Investigating the bizarre link between golf and the greatest NBA shooters in history

Investigating the bizarre link between golf and the greatest NBA shooters in history

ONE MORNING IN the winter of 2005, RJ Caswell finds a 17-year-old senior between classes in the hallway of Charlotte Christian High School in North Carolina. Caswell, in his early 30s and known throughout the school as the only staffer to wear a bow tie every day, is in his first year coaching the varsity team after two years coaching in middle school, and he needs help. The new team he’s taking over was decimated by graduation and is now composed of five freshmen. Caswell has never spoken to the senior before, but the player’s fame precedes him.

Caldwell approaches the son of an NBA All-Star guard with a humble request.

“Would you play for us?” Caswell asks.

He possesses raw talent, the coach believes, and if the young player continues working, he could certainly excel in the college ranks.

Soon thereafter, a skinny teenager named Stephen Curry becomes the best player on the Charlotte Christian High School … golf team.

After leading his high school golf team, where he’d won a conference tournament and became known for massive drives off the tee, Curry’s legend would only grow. He would play with celebrities such as Tom Brady and Michael Jordan and even former President Barack Obama. He would play at events featuring PGA stars and, as a scratch golfer, more than hold his own. That success, of course, would pale in comparison to a Hall of Fame NBA career headlined by two MVPs, four titles with the Golden State Warriors and more 3-pointers than any player in history (3,390).

Still, along the way, something else happened: A coterie started to form. It would be loaded with other great 3-point shooters, some of whom were among the game’s all-time best.

Naturally, Curry would notice. They all would.

“It feels like every good shooter that I know enjoys golf as well,” Kyle Korver, an avid golfer and No. 5 on the NBA’s all-time list for made 3-pointers, tells ESPN.

Some picked it up early, others mid-career, others still after retiring, expanding this elite and exclusive group.

The question is why.

“It’s No. 2 on my priority list in my life outside of my family — my obsession,” says JJ Redick, an ESPN analyst and 18th on the all-time NBA 3-point list with 1,950 makes.

“I was playing every day,” former NBA guard J.R. Smith, who sits right behind Redick at 19th on that all-time list with 1,930 3-point makes, tells ESPN. “When I picked it up, I was playing before games. I was playing before practice. I had the bug immediately.”

Then there’s Ray Allen, No. 2 on the all-time 3-point list with 2,973, who, like Redick, calls golf his “obsession” and says, “in many ways, it saved my life.”

Leading this pack of elite shooters turned golf aficionados is Curry, who, on Thursday, will team up with fellow Warriors long-range ace Klay Thompson to play against Kansas City Chiefs teammates Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce in a charity golf event — Capital One’s The Match — at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas.

The Splash Brothers pairing of Thompson and Curry stands as the greatest combo of 3-point snipers on the course, which begs the question: Why does golf attract so many of the NBA’s top 3-point shooters? Why are they often so good at it? What’s behind this bizarre link between sharpshooters on both the course and the court?

Curry, when presented with the mystery one afternoon this past postseason, pauses. At first, he says he isn’t sure. A moment later, the connections seem to emerge.

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