INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – FEBRUARY 17: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and Sabrina … [+] Ionescu #20 of the New York Liberty pose for a photo after their 3-point challenge during the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 17, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS – The NBA’s All-Star Saturday night needed a refresher. Stephen Curry and Sabrina Ionescu certainly delivered with a competitive shootout that followed the official 2024 Starry 3-point contest.

The only mistake was that it served as a prelude to the dunk contest, which continued its recent trend of looking stale and uninspiring.

Curry and Ionescu wanted to bring a unique twist to the Saturday night events with this crossover competition. There was no better way to celebrate the beautiful game of basketball than to incorporate WNBA superstars – something the NBA should’ve attempted to do long before this year.

Ionescu made it a point to shoot from the NBA three-point line, which is roughly two feet further from the basket than the WNBA line.

“That decision to move to the NBA line was something I wanted to do from the beginning,” she said the morning of the event. “Just continuing to push boundaries and equal the playing field. Knowing that I had the opportunity to do that, in terms of picking where I wanted to shoot from and continuing to move the needle in that direction is what I wanted to do. No matter how challenging or difficult that decision seems, I would rather go down fighting for what I know I’m capable of doing.”

She was tasked with going first, putting up a 26-point round and applying a little pressure to the NBA’s 3-point king.

Was Curry feeling nervous, knowing his title would unofficially be on the line?

“Absolutely,” Curry said. “I saw the first rack. I think she made the first six, I believe, maybe seven. I was having flashbacks of watching this summer. We were just talking about it. No matter what competition, whether it was this or the regular three-point competition, we would have both advanced to the next round. So it added a lot of pressure, for sure.”

Stephen Curry defeats Sabrina Ionescu in three-point challenge at All-Star  Weekend | TSN

A little pressure didn’t prevent Curry from stepping up under the bright lights and coming through in another clutch scenario. He drilled nine of his last 10 shots, nearly went perfect on the ‘moneyball’ rack, and took hope another trophy, a championship belt branded with the event and both of their names.

For anyone that was expecting Curry to dominate the shootout, they were introduced to just how lethal WNBA stars can be.

Considering Ionescu tied four other shooters’ top scores from the official 3-point contest, it raises the question of why the league didn’t simply invite her and other WNBA stars into the event. Only Curry surpassed the 26 point mark this Saturday:

Stephen Curry – 29

Sabrina Ionescu – 26

Damian Lillard – 26

Trae Young – 26

Karl Towns – 26

Tyrese Haliburton – 26

Perhaps it was important to market this inaugural competition as a one-on-one showdown to build the necessary hype and create more suspense. But it absolutely opens the door for future collaborations between the NBA and WNBA for this special weekend.

Có thể là hình ảnh về 2 người, mọi người đang chơi bóng rổ và văn bản

Speaking ahead of Saturday night’s shootout, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged that more crossover events could be on the table in the future. But he didn’t indulge on what the league had in mind. Apparently, this idea was brought to them by Curry and Ionescu themselves.

“I’ve been encouraged by the amount of interest in Sabrina and Steph engaging in this 3-Point Contest, so of course let’s see how it goes,” Silver said. “Incidentally, so much credit to them. I wish I could say the league came up with this idea. This was about Steph and Sabrina, two friends who said, won’t this be fantastic? I know that Steph cares a lot about the women’s game, the opportunity to bring more attention to this fantastic shooting.”

Immediately following the shootout, Ionescu stood at mid-court with Curry and TNT’s Ernie Johnson and discussed the value of delivering this spectacle to a national audience.

“Just continuing to use my platform,” Ionescu said. “I think a night like tonight shows a lot of young girls and boys that, if you can shoot, you can shoot. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or boy. It just matters about the heart you have and wanting to be the best you can be.”

Nike was quick to turn that one into a campaign.

