Is Steph Curry’s 27 the best 3P contest round ever? (and other thoughts on All-Star Saturday 2015)

February 15, 2015 in Basketball, NBA, Sport

curry three

I had my money on his splash brother, Klay Thompson, but Steph Curry proved tonight that he’s the best three-point shooter alive when he’s on a roll, knocking down 20/25 shots en route to an all-time best score of 27 in the final round of the 2015 Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.

But was it the best three-point contest performance of all time? Let’s take a deeper look.

Nominally, 27 points is the highest score in any NBA Three Point Contest since the competition was introduced at All-Star Weekend in 1986. However, since last year, the contest has had the “money ball rack”, in which every ball in one rack of the contestant’s choice is filled with money balls as opposed to just the last ball of each of the five racks. This means instead of a perfect score of 30 as it had been in the past, the perfect score of any single round is now 34.

Steph’s final round shot chart is as follows.

CURRY

– He only missed five shots in the entire round, including two money balls
– He was nearly perfect from the money ball rack, missing only his last shot
– At one stage he hit 13 consecutive shots, the second longest hot streak in the contest’s history

The previous highest score in Three Point Contest history is 25, by Craig Hodges in the first round of the 1986 contest (when no one had a clue how ridiculous that was) and Jason Kapono in final round of the 2008 contest. Both were accomplished when there was no money ball rack and the perfect score would have been 30.

Of course, you can’t really say that things would have turned out exactly the same if there was no money ball rack, but keep in mind that if that were the case, Steph’s score would have technically only been 23, which would have tied for eighth all-time in the pre-money ball rack era.

On the other hand, Kapono’s shot chart from his record-tying round (at the time) is as follows:

Kapono

Kapono also missed five shots like Curry and had a hot streak of only 10 consecutive shots, but his score was boosted by the fact that he made all five of his money balls.  If there was a money ball rack at the time, Kapono’s score would have ranged from 27-29, depending on where he put it.

As for Craig Hodges’ 25-point round in 1986, I haven’t been able to track down his shot chart or locate any video on YouTube to create one. It actually appears that no complete video of his performance even exists, being that this was one of the first rounds of the contest ever. Also, back in the day, two contestants would shoot at the same time at opposite ends of the court, and the cameras were actually more focused on Hodges’s opponent.

In any case, I managed to catch the back end of Hodge’s performance and can confirm that he must have missed at least three shots because he made his last two money balls and missed another regular ball. In fact, it is probable that he missed at least four shots because his round is not in the list of most consecutive baskets made, where the minimum is nine consecutive shots. This means he could not have had two perfect racks in a row.

So regardless of whether Hodges made all five of his money balls in that round, the most number of shots he could have missed is five, which would have at least tied Curry.

The round that Hodges actually gets more mentions for is his 1991 semi-finals round, where he smashed the record for most consecutive shots with 19 — a record that still stands today — en route to 24 points.

Here’s his shot chart.

Hodges

Hodges ran out of steam in the end and missed his last three shots, but the ridiculous thing is that he hit his first 19 shots and missed only four shots overall. If there was a money rack, his score would have ranged between 26-30.

Among the other 24 rounds in contest history (Mark Price in 1994, Hubert Davis in 1998, Kapono in 2007), none of them missed fewer than five shots.

The verdict: while Curry’s 27 points is indeed impressive, it’s not necessarily the best Three Point Contest performance of all-time. Craig Hodges bests him in terms of least shots missed (at least once, probably twice) and most consecutive shots made, while Jason Kapono would have at least gotten the same score and as high as 29 if there was a money ball rack.

Other thoughts and observations on All-Star Saturday 2015

Degree Shooting Stars — next! (This is always about who can make the half-court shot)

Taco Bell Skills Challenge — I liked the idea of having two guys compete at the same time so it pushes them a little more. I was as stunned as anybody that Patrick Beverly (a late replacement for John Wall) won it in the end, coming from behind each round to steal victory when his opponent could not capitalize on the last three-point shot (it was previously a top-of-the-key shot). I also liked the gamesmanship too when he stomped as he ran up behind his opponent to know them off their games.

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest — most stacked contest of all-time with winner Curry, runner-up Thompson and the likes of Kyle Korver (aiming for the NBA’s first 50-50-90 season), defending champion Marco Belinelli, former winner Kyrie Irving, scoring leader James Harden, specialist JJ Redick and sharp shooter Wesley Matthews. Turned out to be by far the most exciting event of the evening because of the star power and drama.

