The Slam Dunk Contest is going to have a lot to live up to. Again.
The 3-Point Shootout may have once again stolen the thunder of the league’s headliner at NBA All-Star Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. This has been a while in the making with the proliferation of the 3-point shot league-wide, a perceived lack of stars in the dunk contest, and the notable presence of stars in the long-range challenge.
With the league’s reigning MVP, defending NBA champion, and defending 3-Point Shootout champion standing atop the bill for the event, up against his teammate, the hometown hero, a hot-shooting rookie, and more, this year’s 3-point competition had the potential to be one of the best yet. It didn’t disappoint.
The Other Splash Brother opened things up and set a high bar early, scoring 22 points. That’s a great score, but in a competition this deep, nothing was assured. James Harden followed with 20, making it clear that anyone looking to go to the finals needed to shoot the lights out. J.J. Redick and his beautiful arm sleeve followed with 20. Khris Middleton probably gave the field a breather with a 13-point round, but the early damage had set a finals-berth bar at 20 points, tough sledding for the second foursome.
Rookie sensation and popular dark-horse candidate Devin Booker brought things out of the break with a slow start, putting up just 12 points through four racks before hitting four on the money ball rack for a score of – you guessed it – 20. A fellow breakout performer, C.J. McCollum, followed with 14. Hometown hero Kyle Lowry mustered just 15 points but received a great ovation anyway.
That set the stage for Steph Curry, who needed a buzzer-beating final shot to reach 21 points and punch his ticket to the final, opposite his teammate for a second year in a row. It also meant three shooters had to do a 30-second shoot-off to qualify for the finals. Last season’s competition required a score of 23 to advance to the finals, by the way, so as tough as this seemed, it’s the new norm with the ridiculous amount of talent participating in the shootout.
Booker topped Redick and Harden in the tiebreaker to join the Splash Brothers in the final.
Any momentum he may have built was killed by Dikembe Mutombo doing the nae nae, and he pit up a score of 16 in the championship round. That’s not going to cut it against the Golden State Warriors’ duo. Curry followed with 23, putting all of the pressure on Thompson. He started hot with 13 through two racks, scored four points on his fourth rack, and then sank the entire money ball rack to finish with 27 points.
He beat Curry. He tied his record for points in a single round. He took his title.
Klay Thompson (42 3FG%) – 22
Steph Curry (45.4 3FG%) – 21
James Harden (35.5 3FG%) – 20
J.J. Redick (47.6 3FG%) – 20
Devin Booker (40.3 3FG%) – 20
Kyle Lowry (39.2 3FG%) – 15
C.J. McCollum (39.2 3FG%) – 14
Khris Middleton (40.5 3FG%) – 13
Devin Booker – 12
J.J. Redick – 9
James Harden – 8
Klay Thompson – 27
Steph Curry -23
Devin Booker – 16
Thompson joins a long list of notable winners and prevents Curry from joining Craig Hodges (3), Larry Bird (3), Peja Stojakovic (2), Jeff Hornacek (2), Mark Price (2), and Jason Kapono (2) as a multi-time champion. He’s also earned shootaround bragging rights for an entire calendar year back home in Oakland.
“They look at it as an art form, and I do too,” Thompson said of fan interest in the shootout on Friday. The man is a damn fine artist, himself.
It’s worth noting that Andre Ingram won his second D-League 3-Point contest earlier in the day by hitting 39 of his 50 shots, one better than Kapono’s NBA record. He also tied Curry’s record with 27 points in a single round, immediately following a 26-point round. He should have cashed in his MoneyBall in the Bank briefcase to challenge the Splash Brothers.
It was a terrific event and yet another argument that maybe it should close out one of the best night’s of the league calendar. Of course, Zach LaVine may have something to say about all of this by the time the night’s over.