Arguably the most underrated of All-Star Weekend Saturday night competitions, the 3-point contest demands from its participants both the skill of a marksman and the steady, rhythmic effort of a lumberjack. A metronomic elegance emerges as you watch every other ball clank off the rim and into the sea of pre-pubescent rebounders crowding the paint. The cadence of the clanking has lulled me into a peaceful slumber on more than one occasion.
But in 2003, when Pat Garrity, Peja Strojakovic, Brent Barry, Wesley Person, David Wesley’s ears and Antoine Walker took part in the economically titled 17th Annual NBA All-Star Weekend Foot Locker 3-point Shootout, there was not a drowsy eye in the house. The cameras, the lights, the sound equipment — it was all electric. The scene was so festive, so invigorating that one joyous man was moved to dance.
The contest was moving along steadily. After Pat Garrity and David Wesley’s ears posted middling scores of 13 and 12, respectively, Peja Stojakovic, the eventual champion, posted a score of 19, setting a furious new pace for the competition. Next up was Brent Barry, a 40 percent 3-point shooter best known for dunking from the free throw line that one time and being white. Barry would go on to star in numerous commercials for H.E.B., a beloved Central Texas grocery chain, and win a couple of NBA titles.
Barry’s round began like any other: a few makes, a few misses, a few more makes. But as he made his way around the racks, the anticipation built. He was closing in on Peja’s lead. As he headed for the final rack, he already had 14 points — enough to surpass Garrity and Wesley’s ears. But in order to equal Peja’s lead he needed to have his best rack of the round.
Make. Make. Miss. Make.
Barry paused. He had plenty of time, a full seven seconds to take his final shot that, if made, would put him into a tie with Peja. In one, literal sense it was worth two points, but in another, more telling sense its value was incalculable. He set himself, raised his arms and shot. Swish. The joy and relief that washed over him at that moment must have been awesome, in the truest sense of the word.
Barry couldn’t contain himself. It may have been only the first round, but he had to express himself. He had to dance. He kicked his heels side to side and shuffled his bent arms. It’s impossible to know the inner life of another man. Their secrets, their desires, their fears. But there, in that moment, Brent Barry bore his soul.
He also won $1,000 from Gary Payton, who didn’t think Barry had the balls to whip out the crip walk during the 3-point contest. All in all, pretty good night.