Larry Bird won three consecutive 3-point contests from 1986 to 1988. 1986 was the first time the contest was held. And just like everyone else, Bird didn’t know what to feel about the multi-colored money balls at the end of each rack. Little did he know that this would help him win the whole thing.
"Slicker than hell"
Bird shared some behind-the-scenes stories on the 1986 3-point contest. It was already an unorthodox contest then especially since shooting 3-pointers wasn’t much of a thing. Things got a little more interesting when Bird saw the balls that were going to be used in the contest.
“The one thing about that first 3-point contest, when I went in the locker room, they had them red, white, blue balls, and so I was feeling them. Them things were slicker than hell. I was like, ‘How am I ever going to shoot this thing?’" Bird said, per andscape.
Bird scored 23 out of the possible 30 points in the final round to win the 1986 3-point contest. He knocked down 11 straight shots. And the money balls? He hit four of five. As seen in the video, he didn’t make an effort to knock down the final money ball since he had already won.
We talking about practice?
Bird is regarded as one of the greatest ever to play the sport. However, he’s not known as one of the best 3-point assassins ever. He knocked down 649 bombs from beyond the arc for his entire career.
For comparison, the single-season record is held by Stephen Curry, who hit 402 3-pointers in the 2015-16 season. On average, Curry knocks anywhere between 250 to 350 3-pointers per season.
And so the fact that Bird notched one of the highest scores in the 3-point contest, in an era when the shot wasn’t seen as a lethal weapon, is impressive. Bird admitted that he only practiced his stroke from deep when the 3-point contest was just around the corner.
“The 3-point line was never a problem. It’s just that back then I never practiced it until we had the 3-point contest. I figured I could pick up a quick $10,000 by shooting a basketball on a Saturday afternoon. Why not spend a half-hour shooting 3s?” Bird said.