Sprite Slam Dunk — no big names, but no worries thanks to Zach Lavine, my early pick, who performed some effortless high-difficulty dunks including an off-the-bounce, threw-the-legs one-handed reverse in a Jordan Space Jam jersey and an off-the-bounce, behind-the-back in the first round to earn a perfect 100. With the contest pretty much wrapped up thanks to Victor Oladipo’s misses, the second round was kinda anti-climatic, though Lavine still performed some very sick dunks. Thank goodness the teenager was there because everyone else sucked dogs balls (looking at the Greek Freak and Plums in particular).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZaGBDmhoU4

The only other decent dunk was Oladipo’s first successful jam, but it was NOT a 540-degree dunk as Kenny Smith claimed it to be. You cannot start and end up facing the same direction if you did a 540-degree spin, which is what Oladipo did. It was in fact a 360-degree reverse that finished on the other side of the rim. Still a well-deserved 50 though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDcm17QHiK0

PS: A quick word about the scoring. I don’t think the way it works right now is consistent. Apparently a missed dunk should be awarded a minimum score of 6/10, though in one case Dr J gave Oladipo a 7/10 for effort. But for made dunks by Plumlee and Antetokounmpo — pretty decent dunks too — the judges were also awarding 7s. That’s not right. The gap between made dunks and missed dunks needs to be bigger. The way I see it, a missed dunk should be awarded an arbitrary number of say 4 (it is a “fail”, after all, though I resist awarding dunks 0/10 because you have to give guys a chance to catch up) and the worst made dunk (like one that accidentally goes in off a failed attempt) should score no lower than 5. That sets a barrier between made dunks and missed dunks, and provides a much wider range for judges to score.

Movie Review: The Raid 2 (2014)

August 9, 2014 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

raid-2-poster-600x-1396194417

Three years ago, an Indonesian film by a Welsh director no one had ever heard of came out of nowhere to take the world by storm. Gareth Evans’ The Raid: Redemption has been dubbed by some as the best martial art action film of the last 15 to 20 years. And if you have seen it, you’ll know it’s no hyperbole.

The Raid 2 could have easily been a cash-grab sequel, but instead, with a higher budget and grander ambitions, Evans has crafted a direct follow-up that harnesses some of the best aspects of the original — except he ups the dial by at least a couple of notches — while also adding more depth to the characters and story line, the things that were criticized the first time around.

The result is an impressive sequel that is technically and on paper superior to the original, though of course, it is not, because it’s never possible to capture the same magic of a surprise hit.

The Raid 2 picks up shortly where the first film left off, with our protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais) agreeing to go undercover in order to take down a crime boss. He is inserted into a dangerous Indonesian prison, where he befriends the son of the target and works his way up to earn their trust. 

To be honest though, I didn’t really care much for the plot — I just wanted to see more of the insane action I experienced from the first film. In that regard, The Raid 2 delivers in spades, putting together a number of extremely well choreographed, tense and brutally violent fight scenes. Furthermore, the action is creative, varied and not repetitive; group battles, one-on-one, one-on-a-hundred, fistfights, knife fights, gun fights — you name it. It’s violence as an art form.

In many ways the fighting is even more stylized than in its predecessor, but it still maintains a strange level of surreal realism, if that makes sense. The stuff on the screen — the blood, the guts, the limbs, and all the martial arts moves — looks ultra-realistic, and yet you know there’s no chance in hell even the greatest of martial artists can pull off such maneuvers with such fluidity, power and grace in quick succession. The characters are also seemingly invincible and can withstand all sorts of brutal punishment until they have to die, in which case they suddenly become extremely vulnerable to a fatal attack.

Evans also does a great job of setting up what I like to call “bosses”, even though they are caricatures and not really characters, but it’s important because then we’ll understand the gravity of the situation when our heroes are pitted against these supervillains in epic “boss fights”. There was really only one epic boss fight in The Raid: Redemption; in The Raid 2 there are many.

On the other hand, you could say The Raid 2 is too excessive. Not just in terms of the length (a whopping 150 minutes, compared to just 101 minutes for its predecessor), but everything. In an attempt to trump the original, Evans arguably committed the “Michael Bay sin” — the mistaken belief that bigger, louder and more extravagant necessarily means “better”. Don’t get me wrong — I had a great time with it, but I can understand if some viewers thought it was overkill. Part of what made The Raid:Redemption so great is that it was all about one man’s survival against the odds, kind of like Die Hard (just the greatest action movie ever). It was raw and rough around the edges, and yet that was also what made it a classic. The Raid 2 tries to give audiences more action, more blood, more gore, more characters, more plot and more length, but in the process it also loses some of its essence and purity.