Có thể là hình ảnh về 3 người, mọi người đang chơi bóng rổ và văn bản

After the event, Ionescu further discussed the significance of breaking down silly barriers and proving to the world that women can be just as talented in their on-court craft and entertain the audience – and that’s not limited to shooting.

“Yeah, just basketball as a whole,” she added. “Being able to have this crossover and understanding the respect I’ve been able to receive from a lot of the NBA guys. Just knowing that Steph wanted to do this as well, in terms of respecting another shooter. I think it’s going to show a lot of young kids out there, a lot of people who might have not believed or even watched women’s sports that we’re able to go out there and put on a show. So it was really exciting to finally be able to do this.”

Ionescu is one of the most lethal shooters on the planet, full-stop. Last season, she took nearly eight 3-point attempts per game and connected on 44.8% of them. She combines volume and efficiency in a way that Curry can relate to.

“We were talking about it yesterday,” Curry said. “When I first met her back in the Bay, right before the Oregon rocket ship went off, you see a different demeanor and a different kind of killer instinct and a focus. I mean, the skill is one thing, but the mentality is a totally different thing that you kind of can’t teach. She’s demonstrated that every step of the way. So I knew, no matter how the buildup was, there would be no stage that would be too bright for her. The way that the competition went, the way she started was like there’s no fear, and there’s no kind of hesitation at all. She knows who she is. She also works — the preparation to get the skill set like she has and a shot like she has, an all-around game, there’s work that goes into it. It was demonstrated at a high level even tonight.”

Curry, who has been one of the leading advocates for getting more eyeballs on the WNBA scene, is adamant that people’s efforts to support women’s basketball shouldn’t just be for events like Saturday.

As he puts it, if you’re an enjoyer of basketball, there’s no excuse for not lifting up the women who work just as hard and put in the same number of hours to hone their craft.

“It’s something you just live,” Curry said on supporting the WNBA. “Like, you don’t do things just to check a box. I’m stealing that from Sabrina. We mentioned this is something – if you’re supporting basketball in general – you’re supporting women’s basketball. It’s something that you continually do, and you find new creative ways to have invested in the game. The fact this is the first of its kind in our sport, the fact that it’s on this stage and the way that it went down, like the fact it’s supporting both of our foundations, NBA Foundation as well. So there’s a community impact component. All of that is a step in the right direction. We’ll always be able to say we were the first. So that’s a really cool accomplishment.”

After they seemingly stole the show and captivated the audience despite not being billed as the ‘main event,’ it was just another reminder that shooting has overtaken the flair of dunks for All-Star weekend’s biggest attraction.

Both Curry and Ionescu had everyone on the edge of their seat for the landmark moment. But, as Ionescu said, this is the result of all the work and dedication they’ve applied to their craft.

“I think that’s been what both of us have done our entire careers,” she said. We just created our own space and done it our way and stayed true to ourselves. This was so authentic to the both of us to be able to be here, finally not in a closed gym, shooting in front of everyone watching and understanding what it means for ourselves and also the bigger picture, knowing that this is where I wanted to be. Obviously, I’m very thankful for everyone that’s kind of helped make this dream we both had a possibility and knowing that it’s changed the landscape of how people are going to view what we’re doing. We’re very excited to see kind of what the future has to hold with more people having the opportunity to do stuff like this.”

Will Curry and Ionescu use Saturday’s success as a stepping stone to even greater collaborations between the NBA and WNBA? They aren’t ruling out a second chapter to this one.

“We’ve been talking about finding different ways to change this up next year,” Ionescu said. “I think he has a partner in mind that’s going to join him. So I’m open to any partner that could help me win and take that belt that he has up front and center away from him.”

It sounds like the story might continue in the Bay Area for the 2025 All-Star weekend. With it being in Curry’s backyard, it’s only right for Curry to bring his splash brother, Klay Thompson, on the court and challenge Ionescu to find another sharpshooter to create a two-on-two shootout.

Fans around the world will inevitably want Caitlin Clark to join them. Let’s speak it into existence.