The NBA 3-Point Contest: Showcasing Sharpshooters Beyond the Arc

Morgan Wolf

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What is the NBA 3-Point Contest

The NBA 3-Point Contest has become an integral part of the NBA All-Star Weekend, captivating fans with its thrilling display of shooting prowess. 

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of the 3-Point Contest, exploring its history, rules, format, and significance in the world of professional basketball. 

Join us as we embark on a deep dive into this exhilarating event that showcases the NBA’s most lethal sharpshooters. Let’s get into a deep discussion now. 

What is the NBA 3-Point Contest?

The NBA 3-Point Contest is a competition where the league’s top long-range marksmen go head-to-head in a battle of shooting accuracy. 

It provides players with a platform to demonstrate their skill, precision, and ability to drain shots from beyond the arc. 

Since its inception in 1986, the 3-Point Contest has evolved into one of the most highly anticipated events of the NBA All-Star Weekend, captivating audiences worldwide.

How Does NBA 3-Point Contest Work?

The NBA 3-Point Contest is a thrilling event that showcases the shooting skills of the league’s top long-range marksmen. The contest follows a multi-round format, building up to an exciting final showdown among the best shooters.

Stationed Shooters

Participants in the 3-Point Contest are stationed at five different spots around the three-point line. These spots are typically located at the corners, the wings, and the top of the key. 

Each shooter moves from one spot to another, attempting to sink shots from various angles on the court.

Time Limit and Scoring

In each round of the contest, participants have a specified time limit, usually one minute, to shoot as many balls as they can. 

The clock starts as soon as they receive the first pass from the designated ball rack. Shooters must quickly release their shots before moving to the next spot.

Point Values and Money Balls

Every successful shot carries a predetermined point value. Typically, each made shot is worth one point, but the contest introduces a twist with “money balls.” 

Among the five racks of basketballs, one rack contains balls with a distinctive appearance, known as the “money balls.” These balls are worth two points each, adding an extra challenge and potential for higher scores.

Final Showdown

As the contest progresses through the rounds, the shooters with the highest scores advance to the final showdown. Here, the top performers go head-to-head in a final round to determine the ultimate 3-Point Contest champion. 

The final round follows the same format of timed shooting from multiple spots, with the highest score securing the coveted title.

How Is the 3-Point Contest Set Up?

How Is the 3-Point Contest Set Up?


The 3-Point Contest is held on a specially designed court, typically positioned in the center of the arena. This designated area features racks of basketballs strategically placed at various shooting locations.

Racks and Ball Distribution

Each rack consists of five basketballs, and they are positioned in a semi-circle around the three-point line. One of the balls in each rack is the coveted “money ball,” worth two points instead of the usual one.

Rotation and Time Limit

Participating players rotate through the shooting stations in a predetermined order. They have a limited amount of time to shoot as many balls as possible. The specific time limit may vary from year to year but typically falls between one minute and 90 seconds.

Scoring and Strategy

Players aim to drain as many shots as they can within the allocated time. Each successful shot earns them one point, with the “money ball” providing an extra boost of two points. 

As a result, contestants often strategize to save money balls for certain spots on the court where they feel more comfortable or confident.

Final Round and Tiebreakers

In the event of a tie, additional rounds are held until a winner is determined. During these tiebreaker rounds, players are given an opportunity to showcase their skills and prove their superiority by shooting from various locations on the court.

History of the NBA 3-Point Contest

History of the NBA 3-Point Contest


The NBA 3-Point Contest debuted in the 1985-1986 season, highlighting the growing significance of long-range shooting in basketball. 

This addition to the NBA All-Star Weekend became an instant hit, captivating fans with its unique format and showcasing the sharpshooting skills of the league’s best players. 

The inaugural contest, held during the All-Star Weekend in Dallas, Texas, featured six talented participants ready to display their marksmanship.

Larry Bird’s Dominance

The first NBA 3-Point Contest witnessed an exceptional performance by the legendary Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics. Bird’s ability to drain shots from beyond the arc was unparalleled, as he showcased his shooting prowess and precision. 

His outstanding display earned him the inaugural championship and set the stage for future contests to feature even more incredible shooting exhibitions.

Evolution and Memorable Moments

Over the years, the NBA 3-Point Contest has continued to evolve, adapting to changes in the game and introducing new rules to enhance the excitement. 

The contest has witnessed an array of unforgettable moments that have solidified its place in basketball lore. 

From the emergence of multiple-time champions like Craig Hodges, Mark Price, and Jeff Hornacek to the rise of modern-day sharpshooters like Ray Allen, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson, the contest has become a stage for elite shooters to showcase their skills.

Records and Achievements

The NBA 3-Point Contest has seen its fair share of records and remarkable accomplishments. Larry Bird, in addition to winning the inaugural contest, etched his name in history by capturing three consecutive championships from 1986 to 1988. 

Other notable achievements include Craig Hodges’ impressive display in 1991 when he set a record by making 19 consecutive shots. 

More recently, Stephen Curry’s unprecedented shooting exhibitions and victories have cemented his status as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

Continued Popularity

The NBA 3-Point Contest remains one of the most highly anticipated events of the All-Star Weekend. Fans eagerly anticipate the display of shooting excellence and the competition between the league’s top marksmen. 