In the end, The Raid 2 doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that it’s still a kick-ass action flick, one that will likely rank as one of the best of the year.

4 stars out of 5

My Greatest NBA Fantasy Team of All Time

August 13, 2013 in Basketball, Best Of, NBA, Sport

MJ

I haven’t done any basketball-related posts on this blog for a while, and this is a topic I have wanted to tackle for some time. After recently reading Jack McCallum’s fabulous Dream Team (review here), a chronicle of the greatest group of talent ever assembled in team sport, I started thinking about which players I would pick for my personal fantasy dream team, comprising NBA players from any era at a certain point in their careers.

This is, of course, just a personal selection of players based on a subjective assessment of each player’s talent, ability and skill, as well as what I think they will bring to the table and how they might play off each other as a cohesive unit. So don’t get your knickers in a bunch if you don’t agree. I will, however, try to justify my selections with explanations, so feel free to comment and start up a healthy debate.

As this is MY dream team, I am going to only consider players I have actually watched play in full televised or archived games (ie late 80s), as opposed to basing selections purely on reputation or grainy highlights. I therefore offer my apologies upfront to the greatest winner of all-time, Bill Russell, the most dominant scorer (and womanizer) of all time, Wilt Chamberlain, and Mr Triple Double, Oscar Robertson.

Two of the greatest actors of their generation, Arnie and Wilt

Two of the greatest actors of their generation, Arnie and Wilt

Part of the decision to remove them from contention stems from my belief that players of the past, as good as they were, aren’t as good as the players of the modern era. I mean, Russell was only 6’9″ and 225 lbs, and Wilt was regarded as unmatched at 7’1″ and 275 lbs, and the level of competition they faced was not even close. It’s no question that players today are much bigger, stronger, more athletic and more skilled. Not to say Russell, Wilt and The Big O wouldn’t still be great players in today’s game (especially if they were given the same nutrition and training opportunities), but I just don’t know enough to make that assumption.

Starters

Selection philosophy

The majority of my starting five choices won’t be controversial. There’s at least one guy that will be on everyone’s list, and we all know who that is, and there’s two other guys that will be on most lists.

My philosophy was simple. The first factor was to consider the best all-round player in that position. The second consideration was whether that player addresses a need on a team, be it scoring, passing, rebounding, defense, shooting, shot blocking, and so forth. And the third consideration was whether those players would mesh well as a team. With that in mind, my greatest starting five of all time is…

PG Magic Johnson (1988-1989)

It wasn’t hard to choose whom many regard as the greatest point guard of all time, a 6’9″ maestro with possibly the best court vision the game has ever seen. With his incredible size at PG and ability to find the open man, especially on the break, Magic would be the perfect coordinator of this team. His supernatural passing ability has somewhat shadowed his scoring and rebounding, which were both fantastic, but the best thing about Magic is that he doesn’t need to score to control and dominate a game. And let’s not forget the intangibles — his leadership and will to win.

It’s hard to pick one version of Magic for this team. There’s 1981-1982, the year where he came closest to averaging a triple double with 18.6, 9.6 and 9.5. There’s 1983-1984, when he averaged a career high 13.1 assists to go with 17.6 points, or 1986-87, when he averaged a career high 23.9 points to go with 12.2 assists. Any of these would have been wonderful, but in the end I chose his 1988-1989 MVP season, during which he averaged 22.5 points, 12.8 assists (both second highest in his career) and still grabbed 7.9 rebounds (the highest since 1982-1983). He shot 51% from the field and came close to leading the league in free throws at 91.1%. He also posted his second-highest PER at 26.9 (just 0.1 below his best PER).

SG Michael Jordan (1988-1989)

The no brainer. Of course you would have the GOAT on your team. A perfect blend of size, strength, athleticism and skills matched with an unparalleled drive, determination, and desire to win at all costs. Unstoppable offensively and capable of stopping just about everyone defensively. Even on this team, the greatest of all time, MJ would be the unquestionable star.

The harder decision was choosing the best version of Jordan to fill my team. Do I go with the offensive prodigy who put up a staggering 37.1 points in 1986-1987, the highest single season scoring average of any player not named Wilt Chamberlain? Or do I go with the Jordan of the first three-peat, where he was better athletically, or the Jordan of the second three-peat, where he was smarter and developed that money turnaround jumper? Ultimately, I could not pass on the 1988-1989 Jordan who averaged 32.5, 8 and 8 (the latter two of which were career highs) and shot nearly 54% from the field and 85% from the line. It wasn’t his most efficient year (he posted a PER of 31.7 in 1987-88), but a PER of 31.1 and a career-high true shooting percentage of 61.4% is not too shabby.

