In the NBA, left-handed players bring a unique style and advantage to the game. While the majority of players are right-handed, there is still a notable presence of lefty players in the league. Left-handed players possess a natural ability to surprise defenders and execute moves with a different level of finesse and unpredictability, making them an intriguing subset of NBA talent. These things considered, how many NBA players are left handed? Are they actually better than their righty counterparts?
What Percent of NBA Players are Left-Handed?
Left-handed NBA players are quite unusual. It is estimated that only one out of ten individuals are left-handed, but is that also the case in the league? Well, lefties are even rarer in the NBA with only 34 players shooting with their left hand out of over 450 NBA players in 2021. In 2023, that number went up to 39, with eight teams without a lefty in their roster. Based on these, the percentage of lefties in the NBA is less than 10%.
It’s also worth noting that some natural left-handed players shoot rightie and vice versa. For example, LeBron James, Rudy Gobert, and Russell Westbrook write with their left hand (as well as Larry Bird, who’s retired), but shoot right-handed. Mike Conley, Ben Simmons, Luke Kennard, and Mason Plumlee are natural right-handers shooting with the left hand. Another was Michael Beasley, who’s now out of the league for several years.
For the purpose of this article, only left-handed NBA shooters are considered.
15 Best Left-Handed Players in the NBA
Because left-handed players are so rare, they usually stick out, especially if they become All-Stars or key team contributors. In fact, in the current crop of left-handed players, almost a third have made the All-Star team at some point. These include Goran Dragic (2018), Julius Randle (2021 and 2023), and DeAndre Jordan (2017). But with that said, only one of the mentioned names is among the current best left-handed NBA players!
So, who are the 15 best left-handed shooters in NBA history? The list begins with retired greats and caps off with the current crop of excellent left-handed NBA players.
1. Bill Russell (Center, Retired)
Russell has a legitimate case to be in the GOAT conversation, much less in the best left-handed NBA players category. The guy singlehandedly terrorized the NBA for the 13 seasons he played in, winning 11 titles for the Boston Celtics. Russell was second behind Wilt Chamberlain as the NBA’s all-time best rebounder and probably the leading shot-blocker if only the league counted the stat during his heyday. Although he wasn’t much of a shooter, Russell’s gliding lefty layup was so fun and athletic to behold.
2. Dave Cowens (Center, Retired)
Cowens was one of the best left-handed centers in the NBA, and he was madly underrated. He won two championships for the Celtics in the 70s after the Bill Russell era and played every game like it was his last. Cowens collected rebounds like they were candy, and for some reason, was an even better rebounder in the playoffs when it mattered the most. He was also one of only four players ever who led his team in five major statistical categories in an entire season! The others were LeBron James, Scottie Pippen, and Kevin Garnett.
3. David Robinson (Center, Retired)
Robinson was a more gifted overall player than Cowens, but he never actually won championships when he was the main guy. Part of it was his demeanor and lack of killer instinct, but he was a terrific two-way force. The Admiral was named a league MVP and DPOY in separate years, but he secured his rings when he had Tim Duncan (1999) with the addition of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in 2003.
4. Willis Reed (Center, Retired)
Sure, Willis Reed was a two-time champion, two-time Finals MVP, and an NBA MVP, but he will forever be remembered for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Reed started the game even after suffering a torn thigh muscle in Game 6, hit his first two field goals, and played 27 minutes on one good leg. That’s the stuff of legend right there!
5. Manu Ginobili (Guard, Retired)
Not only is Manu a four-time NBA champion, but he is only one of two players who won the Olympics, Euroleague, and an NBA championship. Ginobili was the epitome of a winner, sacrificing his stats for the greater good, and accepting a bench role in San Antonio when he could obviously be a capable second option. He was also the precursor to the moves fans see in the NBA today, such as the Eurostep and the nutmeg bounce pass.
6. Chris Mullin (Forward/Guard, Retired)
Mullin was one of the best shooters ever and arguably the prettiest left-handed stroke you’ll ever see. He was ahead of his time as a volume three-point shooter (relative to his era), shooting almost four rainbow tries in 1994-95, making over 45% of his attempts. Something tells you Mullin was better than the stats indicated as he was part of three iconic teams that paved the way for modern basketball: the “Run TMC Warriors,” the Original Dream Team in 1992, and the 1996 Olympic Basketball Team.
7. Chris Bosh (Forward/Center, Retired)
Speaking of sacrificing his game for the greater good of the team, Bosh was often underrated in his time with the Miami Heat. Well, that’s the result of playing alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Even so, Bosh showed how it’s done to be a stretch center while playing exceptional defense. Bosh had an automatic midrange jumper and often used his quickness advantage to score over slower power forwards and centers. Long story short, the Heatles wouldn’t be complete without Chris Bosh.
