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Sabrina Ionescu Broke The Three-Point Contest

Sabrina Ionescu shoots a three-pointer during the contest
Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images

The significant takeaway from the WNBA All-Star Weekend, other than the fact that everyone seemed to have a good time just being there, is that Sabrina Ionescu broke the skills competition and it can never be fixed. And yes, this is a good thing.

Skills competitions and all-star games were for a brief time a happy marriage of athleticism and creativity, but those days are largely done. The Home Run Derby now depends on the batting practice pitcher, the dunk competition long ago proved repellent to the best players, the shoot-the-puck-into-the-Bellagio-fountain jumped the shark ... all of it just became formulaic, dull, walk-someone-else's-dog-just-to-get-out-of-the-house television.

But then there was Ionescu and her display at the three-point contest Friday night. She missed her first shot, made 20 in a row, missed one, then made her last five—a half-minute of pop-a-shot immortality so pure that to call it Curryesque is to diminish it. The only thing she didn't do was to ask the other competitors "Which one of you is going to finish second?" like Larry Bird before he killed the three-point competition in Chicago Stadium 35 years ago—and that was before he decided to win with his warmup top on.

That remains the high point of the competition, and is still the premier reference anyone makes to it today. But on Friday, Ionescu impersonated a frenetic metronome. The stroke was clear and consistent, the unerring rhythm almost mesmerizing—grab ball, rise and flick wrist in robotic intervals. And with every passing year and every passing three-point contest, that will remain the standard that nobody's going to top. Any impressive shooting performance in the future will bring up the year Sabrina Ionescu did it twice as well.

Not that the competition is ever going to end; Ionescu will be brought back to see if she can outdo herself, and besides, there are sponsors still out there that need hooking. It is simply the nature of things: When you get a moment in which you just know that's about as good as it gets, everything that follows fades. Only maniacs, shut-ins, and people who make you ask for your check before you get the first beer can name the last five winners in any skills competition in any sport, because they are all designed to be one-offs. They are best when the canvases are clean.

We mention Bird in the context of Ionescu not as a comparison point (he made 11 in a row at one point) but a reminder of this truth—in a can-you-top-this-world, those who can't top it are doomed to be forgotten. By being almost perfect, Ionescu broke the format as Bird did. The only way it could have been a more comprehensive shattering is if she'd made the first shot as well, or wore a yellow raincoat and galoshes while she did it. Just an idea for next year.

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