SF Larry Bird (1984-85)

Larry Legend is my favourite non-Pacers player of all time, so he was bound to be on the team somewhere. But even as an objective assessor, I would have put him on the starting lineup anyway, especially if you see my selections below. Bird is the kind of player you just have to watch to understand just how legendary he truly is. Apart from being possibly the greatest shooter of all time, Bird was a fantastic rebounder and effortless passer. He may not be the greatest one-on-one defender, but he uses his high basketball IQ and tenacity to his advantage and gets plenty of deflections and steals, plus his 6’9″ height is an advantage against smaller wing players.

But it’s the intangibles that make Bird a can’t miss player on my greatest team of all time. The ice cool confidence, that special ability to make his teammates better, and the clutchness — I’d have no problem with either him or Jordan taking the final shot every time. Bird might even be better because of his long range capabilities. With the creativity of Magic and Bird on the same team the possibilities are endless.

It’s not easy picking the best Bird (he did have three MVPs and two 50-40-90 shooting seasons), but I’ve decided on the 1984-85 season when he won his second MVP, posting averages of 28.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists while shooting 52% from the field, 43% from three-point range and 88% from the line. He also posted the second highest PER of his career that year with 26.5.

PF LeBron James (2012-2013)

With LeBron playing the best basketball of his career after shifting predominantly to power forward in Miami, it made it easy for me to not have to decide between him and Larry Bird at SF. The best player in the game today — by far — LeBron is a unique player at 6’8″-6’9″ and 250 lbs (at least), freakishly athletic, strong as an ox and unstoppable on the break, with incredible court vision, an improving jumpshot and the ability to defend any position on the floor. So while there might be more conventional choices at PF, simply having LeBron anywhere on this starting lineup was a more important consideration for me.

The LeBron I chose for the team is the most recent version from the 2012-2013 season, when he led the Heat to their second straight title while winning his fourth MVP award. He posted his second highest PER at 31.6 and averaged a controlled 26.8 points, 8 rebounds and 7.3 assists while making it look easy. He also shot a ridiculous 56.5% from the field and 40.6% from three-point range. He may have had more eye-popping numbers in Cleveland, but there is no doubt that the LeBron of now is the much better player. To think he might not have reached his peak is a frightening thought.

C Hakeem Olajuwon (1992-1993)

Lots of great options at center, but in the end I went with the most complete player at both ends of the floor, the player with the unstoppable post moves (just ask David Robinson) and the NBA’s all-time top shot blocker. I chose Hakeem because he can do it all (he is only one of four players in NBA history to have recorded a quadruple double), but particularly because of his defensive prowess and longer shooting range compared to most centers. And he was a rare center who could actually hit his free throws, coming close to 80% in his prime. Hakeem didn’t overpower you, but he could score in an unlimited number of ways, whether it was faking you out down low, up and unders, hook shots or fadeaway jumpers. On the other end he was a menace with those long arms and exquisite footwork.

It was tempting to choose a Hakeem from the Rockets’ championship years in 1993-1994 and 1994-1995, but I think he was even better in 1992-1993, except he was overshadowed by Jordan, like everyone else. In that year, Hakeem recorded his best PER of 27.3 and averaged 26.1 points, 13 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4.2 blocks. Just beastly.

Selection justification

I am confident my starting lineup of Magic, Jordan, Bird, LeBron and Hakeem can beat any starting five in history. You have tremendous size, with everyone except 6’6″ Jordan at 6’9″ or above. All are fantastic playmakers who make their teammates better, especially Magic, Bird and LeBron, and Jordan and Hakeem are both superior passers at their respective positions. All five are also excellent rebounders, and sound team rebounding is what makes a good team great. An interesting point to note is that all five are superb post players too, so they can take their man one-on-one to make the most of mismatch opportunities.

Defensively, Jordan and LeBron can shut down any wing player, and LeBron can take on most power forwards. Both of them, especially LeBron, are chase-down block specialists. Jordan, remember, was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1987-1988. Bird and Magic are not known for their D but are both clever players who can mask their deficiencies. And in the middle you have Hakeem challenging, blocking and changing shots.