The contest’s ability to captivate audiences with its combination of skill, intensity, and dramatic moments ensures its enduring popularity among basketball enthusiasts worldwide.

Contest Rules and Format

The 3-Point Contest, a thrilling event held during the NBA All-Star Weekend, has seen its rules and format evolve over the years. This popular competition showcases the shooting skills of some of the league’s finest long-range marksmen. 

Let’s delve into the contest’s structure, which currently comprises two rounds: the preliminary round and the final round.

Preliminary Round: Putting Sharpshooters to the Test

During the preliminary round, contestants face the pressure of sinking shots from beyond the arc within a designated time frame. 

Each participant is given one minute to shoot a total of 25 balls from five different spots on the perimeter. These spots are worth one point each, with the exception of the “money ball” rack, which contains balls worth two points each. 

Contestants aim to accumulate as many points as possible within the allotted time. The top three scorers from the preliminary round advance to the final round.

Final Round: Head-to-Head Battle for Supremacy

The final round of the 3-Point Contest ramps up the intensity, pitting the three highest scorers from the preliminary round against each other. This head-to-head championship shootout determines who will be crowned the ultimate winner. 

The finalists compete simultaneously on the court, shooting from the same designated spots as in the preliminary round. As the clock ticks, the shooters try to find their rhythm and sink as many shots as possible to outscore their opponents. 

The participant with the highest point total at the end of the final round emerges as the champion of the 3-Point Contest.

Excitement and Precision on Display

The 3-Point Contest captivates fans with its combination of sharpshooting prowess and strategic shot selection. Contestants must showcase their shooting accuracy, adapt to different shooting positions, and manage the ticking clock. 

This event has produced some memorable moments in NBA history, with players showcasing their long-range shooting skills in dramatic fashion. 

From Larry Bird’s legendary showdowns to Steph Curry’s record-breaking performances, the 3-Point Contest remains a fan favorite, providing exhilarating moments during the NBA All-Star Weekend.

Significance of the NBA 3-Point Contest

NBA 3-Point Contest holds immense significance in the game world. Check out some of them in the next section. 

Evolution of Modern Basketball

The NBA 3-Point Contest holds immense significance in the basketball world, highlighting the evolution of the game and the increasing emphasis on long-range shooting. 

As basketball strategies have evolved over time, shooting from beyond the arc has become an integral part of a team’s offensive arsenal. 

The 3-Point Contest provides a platform to celebrate this shift in playing style and recognize players who excel in this area.

Showcasing Exceptional Shooting Abilities

The contest allows fans to witness the extraordinary shooting abilities of both established stars and emerging talents. Some of the greatest shooters in NBA history have participated in the 3-Point Contest, demonstrating their precision, consistency, and range from downtown. 

The event offers an opportunity for players to showcase their shooting skills in a competitive setting, captivating audiences with their long-distance marksmanship.

A Launchpad to Superstardom

Victory in the 3-Point Contest often serves as a launching pad for players to elevate their status and solidify their legacies. 

A strong performance or a championship in the contest can significantly boost a player’s popularity, garnering attention from fans, media, and sponsors. 

Success in the contest can also contribute to a player’s confidence and recognition, propelling them toward superstardom and enhancing their overall impact on the game.

Inspiring the Next Generation

The 3-Point Contest has the power to inspire young basketball players and fans worldwide. As they witness the exceptional shooting displays by their favorite players, aspiring athletes are encouraged to hone their shooting skills.

The contest serves as a source of motivation, pushing the boundaries of what is possible on the basketball court and inspiring the next generation of sharpshooters.


Who has won the most NBA 3-Point Contests?

The record for the most 3-Point Contest victories is held by Craig Hodges and Stephen Curry, both with three wins.

Can a player participate in the 3-Point Contest multiple times?

Yes, players can participate in the 3-Point Contest multiple times, provided they are selected by the league and meet the eligibility criteria.

Are there any cash prizes for winning the 3-Point Contest?

While there is no specific cash prize for winning the 3-Point Contest, the honor and recognition that comes with the victory hold significant value.

Has anyone won the 3-Point Contest in their rookie season?

Yes, Devin Booker achieved this feat in 2018, becoming the youngest player to win the contest in his rookie season.

Can players choose their own basketballs for the contest?

No, the NBA provides the basketballs used in the 3-Point Contest to maintain consistency and ensure fairness.

Bottom Line

The NBA 3-Point Contest stands as a testament to the incredible shooting prowess of the league’s best marksmen. 

With its rich history, intense competition, and ability to captivate audiences, the contest has solidified its place as a marquee event during the NBA All-Star Weekend

As the game of basketball continues to evolve, the 3-Point Contest will remain a showcase for the sharpshooters and inspire future generations of players to hone their shooting skills beyond the arc. Best wishes. 

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Morgan Wolf

Journalist with experience covering the intersection of sports with business. Demonstrated expertise in digital, video and social media content covering major sports including soccer, NBA, NFL, MLB, tennis and Olympic sports. But basketball is his passion. Specialties: expert for sports related content management LinkedIn