Unlike the usually disappointing dunk contest, the three-point shootout isn’t about star power, although having Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry stroking the deep ball didn’t really hurt; it’s about having one or two competitors simply having a terrific night from beyond the arc.
Kyrie Irving, the biggest name in the competition and quickly becoming one of the NBA’s biggest rising stars, both on the court and through commercials, beat Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs with 23 points to 20 in the final round, leaving Stephen Curry, Ryan Anderson, Steve Novak and Paul George behind him. Unlike the dunk contest, the three-point shootout doesn’t need star power – it needs standout performance, which Irving delivered.
What was interesting about Irving’s performance was his 23 points in the final round, the best for a winning performance since the 2007-2008 season, when Jason Kapono shot an incredible 25, the best final score in the history of the contest. Irving became only the second point guard in the history of the competition to win it, and the first since Mark Price won his second in a row back in 1994.
Irving is a much better three point shooter than his style leads you to think – he’s making 42.5% of his 3p attempts this season, which is 11th best in the NBA and fifth among players who attempt more than four shots per game. Winning this contest won’t increase your pedigree and status as an NBA star, but it won’t hurt. In a league bound with the fate of the bigger, more luxurious and historic franchises, same goes for the NBA’s fate and the success and exposure of its stars. While the dunk contest seems to get less interesting from year to year, it’s good to see relatively big names entering at least one of the All-Star weekend competitions, not afraid to look less than perfect in front of the fans.