Stephen Curry, Sabrina Ionescu talk impact of 3-point contest

Michael Voepel, ESPN.comFeb 13, 2024, 10:52 PM ET

CloseMichael Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Sabrina Ionescu grew up in the Bay Area in California and enjoyed going to Golden State Warriors games, especially to watch Stephen Curry. When Ionescu was a senior at Oregon in 2020, Curry brought his daughters, Riley and Ryan, to one of the Ducks’ games at Cal.

But on Saturday in Indianapolis, Ionescu, the New York Liberty’s star guard, gets to do something she never imagined: compete against Curry in a 3-point shooting contest at NBA All-Star weekend. The competition was announced last month, and Ionescu and Curry appeared on a video call with media Tuesday to discuss it.

Curry is a two-time winner of the NBA’s 3-point challenge (2015, 2021). Ionescu won the 3-point contest last July at the WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, scoring 37 of a possible 40 points. It broke Curry’s record of 31 points and was an internet sensation, as Ionescu at one point hit 20 shots in a row.

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Ionescu jokingly sent out a challenge to Curry on social media afterward, and then the two spoke to each other. Their conversation was the genesis of this event. Both said it shows the connection between the NBA and WNBA.

Ionescu, 26, said while there might still be basketball fans who are dismissive of the WNBA, events like this represent the mutual respect between the two leagues’ players.

“There’s going to be a young kid who hasn’t maybe watched many WNBA games but is going to watch this, and they’re going to have that dream of one day maybe shooting against their idol,” Ionescu said. “We’re a small piece of changing the narrative. This isn’t really scripted. This isn’t something we’re doing to try to check something off the box. We’re really excited for the opportunity. It’s really organic.”

It was initially announced that Ionescu would shoot from the WNBA’s shorter 3-point line, which is set at 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches at the top of the key, compared with the NBA’s 23 feet, 9 inches. But Ionescu requested to shoot from the NBA line, the same as Curry.

“Personally, I shoot from that range to begin with,” Ionescu said of the NBA line. “I practice from that range in wanting to just be a better shooter, a better basketball player and get better as a whole. It was a no-brainer from when it was first presented that I wanted to shoot from the NBA line. And continue to just prove that we’re capable, and we’re willing. Very thankful that I was given that opportunity, and I’m gonna capitalize on it.”

Curry, 35, has long been a proponent of the WNBA, and the Warriors will have a WNBA expansion franchise that begins play in 2025.

“You look for opportunities to just raise the bar on what it means to be a basketball fan,” Curry said. “It’s an authentic competition between two great shooters who’ve had success in the 3-point contest. However it plays out, this is what sports is about: competing.

“The attention and just the level of play growing [is] every single year [in the WNBA.] Then you cap that off with the fun and entertainment aspect of what happened at All Star Weekend and what Sabrina was able to do. With NBA All-Star weekend we can keep that the narrative going. It’s uncharted territory, and I think we’re both honored and privileged to be the first to do it.”

Curry said his daughter Riley saw a graphic on television about the contest and asked him about it. Even though she is a fan of Ionescu, Curry said Riley will still be rooting for her dad.

“We’re having this moment and reshaping how people think about just competition in general,” Curry said. “You’ve got kids that are in gyms, boys and girls playing. Whatever else comes out of it, we’re going to continue to tap in and invest in moments like these that can move the needle.”

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