NBA

Unwanted NBA records: shots, three-pointers, free throws, shortest career...

Shaquille O'Neal, Joe Fulks, James Harden and Tim Hardaway Sr are just some of the players who have managed to make NBA history for the wrong reasons.

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Unwanted NBA records: shots, three-pointers, free throws, shortest career...
Mike Segar Reuters

Most shots missed in a game: Joe Fulks, 42

Fulks played for the Philadelphia Warriors from 1946 to 1954. He was a two-time All-Star and a league champion in 1947, when we were still in the BAA era. He was a points-scoring machine, a player who averaged more than 20 points a game at a time when, with no shot clock, teams struggled to get to 70 points. He beat the record for the most points in a game four times, getting as high as 63. But that had a price: in the 1947/48 season, he finished up with field-goal figures of 13/55 in a win over the Providence Steam Rollers. Forty-two shots missed is the worst such statistic ever recorded in a game.

Most shots missed in a game without scoring: Tim Hardaway Sr, 17

The father of Tim Hardaway Jr, the small forward who plays for Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks, was an excellent point guard, a five-time All-Star and the father of a lethal crossover, known as the UTEP-Two Step. But in the 1991/92 season, while at the Golden State Warriors, he had a historically bad night of shooting: 0/17. It came on 27 December 1991, on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he took it in good humour, at least, declaring: “I’m going to frame this box score - I had to get an NBA record somehow.”

Most threes missed in a game: Damon Stoudamire and James Harden, 16

James Harden shoots and shoots. He scores a lot, a hell of a lot. But sometimes he also misses a lot… and keeps on shooting. The record for the most three-pointers missed in a game sits at 16, and Harden has hit that figure three times. That includes 1/17 against the Orlando Magic, in a game in which he ended up with 38 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists. Only one other player has equalled that miss rate: point guard Damon Stoudamire, in 2005, at a time when whole teams rarely threw as many threes in a game.

James Harden has missed an NBA-record 16 three-pointers in three separate games.

Most threes missed in a game without scoring one: Brook Lopez, 12

In November 2018, in a clash between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns - the two teams who contested the 2021 NBA finals - the Bucks’ Brook Lopez had a horrible night when it came to three-point shooting: 0/12. And Milwaukee lost by two.

Most free throws missed in a game: Andre Drummond, 23

The center is very clearly on the wane. Undermined by his insufficient intensity, the lack of real impact that his numbers bring and the evolution of the game away from players with his characteristics, Drummond has gone from being an All-Star and signing a five-year, $130 million extension to being a journeyman on low-cost contracts: the Lakers, the Sixers… On 20 January 2016, the then-Detroit Pistons player beat the record for the most free throws missed in a game, with 23. The previous high had been 22, set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1967. Drummond threw 36 in total. However, the Houston Rockets’ hack-a-Drummond strategy might have yielded a 13/36 free-throw count, but the Pistons won the game nonetheless.

Most free throws missed in a game without scoring one: Shaquille O’Neal, 11

In a game between the LA Lakers and the Seattle SuperSonics in the 2000/01 season, Shaq had 11 free throws and didn’t score one. He has said that his well-documented struggles from the free-throw line were “just God’s way of saying that nobody’s perfect”. That said, he still finished up that game against the Sonics with 26 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

Shaq wasn't smiling when he was on free-throw duty...

Most successive free throws missed in a game: Chris Dudley, 13

It’s curious that Dudley comes after Shaq, having been on the end of a dunk by the center that is considered one of the most disrespectful ever, as O’Neal pushed the then-New York Knicks player with both body and hands after slamming the ball into the basket. In 1989/90, on 14 April, Dudley missed 13 straight free throws in a single game.

Worst free-throw percentage by a team in a game: Detroit Pistons, 18%

Can an NBA team score just 18% of its free throws? Yes, it can. The Pistons did it on 17 March 2017, in a clash against the New Orleans Pelicans. Drummond managed just 1/10 and fouled out, and his team as a whole mustered an incredible 3/17.

Fewest points and worst shooting percentage since the introduction of the three-point line: Chicago Bulls, 49 and 23.4%

In the 1979/80 season, the NBA introduced the three-point line. Since then, we haven’t seen a worse game than that played by the Chicago Bulls in the 1998/99 season, their first following Michael Jordan’s second retirement from the game. The Bulls scored just 49 points on their way to losing by 33 to the Miami Heat, and achieved a shooting percentage of just 23.4%: 18/77 overall, 0/9 on three-pointers. In 2002, the San Antonio Spurs registered an identical 23.4% against the Toronto Raptors, but at least in their case they got to 74 points (they lost in overtime).

The worst shooting percentage in history: John Mahnken, 27.2%

In a career lasting from 1946 until 1953, John Mahnken threw 3,337 shots and scored with just 27% of them. When it comes to three-pointers, the worst scoring rate belongs to Charles Barkley: 26.6%. Nobody else has attempted at least 2,000 threes and sunk less than 30%. In free throws, finally, the prize goes to a player has just been inducted into the Hall of Fame: Ben Wallace, who was restricted to a 41.4% success rate from the free-throw line. He didn’t hit 50% in a single season, and went as low as 30% in one campaign.

Fewest baskets by a team in a game: Orlando Magic, 16

In January 2012, against the Boston Celtics, the Magic lost 87-56 in a game in which they were limited to just 16 baskets: 16/65 in total. That wasn’t even close to being the biggest defeat in the history of the NBA, though. That came when the Heat lost by 68 points (148-80) to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1991/92 season. Eight Cavs players managed double digits, but none scored more than 18 points.

The shortest ever NBA career: JamesOn Curry, 3.9 seconds

In the 2009/10 season, JamesOn Curry signed a 10-day contract with the LA Clippers. His only court time came on 25 January 2010, against the Celtics. In the final stages of a game that was done and dusted, he played for just under four seconds - and never got another opportunity in the NBA. The number-51 pick in the 2007 draft, he ended up having a globetrotting career that saw him play basketball in France, Italy, Venezuela…

Most minutes on the court without scoring: Joel Anthony, 28:46

Joel Anthony had a long career in the NBA - chiefly at the Heat - as a backup center who did his fair share of dirty work. While in Miami, in a game against the Blazers in January 2011, the Canadian registered almost 29 minutes on court without any figures to his name: zero points, zero rebounds, zero assists, zero steals, zero blocks… Six years later, the Bucks’ Tony Snell came within 21 seconds of breaking Anthony’s unwanted record.

Fastest player to foul out: Bubba Wells, 2:43

When Don Nelson’s Mavericks came up against the unplayable Bulls in the 1997/98 season, the coach with the most wins in history forged a desperate plan to frustrate the champions: hack-a-Rodman. Fouls and more fouls on Dennis Rodman to break the Bulls’ rhythm and concentration. To do so, Nelson turned to Bubba Wells, who only played 39 games in his career and in two minutes and 43 seconds on the court, used up his six personal fouls on Rodman.

Team with the worst regular-season record: Charlotte Bobcats, 7-59

In a 2011/12 regular season shortened to 66 games by the most recent NBA lockout, the Bobcats posted a dreadful 7-59 record. It’s the worst win percentage of all time, although you have to turn to an 82-game season to find the highest number of defeats: the Philadelphia 76ers’ 9-73 campaign in 1972/73. The Sixers also share the record for the most successive defeats, 26, with the Cavaliers. For Philadelphia, that run came in 2013/14, while the Cavs’ negative streak came in 2010/11, their first following LeBron James’ departure for the Heat.