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Larry Bird and the 1988 Three-Point Shootout

Three Point Shoot Out

The telecast started with Steve Jones recalling how Larry Bird defeated Detlef Schrempf in the previous year's finals. He credited Bird's following strategy:

  1. Opt to shoot first in the finals
  2. Keep his warm up jersey on for a psychological edge.
  3. Bury a ton of early shots.
Was there some bonus footage of an awkward high five between Bird and Danny Ainge? Hell yeah. Also Jones is definitely right about #2. That was damn cool. Meanwhile, Bob Neal and Rick Barry (fresh out of a Legend's game and bitching about the refereeing) joined Jones to call the 1988 shoot out.

We know Bird wanted to win. In fact this was teh year he pulled out the, After his first his first title, two years earlier, Bird remarked that his name was on the check for a week and he had to prove his doubting teammates wrong. Still, let's look at the other competitors and guess what extra motivation Bird would have for beating them.  

Danny Ainge (Celtics) - Bird is an incredibly competitive dude. From what I've read he loved to stick it to his teammates as much as he did any opponent. And let's not forget that Ainge once tried to steal the regular season free throw title from him.

Trent Tucker (Knicks) - According to Neal, Tucker was the "career three point leading shooter" (42.1%). But there is absolutely no way you could convince Bird that Tucker was a better shooter than him.

Craig Hodges (Bucks) - Hodges was 3-point specialist. Bird would hate the implication that a three-point specialist was a better shooter than him.

Byron Scott (Lakers) - Played for the Lakers. End of story.

Mark Price (Cavaliers) - Bird did once say the following:

"The one thing that always bothered me when I played in the NBA was I really got irritated when they put a white guy on me," Bird said. "I still don't understand why. A white guy would come out (and) I would always ask him: 'What, do you have a problem with your coach? Did your coach do this to you?' And he'd go, 'No,' and I'd say, 'Come on, you got a white guy coming out here to guard me; you got no chance.' For some reason, that always bothered me when I was playing against a white guy."

He would probably feel the same way about losing a three-point shoot out to a white guy.

Detlef Schrempf (Mavericks)  - Given his above take on race it is probably safe to assume that Bird could be a bit xenophobic as well.

Round One

Tucker - 14 Points

Ainge - 13 Points, and a polite stand and clap from Bird

Price - 14 Points

Hodges - 10 Points - Had three baskets taken away for stepping on the line and did not get off his final shot in time.

Byron Scott - 19 Points - He definitely got a rise out of the crowd after hitting 7 in a row at one point and then 4 in a row.

Dale Ellis - 15 Points - Did not get his final shot off either. As a side note Ellis was one of the greatest video game three point shooters of all time. He was lights out in NBA Live 95.

Schrempf - 15 Points

Bird - 17 Points  - I'll be honest he was the only one I watched closely. It was a bit difficult to follow because two players shot simultaneously in the first round and the network (CBS?) went with a split screen. A few points on Bird:

  1. I wouldn't say Bird was using a set shot. But he was getting minimal lift, which is excellent for that competition.
  2. He hit 4 of 5 money balls. That will be a running theme throughout. He just seems to sharpen his focus on those ones.
  3. There's not arguing that Bird had a perfect pace. In fact his approach reminded me of a classic quote from The Godfather
    "They're gonna be staring at your face, Mike -- so walk outta the place real fast -- but you don't run. Don't look nobody directly in the eye -- but you don't look away, either." - Clemenza
Round Two

Schrempf -  5 Points and he did not get off the final shot. I definitely heard a few boos. He got booed at the All Star 3 Point Shoot Out! Thanks for playing. Interestingly Neal said Schrempf was more susceptible to the psychological pressure than the other players. He did not give a reason for this.

Bird - 23 Points. Bird was slow out of the gate but then he caught fire. He was 5 for 5 on money ball and celebrated his final shot with a smooth walk away and one of the most subtle fist pumps ever.

Ellis - 12 Points.

Scott - 11 Points. He had 9 points with two racks to go and really fell apart down the stretch. Congrats on winning the first round though.

Round Three

Ellis - 15 points. He missed the final money ball. Not good. Also it's hard to tell if the crowd was clapping for him after his score was announced or cheering for Bird's pending attempt to defend his title. I really think it was the latter.

Bird - 7 points through 3 racks with 25 second remaining. I could try to describe it and inevitably not do it justice. So let's roll the footage:

Ultimately Bird hit 4 of 5 money balls in the final round (13 of 15 in the competition) and finished with 17 points. And his celebration was the ultimate in cool.