For all the festivities during the NBA All-Star break, the 3-point contest is the weekend’s relative black sheep. Sandwiched between the skills challenge and dunk contest on Saturday night, the 3-point contest has undergone few changes year after year.
Besides giving players racks of “moneyballs” or limiting the number of competitors to six for a period of years, the shootout has been relatively stable year after year, especially considering the changes to the surrounding events.
Additionally, unlike the skills and dunk contests, the 3-point contest is notably less physical demanding, allowing contestants to participate numerous times through their careers with the hopes of winning, or defending, their title. But at what point in their careers do winners take home the 3-point title? Here’s a look back at the some of the more notable winners, and their shooting in winning seasons.
Larry Bird (1986-1988)
The first 3-point champ and the first to three-peat, Bird set the standard for shooting, both in the contest and during the season. Winning on 22 of 30 possible points in ’86, Bird also lead the league in triples attempted (194) and was second in 3-point percentage (.423) among players who attempted at least 100. The season was also momentous, as Bird’s Boston Celtics reached the NBA Finals for the third straight season and until then, the fourth of five appearances that decade.
In his next two victories (’87 and ’88), Bird’s percentages dropped to .400 and .414 respectively, though his shooting from downtown in ’88 marked his third-best season percentage-wise, behind 1986 and 1985 (.427).
Dale Ellis (1989)
The lone Seattle SuperSonic to win the midseason classic, Ellis was just one of three players that year to attempt at least 300 threes (Michael Adams and Danny Ainge were the others). His victory was the hallmark of a career year, both regarding scoring and shooting. Ellis contributed 27.5 points per game while hitting .478 of his triples en route to his only contest victory of his seven appearances.
Craig Hodges (1990-1992)
Sharing the honor of being the only three time, three-peating 3-point contest winner not named Larry Legend, Hodges stands as one of the competition’s most accurate snipers. In just nine seasons in the Association, Hodges both made the most consecutive shots in the contest (19) and the most in a single round (21). Appearing in eight of the nine contests during his career, his best shooting season came in 1988 (.491). For the years he took home the title, only 1990 saw Hodges hit more than 45 percent from deep. In ’91 and ’92, the Chicagoland native only managed to hit .383 and .375 respectively.
Jeff Hornacek (1998 and 2000)
Whether Hornacek was the scapegoat for Phil Jackson’s New York madness is debatable, but one thing is for certain: in the 30-point era of the contest, Hornacek won on the lowest final score. In 2000, Hornacek scored just 13 points to seal the his second 3-point contest title.
Despite the dishonor, the seasons Hornacek won marked two of his three best shooting seasons from downtown, shooting .478 and .441 respectively.
Peja Stojakovic (2002-2003)
Another two-time, back-to-back champ, Stojakovic also has the distinction of being the only Serbian national to capture victory. Neither of his winning years, however featured his best shooting in the season (.416 in 2002 and .382 in 2003).
Jason Kapono (2007-2008)
Strictly a perimeter threat during his NBA career, Kapono has the joy of being the only back-to-back champ to shoot for two different teams (Miami in ’07 and Toronto in ’08).
Ignoring his changing wardrobe, only Kapono, Tim Legler (1996) and have won the contest in years in which they shot over 50 percent from three. So, if you squint, Kapono can go down as one of the greatest shooters of all time.
Beyond scoring percentages, the All-Star Weekend’s least exciting contest (at least visually) has had just one German born victor (Dirk Nowitzki, 2006), Italian-born winner (Marco Belinelli, 2014) and Australian-born champ (Kyrie Irving, 2013). In the 31 years until present day, the Celtics, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls have the most champs (4) while Nowitzki remains the only winner to take home the trophy in the same state in which his team plays (Texas). Additionally, in the 34-point era (2014-present) Steph Curry and Klay Thompson share the honors of the most points in a round (27). Thompson, along with Bird and Hodges are the only winners to take home an NBA Championship and 3-point title in the same season.
What are your favorite moments in 3-point contest history? Let me know @bjtripleot on Twitter!