Sabrina Ionescu shines bright: elevating the WNBA’s presence at the NBA All-Star game

Sabrina Ionescu shines bright: elevating the WNBA’s presence at the NBA All-Star game


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – FEBRUARY 17: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and Sabrina Ionescu #20 of the New York Liberty pose for a photo after their 3-point challenge during the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 17, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

She talked her talk, and she delivered.

Sabrina Ionescu unquestionably showcased her greatness to the world, doing so with remarkable humility. And she accomplished this feat while representing women’s basketball on one of the grandest stages.

To all basketball enthusiasts, including young fans worldwide, she not only embodied the essence of being a role model but also showcased that both women and men can compete on a level playing field.

“If you can shoot, you can shoot. it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl,” said Ionescu, who’s known for her prolific shooting prowess. From Oregon to the WNBA, she ranks among the top shooters in the realm of basketball.

Sabrina Ionescu balled out on the biggest stage

She made 26 successful deep shots from the NBA three-point line, matching Damian Lillard’s record, who had just been crowned the three-point champion moments earlier. Similarly, Trae Young, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Tyrese Haliburton also achieved a high of 26 made three-point shots.And she did so shooting from the same line, on the same court.

In a single round, the victor was awarded a personalized wrestling belt dubbed “Sabrina vs. Steph 3-point champion.” In a closely contested shootout, Curry emerged as the winner.

For Curry, he’s always been a supporter of women’s hoops. “Little boys and girls who are watching, it doesn’t matter what gym you show up to. Don’t discount who’s to your left or to your right, ” said Curry. “If they can shoot, they can shoot. You can compete and have fun. Hopefully we can be models of what that looks like on the biggest stage. Long term, you continue to find awesome ways to further the conversation on how amazing the women’s game is, getting the eyeballs on it.”

For Sabrina, Ionescu, this isn’t just a win for women’s basketball; it’s a win for the sport as a whole. This innovative form of entertainment raises the standard for viewers and fans alike, offering a fresh way to showcase the competitive spirit between two of the world’s top hoopers.

“Being able to have this crossover and understanding the respect that I’ve been able to receive from a lot of the NBA guys. Just knowing that Steph wanted to do this as well in terms of just respecting another shooter,” said Ionescu in terms of spotlight and growth of the sport. “I think it’s going to show a lot of young kids out there, a lot of people who might have not believed or even watched women’s sports, that we were able to go out there and put on a show.”

Ionescu wants a rematch with Curry next year

Don’t be misled by Sabrina, she’s not one to go down without a fight. In typical three-point contest fashion, neither star managed to secure more than one round. With the NBA All-Star game set to take place in the Bay Area next year, Ionescu openly discussed a rematch, underscoring her inherent competitiveness. Another words, game on Steph Curry.

“We were talking about just getting a second round, Ionescu told I think we both finally just kind of got warm after sitting for a while and wanted to run it back. Maybe we will be able to evolve that next time. Obviously Steph[Curry] won for a reason, and I’m gonna have to try and beat next time.” (Warriors PR)

The evening unfolded flawlessly, featuring a showdown between two of the finest shooters, both firing from the same line. However, Curry openly confessed to feeling nervous once Sabrina took off.

“Absolutely, I saw the first rack, I think she made the first six I believe, maybe seven,” Curry told the press Saturday night. “Thankfully I made enough to get over the top. That was perfect. Great entertainment, great shooting on both sides, and awesome 70 seconds for both of us.” (Warriors PR YouTube).

Sabrina matched an NBA record with an impressive 26 points in the three-point contest.

Ionescu is known for never revealing her hand and thrives on competing in the spotlight. Despite being unsuccessful in hitting all of her shots during warm-up just moments before the event, once it was her time to shine, it was as if a switch was turned on.

And her performance was as authentic as it gets. Often practicing her shots from the NBA line, Ionescu seemed to be in mid-season form. With intense focus and determination, she hit all five of her first shots and continued her streak, nailing seven consecutive shots while the crowd roared with excitement. Though she missed just one three-pointer from the top of the arch, Ionescu faced some difficulties from the right wing.

With 22 points and only 16.8 seconds left, the New York Liberty star managed to hit three of the last five corner shots, including a two-point money ball at the end. Regardless of what many say, she truly shoots and warms up from the NBA three-point line.

Despite Curry’s victory, Ionescu illuminated the world of women’s basketball.

The only individual who surpassed the 26 mark was Steph Curry, who managed to score 29 three-pointers. Demonstrating exceptional form midway through the season, he displayed remarkable precision by hitting every shot from his money ball rack. With just 8.8 seconds remaining, Ionescu maintained her lead. However, in the final 7 seconds, Curry sunk the remaining two shots, elevating his total to 29.

Although Curry emerged victorious, the competitive spirit remains strong, and his admiration for Ionescu as both a person and a hooper remains unchanged. Their friendship, which began during her Oregon days, is founded on mutual respect, with Curry consistently applauding her work ethic and commitment to her craft.

Before entering the competition, Curry is well aware of Ionescu’s profound dedication to both herself and the game of basketball.

“When I first met her [Sabrina Ionescu] back in the Bay, right before the Oregon rocket ship went off, Curry told the media. “You see a different demeanor and a different kind of killer instinct and a focus. The skill is one thing, but the mentality is a whole totally different thing that you kind of can’t teach. She’s demonstrated that every step of the way. I knew how matter how the buildup was, there would no stage that would be too bright for her. The way she started– there’ no fear. She know’s who she is, and she also works.” (Warriors PR).

Both Sabrina and Steph have been adamant that this competition was genuine and not merely a box-checking competition. While she may not have emerged as the winner of the competition, Ionescu demonstrated her ability to compete at the highest level alongside male counterparts.

Steph Curry and Sabrina Ionescu blaze trails, setting the standard for future events.

Her fearless demeanor captivated 10 million unique viewers, showcasing the greatness of women’s basketball and advocating for its broader broadcast to a larger audience. In a time when women’s sports are flourishing, this event served as the ideal platform to highlight their excellence and capture the attention of millions of basketball enthusiasts.

To me, that embodies leadership and courage—a readiness to compete on the biggest stage, irrespective of the result, to foster the growth of women’s basketball. It truly reflects bravery and determination.

According to NBA Communications on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Saturday night events attracted 10 million unique viewers. These numbers mark a significant increase of nearly 54 percent from last year.

“You don’t do things to just check a box,” said Curry. “This is something– If you’re supporting basketball, and generally supporting women’s basketball, it’s something you continually do. You find new creative ways to have investment in the game. The fact this is a first of a kind in our sport, the fact that it’s on this stage, it’s a step in the right direction. We will always be able to say we were the first.” (Warriors PR).

Truly two special individuals, this is only the beginning for promoting women’s sports.

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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter, Content Creator and Social Media Manager for Ballislife Bets. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut/NYC area with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.


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