8. Nate Archibald (Point Guard, Retired)
Aptly named “Tiny,” Archibald was probably the first “barely six-foot electric scoring point guard” in the NBA. Archibald was listed at 6-foot-1, but some say he’s 5’11 tops. He didn’t have much playoff success until he played for Boston in his post-prime years, but Archibald was one hell of a player with the ball in his hands. He once averaged over 34 points and 11 assists in the 1972-73 season for the Kansas City-Omaha Kings.
9. Toni Kukoc (Forward, Retired)
Kukoc would have been the perfect modern point forward, but it’s a shame he played in the wrong era. But even with the clash of playstyles, the Croatian was a key contributor to the Bulls’ championship teams from 1996 to 1998 because of his Swiss Army knife skill set. He can bring the ball up and set the table for his teammates, or shoot an open three or drive to the basket. And all that at 6-foot-11!
10 James Harden (Guard, Active)
Playoff failures aside, Harden has been one of the most influential offensive players in the NBA in terms of what he does on the court. His signature stepback move is a staple in the league right now, and fans has The Beard to thank for it. On top of that, people often forget his Rockets team in 2018 came the closest to beating a healthy KD-Steph Warriors in a seven-game series. Harden was an unbelievable offensive player crafty enough to score on anyone. In fact, he averaged over 30 points in three straight seasons and averaged double-digit assists in every season since 2020-21.
11. De’Aaron Fox (Guard, Active)
De’Aaron Fox has been a 20+ PPG scorer for a while now, but his contributions have only been rewarded recently because they translated to wins. The former Kentucky product is not the best deep shooter, but he transformed himself into one of the best clutch performers in the league. In fact, he was the recipient of the first NBA Clutch Player of the Year after leading the NBA in clutch scoring.
12. Domantas Sabonis (Center/Forward, Active)
Fox’s partner in crime at Sacramento, Sabonis evolved into a big man that can run the offense in a half-court set. The Lithuanian grabbed over 12 rebounds per game since 2019-20 while scoring nearly 20 points and dishing at least five dimes. He has been named to three All-Star teams and earned a spot in the All-NBA Third team after leading the Kings’ massive turnaround.
13. Julius Randle (Power Forward, Active)
Randle brings the word “power” to power forward. He is a strong interior operator with an array of unorthodox moves, partly because he is left-handed. Ju averaged over 22 points, 10 rebounds, and nearly five assists in four years as a Knick. This translated to two All-Star team selections, two All-NBA team nods, and two playoff appearances for the Orange and Blue.
14. Jalen Brunson (Point Guard, Active)
Brunson is Randle’s teammate in New York, forming possibly the best leftie combo in the league. In his first year as a starting point guard for the Knicks, Brunson averaged 24 points and 6.2 assists, while shooting 41% from three and 49% overall. He brings much-needed stability to a team and is a wily lane scorer with an automatic turnaround jumper.
15. Ben Simmons (Guard/Forward, Active)
At one point, Simmons was one of the best passers and defenders in the NBA, but how the mighty have fallen! He caught flak with one play in the playoffs in which he passed up an open dunk against Trae Young down low. And just like that, the Aussie never recovered. Simmons is currently pestered with back issues contributing to his playing woes, but during his prime Philly years, he made three All-Star teams, one All-NBA team, and two All-Defensive teams.
Are Lefties NBA Players Better Than Right-Handed Players?
Well, not really. They look aesthetically better with a buttery-smooth jumper and whatnot, but they are not necessarily better than right-handed players. Even though some will tell you that lefties have an advantage because players are so used to defending right-handers, that’s not what the data is saying.
For example, according to unofficial research, of the 374 players who played at least 500 minutes in the 2020-21 season, only 33 are left-handers. That’s about 9% of all rotation players. These lefties took 19,075 shots and made 8,841, putting their collective FG% at 46.3%. Right-handed players attempted 186,386 shots and made 86,262, which accounts for a percentage of– guess what– 46.3%! Therefore, left handed NBA players are not any better than their right-handed counterparts, and the stats back it up.
Wrapping Things Up: How Many NBA Players are Left-Handed?
Left-handed NBA players are often very noticeable since there is only a minute percentage of them playing. They are also unique in their rhythm and stroke. But have you ever wondered how many NBA players are left handed?
The answer is there are 39 NBA players in the 2022-23 season, which is a shade below ten percent of the populace. Among the current best left-handed NBA players are James Harden, De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Julius Randle, and Jalen Brunson. NBA greats such as Bill Russell and David Robinson were also southpaws. They are not necessarily better than right-handers, but they made the game much more fun because of the variance they provide.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.