Hornacek became a great shooter with help from Walter Davis and his wife
Former Phoenix Suns guard Jeff Hornacek was one of the better 3-point shooters to ever play.
Over his 14-year NBA career, he made more than 40% of his 3s nine times, including 46.6% in 1996 and 47.8% in 2000, both of which were with the Utah Jazz.
But Hornacek wasn’t a knockdown shooter when he entered the league. It took until his third season to even make 30% of his 3s, and didn’t average more than one per game until his fourth season.
On the Fox Sports Arizona Valley Chatz segment Sunday night, Hornacek said he got help learning from a Suns player and his wife.
“A lot of credit goes to Walter Davis,” Hornacek said.
The two would shoot together every day. Davis, who was on the Suns during Hornacek’s first two years with the team, shot 51.1% over his career and was one of the elite mid-range shooters in the game.
Paul Westphal, who was also on the Valley Chatz segment, played four seasons with Davis on the Suns.
“His mid-range was lethal,” Westphal said. “He did not miss mid-range jump shots.”
So he was a good person to learn from.
“When he caught the ball, the ball would always kind of spin in his hand,” Hornacek said. “I asked him … ‘Walt, what are you doing? How come it looks like you’re not even catching the ball right?’ He goes ‘Well I’m lining up the seams.’”
Hornacek started doing that. It helped him gain consistency with the shot.
“If you’re always catching your fingertips on that seam, you know how it’s coming off your hand,” Hornacek said. “If you catch it mid-ball, it’s a little more slippery.”
As that was happening, though, Hornacek was learning a completely new shooting form.
When Hornacek was a rookie, then-general manager Jerry Colangelo told him he needed to change his shot because of a side spin on it. Hornacek started training himself to use his thumb less.
It did not work well at first.
He would shoot with his wife Stacy rebounding for him.
“I wasn’t making shots and she goes, ‘Just point at the basket.’ And I was kind of frustrated, I wasn’t making them, and I was like ‘What do you know?’” Hornacek recalled.
“Course, like any other time, about five shots later, I said ‘Hey maybe if I just point to the basket.’”
He explained that just because you follow through doesn’t mean it’s a good shot. Your hand can go crooked. But, “As long as you point at the hoop, the ball’s gonna go that way. And so I started doing it, and they started going in.”
With that help, Hornacek became one of the best 3-point shooters in the league.
He shot 40.3% from behind the arc in his career and won the 1998 and 2000 Three-Point Contests.
“He is one of the greatest shooters I’ve ever seen,” Westphal said. “He was automatic.”