Trey contests

Trey contests

Shooting has been a point of emphasis throughout the National Basketball Association (NBA) in recent memory, so it was no surprise to find two — yes, two — Three-Point Contests take center stage on the penultimate day of All-Star Weekend. A plethora of marquee names graced the first, and all had the capacity to ultimately emerge victorious. And so tight was the competition that such notables as Donovan Mitchell, Jalen Brunson, Malik Beasley, and Lauri Markkanen could not even move past the opening round. The second set-to involved champions Stephen Curry and Sabrina Ionescu, whose remarkable finish in the 2023 shootout of the women’s league gave her the highest score of all time across all confederations.

Naturally, the gravitas of the remaining participants in the official contest necessitated a 30-second tiebreaker to determine the three finalists. The rules most definitely worked against hometown star Tyrese Haliburton, who could not get going fast enough in the shortened timeframe. Given that he likewise scored 26 points in his initial salvo — exactly what Trae Young, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Damian Lillard also put up, he deserved to be in the ultimate round. The NBA would do well to consider an addendum to the regulations allowing for a greater number of contenders in the decider should similar circumstances arise anew.

In any case, Lillard proved true to billing by scoring yet another 26 to beat Young by two for the crown. It bears noting that he had to make his last shot in both the elimination series and the final to succeed in his title defense. No doubt, he benefited from the order; he was the last to shoot in every round by virtue of his status as the reigning champion, and thus knew exactly how many points he needed to post in order to meet his objectives. And when the battlesmoke cleared, he saw fit to repeatedly tap his right index finger to his left wrist to underscore how much he delivered in the clutch. It was Dame Time once more.

To be sure, Curry remains the best of the best beyond the arc. And lest there be any doubts on the matter, he went on to register the highest score of All-Star Saturday while upending Ionescu. The latter, shooting from NBA distance while using WNBA balls, actually made 26 — which would have tied Lillard’s output. Nonetheless, it was still short of the Chef’s 29. And as he celebrated the triumph, it was clear from his disposition that he wasn’t even fazed by the moment. It was just another day in the office for him. Meanwhile, the fans couldn’t have been handed a better ending.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.