If the game ever gets tight, as unlikely as that is, you have five of the greatest clutch players at their respective positions at your disposal. And if all else fails, just get the ball to Jordan and get the hell out of the way.

Whichever way you look at it, this is an unstoppable starting five! They have size and speed, they rebound and share the ball, can shoot and score and defend in a multitude of ways. With the way these guys play, you never have to worry about chemistry because they all just want to win.

See the rest of my selections and those who missed the cut after the jump!

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Nole, Rafa, Nole’s Girlfriend and Vlade Divac!

January 30, 2012 in Best Of, Sport, Tennis

Greatest.  Tennis.  Match.  Ever.

As a new father I have about 10 minutes to spare, so I’m going to blog about what’s been on my mind — last night’s EPIC Aussie Open Final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.  The two fighters went toe-to-toe like to heavyweight sluggers, absorbing killer blow after killer blow in the longest grand slam final and longest Aussie Open game of all time.

The Djoker came out on top in the end, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, but Rafa’s valiant efforts won him a lot of fans.  It was a see-sawing battle that shifted momentum numerous times.  Just when I thought Rafa was finally going to get over the hump against Nole, Nole fights back to dominate.  And just when a Nole victory looked like a mere formality, back comes Rafa.  Then there was the brief rain delay which I thought was going to kill Rafa’s momentum, but it only made him stronger.  And when it looked like Rafa was going to put it away, back comes Nole again to steal the match from the grasp of defeat.  I had no favourite in the match, so I was just glad to be a witness.

Everyone’s talking about this fantastic tennis match, so instead of my usual waffle I’ll just toss in some random thoughts:

  • Let’s face it, Nole’s girlfriend, Jelena Ristic, was one of the main reasons so many millions of people stayed up watching the match last night all the way until the end.  It certainly was the reason why my blog (which wrote briefly about her once), got so many hits overnight.  It was hard not to notice her — the freaking camera zoomed in on her on every single break in the action!  Kudos to the television crew for knowing what sells.  Nole’s victory is even more amazing considering how difficult it would have been for him to focus on tennis with her around.
  • That said, message to the TV crew for next year — go easy on the super slow-mo.  Super slow-mo on Jelena Ristic jumping up and down is fine, but super slow-mo on Djoker’s and Rafa’s faces as they crack massive forehands?  Not so much.
  • Speaking of Jelena, she seems to have embraced the role as tennis’s no. 1 WAG.  She always seems to wear cobalt blue, except the dresses are getting more and more expensive.  I wonder if she has clothing sponsors.
  • Huge surprise last night as I was watching the match.  On the odd occasion the camera panned away from Jelena, it landed on a bearded giant behind her that made me do a double-take.  Was that the biggest flopper of all-time, Mr Vlade Divac?  As it turned out, it was.  I have no idea why the retired basketball superstar was in Djokovic’s camp.  These Serbian athletes must be real close.  Maybe Nole learned some of his flopping mental tactics from Divac.

The big dude on the left

  • What the heck was the deal with the rain delay?  Seriously, the thing has a roof.  It looks like it might rain.  Why take the risk?  And how laughably primitive was the ball-boy brigade that wiped down the court on their hands and knees?  You would have thought someone (probably Japanese) would have come up with an ingenious contraption to suck all that moisture up in a jiffy.
  • Excellent post-match speeches at the award-ceremony too.  Rafa was awesome in defeat and super gracious, and the usually amped up Nole was also very kind with his words — both men were probably too tired to do much else.  Seeing them handed bottles of water and stools to sit on while that hilarious Korean (?) fella from KIA Motors rambled on said it all.  Then again, I felt like I needed to lie down after listening to that guy too.
  • Lastly, I just want to reiterate what a pleasure it was to watch the match.  These dudes are physical freaks.  How can someone crack the ball with so much force while running all over the court for almost 6 hours?  That’s just mind-boggling.  Especially for someone with bread stick arms like the Djoker.  I get a sore wrist from three consecutive two-handed backhands.

25 Films That Scared the Crap Out of Me When I Was a Kid

May 10, 2011 in Entertainment, Misc, Movie Reviews, Reviews

When I was a snotty little kid, my older sister used to always borrow horror movies from the local video store.  Scary movies were all that she watched.  Scary movies and Stand By Me and White Fang (on loop — thanks to crushes on River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke).

I grew to like horror films too, but it wasn’t before they caused some serious lifelong trauma.  Without further ado, here the 25 that scared me the most (entirely from memory).

(to see the list, click on ‘more…’)

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