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Younger NBA fans might be surprised to know that the All Star Three-Point Shootout used to be a lengthy event with three rounds and eight participants. This was before the shootout was truncated to make room during All Star Saturday for events where Muggsy Bogues shoots half court shots and Tony Parker races against a timer to pass basketballs through a tire.
I thought it would be interesting, in light of Kyrie Irving’s win at this year’s Three-Point Shootout in Houston, to take a look at the Cavaliers history in the event. Come with me now as I take you on a statistical journey through the good times when Mark Price took it to Craig Hodges and taught him a lesson about humility and the low times when having Bobby Sura on the team was a thing.
The year is 1990 and Larry Bird, winner in each of the Shootout’s first three years, is coming in fresh after missing most of the previous season with bone spurs. Bird would join quite a field of contestants: Craig Hodges, Reggie Miller, Bobby Hansen, Jon Sundvold, Michael Jordan and your own Cavaliers Mark Price and Craig Ehlo. Unfortunately for the faithful in Ohio, both Price and Ehlo would fail to make it out of the first round of the contest. Ehlo managed a score of 14 for a fifth place finish and Price would fare even worse with a second-to-last finish of 11 points. The only consolation? Michael Jordan came in dead last with 5 points. Craig Hodges eventual victory over Reggie Miller in the final was probably aided by the fact that Reggie was only a hot shooter when he could stick his leg out to draw cheap fouls from defenders.
Fast forward two years to 1992 when Craig Ehlo would come back for another shot at the title. Hodges was by now working on his third straight win after cleaning Terry Porter’s clock 17-12 in the 1991 Shootout. The ‘92 roster of entrants is like a murderer’s row of classic guards from the early 90s: Drazen Petrovic, Mitch Richmond, Dell Curry, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and the aforementioned Ehlo and Hodges. Once again Ehlo failed to make it out of the first round (10 points, second to last behind Hornacek’s 7) and Hodges won in the final. This would mark Hodges’ third straight victory and Ehlo’s exit from the contest for the rest of his career.
In 1993, Mark Price woke up on the day of the shootout and decided that enough was enough from Craig Hodges. Price won the first round with a score of 19 while Hodges barely snuck by into round two after posting a 14. In the semifinal, Price led all shooters again with a 21 and Terry Porter finally saw his revenge over Hodges with a 17 to Craig’s 16. In the end, Mark Price’s hot Oklahoman hand was too much for Terry Porter and Price would go on to scrape by with the win, 18-17, in the final round of the competition. It’s also worth mentioning that Price played in his third All Star Game in ‘93 and finished with 19 points on 6 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc. He would end the regular season as a member of the All-NBA First Team and cement my undying basketball love for him.
Price would enter the 1994 shootout looking to defend his title against the likes of former Cavalier and now hated enemy Steve Kerr of the Chicago Bulls, Dana Barros, Dale Ellis and Dell Curry. Those four all made it to the semis although Price did his best to botch the whole thing and bomb out in the first round after posting a measly score of 15. Price returned to form in round two and cruised with a round high score of 21. Dana Barros was four behind with 17 and the two faced off in a final in which Mark Price basically went nuclear. Price’s finals score of 24 is still, to this day, tied for the second most points ever scored in the finals of the shootout. Only Jason Kapono has scored that many, or more, in a final round (24 in 2007, 25 in 2008) and he never made an All-NBA First Team so who cares about him. Dana Barros, for the sake of telling a complete story, scored 13 in the final round. Mark Price was savvy enough to know when to quit and never competed in the event again. Injuries might have had something to do with that savviness but you can never take away going out on top.
After Price’s dominance, the Cavaliers wouldn’t have another participant until 2000 when Bob Sura and his gigantic arms clanged a last place finish right out of the gate with 9 points. Sura was so bad that the Cavs were ashamed to send anyone to a Three-Point Shootout for seven more years. Damon Jones didn't put many threes on a tray in 2007, in a shootout now featuring the current and watered down two round format with only six shooters, with a first round exiting score of 15. In 2008, Daniel Gibson, taking his shot at matching the Legacy of Price, had a strong showing and made it to the finals with Jason Kapono and Dirk Nowitzki after scoring 17 points. Of course, as I spoiled last paragraph, Kapono owned the final round and Boobie finished second overall with another score of 17.
Gibson would come back for a second chance during the 2011 All Star game but it wasn’t meant to be. After missing his first nine shots, Gibson finished the opening round with 7 points and came in fifth out of the six shooters. It was a low moment not only for Gibson himself but the Cavaliers franchise as a whole. Who would step up to the challenge and return the Cavs to the three point shooting highs of the Price Era?
KYRIE IRVING. That’s who. As most of you are probably aware, Irving managed to make it to the finals of the 2013 shootout thanks to yet another format change. The six shooters were chosen by conference, three for each side, and the top scorer from the East and the top from the West were picked to move on to the winning round. Kyrie managed to just barely outscore Steve Novak in the first round by one point with a score of 18. On the West side, Matt Bonner shot a 19 in the opening round to top Ryan Anderson (18) and Stephen Curry (17). In the final, Irving drew on the spirit of pre-knee injury Mark Price and made 17 out of his first 18 shots including 10 in a row. Irving’s final round score was just one behind Price’s 1994 mark of 24. Bonner made quite an effort on his own with a final round of 20 but it wasn’t enough to stop Irving from bringing the trophy back home to Ohio.
So there you have it; more than you probably ever wanted to know about the Cavs and the Three-Point Shootout. Will Kyrie come back in 2014 to defend his title and stake his claim as one of the best three point shooters in team history? Only time will tell. As long as they don’t trot out Price to heave half court shots beforehand I’ll be happy.