Larry Bird shoots in his warm up during the 1988 NBA 3-Point Contest.
Walter Looss Jr. /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

"So, Who's Coming in Second?": Revisiting Larry Bird's Famous 1988 3-Point Contest

The NBA Three-Point Contest was introduced in 1986, two years before three-point shooting legend Wardell Stephen Curry was born. I'm sorry, the Larry Bird Shooting Invitational was introduced in 1986. We can refer to the NBA All-Star Weekend competition's early days in Larry's honor because he dominated the first three.

Along with his trash talking and wispy mustache, Bird had as pure a jump shot as you'll ever see. We saw it in games, particularly when his Boston Celtics needed him most in the playoffs or whenever Magic Johnson was getting too hot for the Los Angeles Lakers. Or, we would see him shelve it to try something new like playing left-handed out of boredom. The Indiana State legend was something else.

So, when the NBA introduced the 3-point contest, Bird grabbed his shot, his love for embarrassing his competition and his mouth and jumped at the opportunity. The NBA Slam Dunk Contest is also well-known for its 1988 competition, but Larry Bird's performance still remains insane.

He beat then-Milwaukee Bucks guard Craig Hodges in Dallas in 1986. He defended his title against Detlef Schrempf of "Parks and Recreation" fame in 1987. Then, in 1988, Bird shut down everyone else's chances before the competition started.

Larry Bird: "So, Who's Coming in Second?"

Larry Bird shoots a ball during the 1988 NBA three point contest.

Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

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Imagine you are Knicks star Trent Tucker, Bucks guard Craig Hodges, Lakers sniper Byron Scott, Seattle's Dale Ellis, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Mark Price, Bird's old foe Detlef Schrempf or future NBA GM Danny Ainge. You're sitting in the locker room before the NBA three-point shootout It's not the most serious thing in the world, but you have to remember these guys are professional athletes who get paid to compete. They weren't taking it lightly.

In walks Larry Legend, donning his Celtics warm up shirt. He pauses, notices everyone is all quiet and poses a question.

"So, who's coming in second?"

As if that wasn't enough of a psychological play, Bird wore his warm up through out the entire contest. It wasn't a game to him, simply a shooting exercise, and one-by-one, the competition fell.

Larry Bird shoots in the corner at the 1988 NBA 3-Point Contest.

Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Tucker, Hodges, Price and Ainge shot themselves out of the competition in round one. Meanwhile, Bird put up 17 points (out of a possible 30) and hit four out of five money balls (the 2-point final ball at the end of each rack). It's clear to see Bird had a massive edge. He didn't exert too much energy, and he shot at a relaxed yet timely pace. He's the architect of the perfect 3-point contest formula.

In round two, Bird got hot and put up 23, including going 4 for 5 on money balls. As for the competition, Ellis booked a date with Bird in the finals with a 12. Yes, Bird nearly doubled the score of his closest competition.

By the final round of the 3-point shooting contest, in which Ellis put up a respectable 15, most people figured Bird had it in the bag. He did of course, but it didn't look that way at the beginning. He only had 7 points through three racks.

The 1988 NBA 3-Point Contest

We need to take a second to soak in Larry's final two racks. My mind reading skills are still a work in progress, but I imagine he was thinking something like "I'm not losing to Dale F——-g Ellis" and he kicked it into a higher gear.

He needed every one of his eight makes in the final two racks to beat Ellis. His eighth, the shot he needed to win, was as clutch as it gets. He victoriously pointed his right index finger to sky as soon as he released the winning shot.

Bird 17, Ellis 15.

Ok, we have to talk about a couple of things. One, Bird went 13 of 15 on moneyballs throughout the competition. Maybe it was the fun design of the ABA balls, maybe it's because being money on moneyballs just sounds cool Whatever it was, Bird locked in on those shots. Two, as someone who's a fun of prick humor, it's hysterical that Bird kept his warm-up jacket on the entire time. Why bother? He knows he's better than everyone.

Bird's three-point contest story doesn't end there, though.

The Craig Hodges Retort

Larry Bird hysterically responded to Craig Hodges shooting challenge in 1990.

Walter Looss Jr. /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images (left), Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images (right)

Ellis returned and won in 1989. Then, Hodges won in 1990. The reason they even had a chance was because Bird was out with a back injury for essentially all of the 1988-89 season, and those back problems resurfaced during the 1990 contest.

Hodges was asked after his win if his shooting crown was diminished because Bird was hobbled. By that time, the NBA player was on the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls playing only 16.7 minutes per game. His response to the possibility of taking on Bird when he was healthy?

"He knows where to find me."

Bird caught wind of the quote and responded only how he could: "Yeah, at the end of the Bulls' bench."

RIP Craig Hodges, 1960-1990.

I'm all for the Slam Dunk Contest, the NBA All-Star Game and all the other jazz surrounding All-Star Weekend, but the three-point contest would be nothing without Larry Bird.  He's not only one of the greatest players in NBA history, he was also the purest jump shooter around and got away with murdering Craig Hodges. That's versatility.

Nowadays, we don't see too many big-name players like LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant stepping up to the three-point line. In the past, the NBA has seen former Brooklyn Nets star Paul Pierce take the crown, as well as the aforementioned NBA MVP in Steph Curry. Perhaps these stars are worried about looking like Reggie Miller who famously never won the event, despite playing under Bird with the Pacers.

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