Sunday was International Left-handers Day, because it just being Sunday would have been entirely too predictable. It made us wonder: Who are the best left-handed players in NBA history?
Left-handedness in the NBA hits a happy medium for professional sports. On one extreme, there’s baseball, a sport where decisions and lineups are made based on a player’s handedness. On the other is football, where you’ll never know which hand is the dominant one for any position but quarterback. In basketball, left-handedness has a meaningful effect on the game itself, but it also mostly manifests itself aesthetically. Something about a left-handed jump shot seems beautiful, perhaps just because we don’t see it as often.
We went through and identified about nine players who are the best left-handers through the league’s history, albeit with some important qualifications.
The best left-hander, straight up: Bill Russell
The undisputed top left-hander has to be the 11-time champion and iconic Hall of Famer. Russell rarely, if ever, took jump shots.
The best left-hander for ’90s nostalgia: Toni Kukoc
That is three-time NBA Champion Toni Kukoc to you. Member of the 72-10 Chicago Bulls. A Croatian basketball star who was one of the first European players to really establish themselves in the NBA. A guy who could play any position, really. May we never forget the impact of this lefty in basketball history.
Best left-hander who wasn’t really a lefty: Larry Bird
Hello. We don’t talk enough about how Larry Bird had perhaps the most savage, ruthless, I-don’t-give-an-eff sports performance in history. One game, bored by his normal right-handed shooting, Bird decided to go an entire game shooting only with his left hand.
He scored 47 points.
That’s just dumb.
The best left-handed Sixth Man ever: Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom was one of the most exciting parts of the Lakers back-to-back title runs in 2009 and 2010. The year he finally won actual Sixth Man of the Year, he averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and three assists per game. He also shot 53 percent from the floor while being a 6’10 big man that could pass like a point guard. One of the original point-forwards of the game before it became commonplace today. He was such a joy to watch on the court.
Best Left-Hander under six feet tall — Isaiah Thomas
No one can scare the 5’9 Isaiah Thomas on the basketball court. After being drafted 60th in the 2011 NBA draft, and doubted by the Suns and Kings, he finally found a home in Boston and it’s the perfect spot for him. He is constantly embarrassing players that are taller than him and that isn’t going to end any time soon. He’s the King of the Fourth Quarter in the most unconventional way. Left-handed and 5’9.
The best left-hander that I (Whitney Medworth) love: CJ Miles
I am the leader of the C.J. Miles fan club and it’s the most excited I get about anything in the NBA these days. CJ is one of those players that gets traded to your team in a random summer and you don’t give him much thought until he’s suddenly your favorite player in the league. On the court, he’s a sharp shooter who is money from the three-point line if a team ever would ever him proper minutes or put him in the right situations. Off the court, he and his wife have two dogs named Shaq and Penny. He’s also easily one of the best locker room interviews in the league today. 3J forever.
Sorry, I can’t stop showing off how good Shaq and Penny are.
The best left-hander that I (Tim Cato) hate: Manu Ginobili
I actually love Manu. More than maybe anyone else on this list, he embodies left-handedness. Everything about his game centered around his shooting arm — his blink-and-you-miss-it release and his downward tilts towards the rim that always, inevitably ended up going left, even when everyone in the building knew that’s where Ginobili wanted to go. But as a Mavericks fan in the past decade, it’s a mandate that I hate — “hate” — Ginobili for all the times he buried Dallas with clutch jumpers and unbelievable shots.
The best left-hander whose career was cut way too short: Michael Redd
We might talk about Michael Redd the same way we talk about Ray Allen if it wasn’t for the injuries. The sweet-shootin’ left-hander was on the same career path for a while, only to see a twice-torn ACL and MCL end his career prematurely. But while Redd did hit more than 1,000 threes in his abruptly shortened career, the dude was gifted in so many other ways. Here he was at his peak.
Honorable mention: Chris Bosh, who probably won’t ever play in the NBA again even though he’s only 33. Still, he had a Hall of Fame career and will be honored for that.
The most fun left-hander ever: Nick Van Exel
I will not accept arguments for anyone else. Nick The Quick was a Swaggy P and J.R Smith combination for the early 2000s, and he was wonderful.
Other notable left-handers in NBA history, if that’s what you’re looking for
David Robinson, Chris Mullin, Bob Lanier, Tiny Archibald, Artis Gilmore, James Harden, Lenny Wilkens, Willis Reed, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, Jalen Rose, Mike Conley, David Lee, Gail Goodrich, Brandon Jennings, Anthony Mason, Derek Fisher.