Yesterday, Craig Hodges, one of the greatest NBA players of all time, took to Twitter to taunt the NBA’s greatest shot-maker, Larry Bird. He tweeted: “Bird’s got a 3-point shot that’s so good, just the other day he made a 3-pointer in the NBA 3-point contest that was so good, he couldn’t even describe it.” Oh, Craig Hodges.
Larry Bird has been at the center of the NBA basketball scene for decades, but we’ve never seen him play basketball quite like this before. Sure, Larry Bird was undoubtedly the best player to ever play the game, but this time, he’s got some help. Larry Bird is a household name for basketball fans everywhere, but you have to admit, his legendary career did have a few low points. For starters, Bird did have a legendary game against the Celtics in the 1986 Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird was competitive in everything he did. Whether he was playing golf or handing out autographs with the Dream Team, Byrd wanted to win in everything. This competitive spirit has also extended to the NBA’s three-point league.
Byrd won his share of All-Star Weekend, but late in his career injuries prevented him from participating in exhibitions. Even when he was injured, Byrd always found the perfect answer when new winner Craig Hodges tried to challenge his shots from distance.
The NBA introduced the three-point line in the 1979-80 season, or as it is better known, the year of rookie Larry Bird. It wasn’t until the 1986 All-Star Game that the league added a game of three-point shooting, then called the Long Range Shootout.
In the first match, Byrd and Hodges were joined by Dale Ellis, Sleepy Floyd, Kyle Macy, Norm Nixon, Trent Tucker and Leon Wood.
Byrd got into an argument with Buck Hodges, then a Milwaukee player, after Hodges beat Ellis of the Dallas Mavericks in a shootout. The former UCLA Long Beach guard scored just 12 points in the final round, while Byrd scored 21 points.
In the 1987 version, Byrd again reached the finals against Detlef Schrempf of the Mavericks. He started well, scoring eight in a row, but finished with just 16 points. Schrempf, however, came up short against Legend, scoring just 14 points.
Byrd made the most three-pointers in the 1988 finals. Byrd struggled in the final round against Dale Ellis, who now plays for the Seattle Supersonics after one of his seven career swaps. The Celtics needed 15 points to win, but the Bigs shot just five times in the first three. Byrd had seven strikeouts in the final two stanzas, including the second-to-last pitch to tie the game and the final moneyball to win.
With one final shot, Byrd departed victorious, his arm raised before the ball even hit the net.
(From left to right) Larry Bird, Craig Hodges. Both photos courtesy of Focus on Sport/Getty Images.
Byrd missed most of the 1988-89 season after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his heels, and consequently missed the 1989 three-point game. He returned in 1990 and won his fourth title. Unfortunately for him and NBA fans, Legend had back problems that ended his career and he did not make the Finals.
Without Bird in the way, Hodges finally got into the win column after Indiana Pacers’ Reggie Miller’s last possession was not intercepted.
After the game, a reporter asked Hodges if Byrd’s injury had hurt the win, Complex reported. The defender, who has averaged 22.7 minutes per game this season – a record during his time in Chicago – responded: When Byrd’s healthy, he knows where to find me.
That quote came back to Bird, whose body may have shrunk, but not his sharp mind. The former Indiana State star said he knew where to find Hodges and responded: Yeah, at the end of the Bulls’ bench.
Despite the animosity between the two snipers, Byrd congratulated Hodges after his victory in 1990. Craig Hodges is the king of the three-pointer, Larry Bird told the Chicago Tribune. It just wasn’t affordable for me.
Skirmishes aside, the specialist in three-point shooting and the all-time greats have something else in common. They are the only players in the NBA to ever win three three-point shooting games (and three in a row). Mark Price, Peja Stojakovic and Jason Capono each have two consecutive wins. Stephen Curry and Jeff Hornasek have each won back-to-back games, although Hornasek has yet to play in a game due to the 1998-99 NBA lockout.
Other records in the three-point game include Hodges, who converted an incredible 19 consecutive shots in 1991, and Steph Curry, who scored 31 points in the 2021 round. That number broke Hodges and Capono’s record of 25 points, but he did it with a full square of silver balls, which is a new innovation, according to USA Today.
The worst result in the three-point game came in 1990, when Byrd and Hodges faced each other. Who is the player who only scored five points? Michael Jordan.
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EPILOGUE: Larry Bird once said to Charles Barkley during a game: There’s not a white person on the planet who can protect me
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