Stephen Curry vs. Sabrina Ionescu is an All-Star matchup that was a long time coming


She’s the player with the best 3-point contest performance in NBA or WNBA history. He’s made more 3-pointers than anyone who’s ever played at the highest level.

Sabrina Ionescu. Stephen Curry.

She’s one of his favorites and led the WNBA in 3-pointers made last season. He’s one of her idols and is the NBA’s all-time 3-point leader. And on Saturday night in Indianapolis at All-Star weekend, they will go head-to-head in a 3-point contest — Steph vs. Sabrina, one that’s already got both of them amped up for a competition on a global stage like none other between NBA and WNBA stars.

“It’s going to be a great experience for us both,” Ionescu said.

Added Curry: “It’s an authentic competition between two great shooters.”

It’s not their first time facing off — the New York Liberty and Golden State Warriors stars have played HORSE against each other, and from the way they were telling the story on Tuesday night, it was clear that Ionescu won that matchup.

Their relationship goes back well over a decade and they’ve been in the stands to see each other play; Ionescu is a kid from the Bay Area whose family had Warriors season tickets, Curry took his daughters to see Ionescu play when she was at Oregon facing Cal in 2020. Ionescu talked to Curry’s girls that night and neither they, nor their dad, forgot that act of kindness.

There is a clear, deep respect between the two. The winner on Saturday night gets bragging rights, but both of them know there’s a far bigger prize than winning.

“I think a lot of people are either on one side or the other of their reactions, like this dopest thing in the world, it’s the first of its kind and it’ll be something that kind of changes the narrative of what it looks like,” Curry said. “But then also, there is the camp that’s like ‘Oh, you’ve got a lot on the line. You really want to take on that challenge? What if you lose?’ There’s a lot of fear attached to it, really, I guess. This is what sports is about.”

Here’s how we got here: Ionescu put on a shooting show for all-time in the WNBA’s 3-point contest last summer. She missed her first shot of that final round, then made her next 20 — yes, 20 — before missing again, and then she made her final five. The totals: 25-for-27 shooting, from seven different 3-point spots on the floor, in 63 seconds.

Ionescu posed for a photo imitating Curry’s famous lights-out pose while holding her trophy at the WNBA event and raised the possibility of a matchup. She had just scored 37 shootout points; Curry’s best in the NBA version of the 3-point contest is 31.

Then came last month, when Curry was wired with a microphone for Golden State’s game against Sacramento and had a discussion with Warriors teammate Brandin Podziemski about Ionescu.

“I think I’ve got to challenge her,” Curry told Podziemski.

Ionescu responded on social media: “Let’s getttttt it!! See ya at the 3 pt line.”

And here we are.

It is already sounding like this one will be the matchup maybe everyone wants to see on the All-Star stage. Sure, there’s the game on Sunday night, there’s Mac McClung trying to defend his crown in the dunk contest on Saturday, there’s Victor Wembanyama making his All-Star event debut in the Rising Stars games on Friday.

“We’re really excited for the opportunity to do this,” Ionescu said. “From my perspective, it’s something I could have never imagined being a part of. It’s really organic.”

This one has a little bit of everything — a battle-of-the-sexes feel, two shooters with enormous respect from their peers, two players with enormous respect for each other.

And yes, it seems like people will be choosing sides.

“Two incredible shooters. Incredible players, really. I don’t want to disrespect their craft. I know how much hard work they put in,” Dallas guard Kyrie Irving said in a video posted on the NBA’s social media channels. “But that 3-point line doesn’t exist. They’re all the way out to the 4-point line, 5-point line.

“But yeah, I’m pulling for Sabrina. No disrespect to you, Steph. I love you, big bro. But at the same time, she’s got the record, man. She’s coming to defend her title. You’re coming to the competitive table to see if you can win. It’s going to be interesting.”

Added Phoenix forward Kevin Durant, also to the NBA’s social channels: “I’m going Steph.” Durant originally picked Curry, then decided he would back Ionescu, then changed his mind yet again.

Both players will see their foundations get some cash from this. Curry’s Eat.Learn.Play. nonprofit and Ionescu’s SI20 Foundation will receive a donation from the NBA and WNBA for participating. Every shot they make — $1,000 for regular 3s, $2,000 for money-ball 3s and $3,000 for deeper 3s from nearly 30 feet — will bring a donation from State Farm to the NBA Foundation “to support economic empowerment in the Black community,” the league said.

“She’s the champ. I’m the contender,” Curry said. “Let’s lay it on the line.”



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