LB named Allen and Kapono as two of the league’s best shooters.
(Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)

Shooting used to be a prerequisite to being an NBA player. Then it became a passing fad.

Now it seems to have morphed into a commodity that is now sought after by NBA general managers. It seems as if every team usually has at least one shooting specialist that helps stretch the defense.

One such specialist, Atlanta’s Mike Bibby, returned to his hometown of Phoenix to participate in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout on All-Star Saturday. It is his first time in the competition in eight years. The former Shadow Mountain High School star and Arizona Wildcat, who can always be seen trotting around the Valley during the offseason, is confident in his chances this weekend.

“I was going to come back home anyway,” Bibby said. “Just to take part in the festivities is good too.

“It would be even better if I could hold the trophy up in front of the home crowd. That’s what I’m shooting for.”

He claims that practice was the key for him becoming an accurate marksman, firing off 500 to 750 shots a day in the offseason. We’ll see if that will be enough tomorrow.

While Bibby and a cast of other shooters compete in the three-point contest tomorrow, let’s see what some other long-range bombers around the NBA thought about their peers:

Roger Mason Jr., with confidence, said that he is the best off the dribble shooter in the league, while declaring Toronto’s Jason Kapono as the best spot-up shooter in the league.

When I asked him if he had any remorse about ruining everyone in Phoenix’s Christmas by nailing that winning three-point shot at the buzzer he laughed and said, “Nah, that was a lot of fun. It was a good Christmas gift for my mom.”

As an L.A.-native, Kapono, the two-time defending champion in the three-point shootout, mentioned Reggie Miller, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper as some of his influences as a shooter. But when asked who the best of all-time were, he named Miller, Suns GM Steve Kerr, Michael Jordan, Dale Ellis, Suns broadcaster Eddie Johnson and Chuck Person.

“It’s an aspect of the game that has really gotten phased out,” he said. “All the ballhandling, the flashiness and the dunks appeal more to the kids and to people who don’t really understand the game of basketball. I’m more of a purist for the game, and I guess that’s why my game is the way it is today.”

Off the dribble, Kapono cited Steve Nash and L.A.’s Kobe Bryant as the most impressive as shooters.

“Overall, in terms of catch-and-shoot, dribble, one-legged runners and stuff, he’s got to be up there as one of the best,” the former UCLA star said about Nash.

Noting that the art of shooting has dwindled around the league, Kapono noted that some of the best pure shooters that he’s competed against aren’t even playing in the NBA anymore. The first name that popped into his head when I asked him to name someone was former Suns blogger Casey Jacobsen.

How about some easy to follow lists:

The Celtics’ Ray Allen’s List of Top 3 Shooters in the NBA: Kapono, the Bucks’ Michael Redd and himself (only when allowing him to name himself).

The Heat’s Daequan Cook’s List of Top 3 Shooters in the NBA: Allen, Kapono and Atlanta’s Joe Johnson.

Leandro Barbosa’s Top 3 Shooters in the NBA: Allen, Kapono and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki.

Denver’s J.R. Smith Top 3 Shooters in the NBA: The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Redd and Allen.

Ray Allen’s Favorite Pressure Shooters: The Pistons’ Allen Iverson, the Nuggets’ Chauncey Billups, the Celtics’ Paul Pierce, Bryant and himself (when allowed to add himself on that list).

Allen’s Top 3 Overall Shooters in the NBA: Redd, Kapono and himself.

Ray Allen’s Key to Getting Out of a Shooting Slump: “You have to rely on your teammates, get to the free throw line and get easier shots.”

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