The win that got Larry Bird the 3pt shootout three-peat is considered the greatest 3pt contest performance ever. Larry Bird and Dale Ellis were in the second round; Ellis went first and dropped 15 points. If you knew anything about basketball, you knew Bird was going to win this thing.
Approaching the last rack of balls, Bird had 13 points. The first two balls from the final rack clanked off the rim - two regular and one money ball left. After draining the two regular balls, Bird and Ellis were even at 15. With the money ball still in the air, Bird raised his finger and started his celebration. (You kids probably think Steph Curry is the first guy to do that).
Bird doing all this in his sweats wasn't even the most iconic part of the performance. And it was iconic - watching in the tunnel, Michael Jordansaid, “He didn’t take off his top yet. I’d hate to see when he takes off his top. I tell you, it’s hard to shoot after Bird just made 23.” The most iconic part of this whole night was, of course, the trash-talking Bird unleashed on his competition in the locker room before the game. He walked in, looked around, and asked.
“So, who’s coming in second?”
Players in the locker room later said you could feel the pressure rising as Bird walked out. He had backed up his trash talking so many times it affected everyone. Last night, Steph Curry had his Larry Bird moment. Mike Conley dropped 27 points, finishing strong by draining his last seven shots. Steph started cold, missing his first four - Reggie Miller and Dwyane Wade said you could see Steph was feeling the pressure. Going to his final rack, Curry could afford only one miss - and he missed one. One regular and one money ball to go; it was Bird time. He drained both of them and won with 28 points, one more than Conley. After the game, Reggie Miller asked Steph did he also ask guys who's coming in second?
“Aye Reg, you know, sometimes you don't even have to say it. You just walk into the locker room and got that look.”
During his final two racks, Mike Conley was in a small box at the top of the screen, and his face confirmed what Steph said. Same as Bird and all the greatest shooters - there's an inevitability with Steph Curry on the three-point line. That's what makes him the greatest shooter ever. You just knew that ball was going in.