The 50-40-90 Club is one of the most exclusive ones in the NBA.
To become a member, a player needs to shoot, over the course of an NBA regular season, a minimum of 50% on field goals, 40% on three-pointers, and 90% on free throws.
It’s a difficult combination of targets to achieve. Small guys have trouble shooting 50% from the field because they tend to shoot from outside of the paint, and those shots are more difficult to hit; big guys have trouble shooting 40% from beyond the arc because it’s something they rarely practice – understandably; and players of all sizes have trouble shooting 90% from the line because it’s just very difficult to stop running, stand still, and be steady enough to hit 9 shots out of 10 for the duration of an entire season.
In fact, it is so difficult to do that only five players have ever shot 50-40-90 in an NBA season. Those players are Dirk Nowitzki, Reggie Miller, Mark Price, Larry Bird, who did it twice, and Steve Nash, who has done it four times. Yes, it’s a mark that’s only been reached nine times in NBA history, and Steve Nash has done it four of those nine times.
There was actually one other 50-40-90 season that is not in the official record books, and it’s important to make a note of it. In 2007-08, Jose Calderon shot 50-40-90, but because he did not make the NBA required minimum number of free throws that year, he failed to qualify, and thus is not a member of the Club.
The Calderon example is important because Steve Nash is once again flirting with yet another 50-40-90 season, but because he missed 24 games this year due to a leg injury, he too is in danger of not making the minimum number of shots to qualify.
Here’s a breakdown of where Nash currently stands, including results from the March 22nd Lakers game against the Washington Wizards:
Field Goals – Nash is currently shooting 49.2% from the field, and while that’s below the 50% threshold, no one has trouble imagining that Nash can get that figure back up to 50%, especially with the returns of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol likely to lead to cleaner looks for Nash.
The bigger danger is that Nash will not make the minimum 300 field goals to qualify, especially with Kobe and Pau back to take more of the Lakers shots. Nash has made 217 field goals so far this season, and so to reach 300 he would need to average 7.0 field goals per game over his remaining 12 games. For the season so far, Nash is averaging just 4.7 field goals per game, and so he would need to pick up the pace considerably over the remaining 12 games.
3-Pointers – Nash is currently shooting 43.4% from beyond the arc, and so he has a significant margin for error built up. Further, the NBA minimum is 55, and Nash has already hit 53. Given his current percentage and his proximity to reaching the minimum number of made shots, this is the one component of the three that Nash is most likely to achieve.
Free Throws – Nash is currently shooting 92.2% from the charity stripe, and so he does have a modest margin for error built up here as well.
However, the league minimum is 125, and so far this year Nash has hit only 94. To reach the minimum, he would need to make 2.6 free throws per game over his remaining 12 games. So far this season, Nash has made an average of just over 2.0 per game, and so it will be a challenge for him to reach the minimum number of free throws as well.
Before concluding, it should be mentioned that another NBA player is flirting with a 50-40-90 season, and this player has long-since passed all the minimum requirements. Through March 22, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder was shooting 50.2% from the field, 40.3% from distance, and 90.5% from the line. Those are very impressive numbers, but they have been falling of late, and it remains to be seen whether Durant can keep his percentages over the 50-40-90 thresholds.
Getting back to Steve Nash, it’s quite possible that he will once again shoot 50-40-90 this year, but it’s less likely that he will meet the minimum number of shots in all three categories that are required to qualify. If that ends up being the case, then he will join Calderon as the only two players to shoot 50-40-90 in a season but fail to qualify.
The difference, of course, would be that while Calderon doesn’t have an official 50-40-90 season on which to fall back, Steve Nash has four of them. He’s not just a member of the 50-40-90 Club, he’s the president.