Sabrina Ionescu is changing the narrative around women’s basketball

Curry and Ionescu pose with the contest trophy in Indianapolis. Photo Courtesy of Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports.

By Allyn Tucker

Boston University News Service

For the first time in NBA All-Star Weekend history, the most anticipated event of the weekend focused on the great success of a woman. Rivaling Steph Curry, often regarded as one of the best shooters of all time, New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu made a big splash in Indianapolis as the two competed in a one-on-one 3-point contest. 

Prior to the big night, Internet discourse surrounding the competition was taking over major media outlets, including sports giant ESPN. Since questions surrounding the event were often being asked in interviews and informal settings, NBA All-Stars and many other players in the league were inputting their opinion on who would take home the trophy, placing their faith in either Curry or Ionescu.

The media began pushing for the competition when Ionescu’s 3-point contest win during the WNBA All-Star weekend resurfaced in anticipation for the men’s alternative. Ionescu tallied 37 points, the best performance in WNBA history, in Las Vegas last July. After only a couple days of fans advocating for a matchup, NBA on TNT announced that the contest would air on the second night of the competition. 

Ionescu shot first, setting herself up for success with a start of five made corner three point shots in a row. Only one of her first ten shots didn’t make it through the basket, leaving fans and players on the edge of their seats. Ionescu ended the round with 26 points, equaling the score of the annual NBA 3-point contest winner, Damian Lillard.

Curry followed suit by putting on a show of his own, knocking down 21 shots and slightly edging out Ionescu for a final score of 29 points. The pair hugged it out after his impressive run, showcasing their mutual respect.

“This couldn’t have gone any better in the sense of us two taking the chance… and to deliver like that, she set the bar,” Curry said following his win. “It was unbelievable to watch.”

Centering a female athlete in a male-dominated environment came with cons, as expected when looking at the misogyny that still exists in the world of sports. Despite her impressive resume, Ionescu was under scrutiny from all fronts before the contest began. With Internet discourse deciding that with an Ionescu win, Curry threw the contest, and with a loss, women are inferior to men, the lead up to the big night was a mix of excitement and disappointment. 

NBA on TNT commentator Kenny Smith continued the cause for criticism on the day of the contest, facing backlash for his commentary that Ionescu should have shot from the WNBA three point line, which is over a foot and a half closer to the basket than the NBA line. Ionescu announced prior to the contest that she would be shooting from the same line as Curry while using the WNBA ball. Despite the conversations surrounding Ionescu’s place in the NBA All-Star Weekend, she was deeply happy with the opportunity to showcase women’s basketball.

“I’m excited to change the narrative and do it alongside the best to ever do it,” Ionescu told the arena at the contest’s conclusion. “If you can shoot, you can shoot.”

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