging 10.58 assists a game during that span (leading the league in assists and free throw percentage twice of those four seasons). He was only a few free throws away from accomplishing it five times; He had all of the qualifications in 2006 but shot .899 from the charity stripe. As for the four seasons he qualified, his numbers were as follows: 51-44-92% in 2005, 50-47-91% in 2007, 50-44-93% in 2008 and 51-43-94% in 2009. Whew. That is consistency in excellence right there ladies and gents.
Unfortunately for Steve, despite his great accomplishments he has yet to win an NBA title, and with a debilitating lower back injury, the future looks grim for the 40-year-old basketball legend. Aside from his incredible career, Nash is also well known for his charitable nature. He was even honored for his widespread philanthropy by Time magazine, as he was placed as one of their top 100 most influential people in the world. Well, he might not win a championship, but he’s kicked ass on the court and he’s kicked ass at life. Basketball will miss you when you’re gone, Steve.