Joe Harris doesn’t get memo, beats Steph in shootout final

ASW 2019 Three-Point Champion Joe Harris
Joe Harris hoists the Three-Point Contest trophy after beating Stephen Curry and Buddy Hield in the final round. (Christopher Cadeau/MEDILL)

By Joshua Jonah Fischman
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In not only the first three-point competition of his NBA career, but of his life, Nets guard Joe Harris defeated two-time league MVP Stephen Curry in the final round to win the 2019 event.

Curry, the 2015 champion, was supposed to win the shootout as part of the weeklong celebration of the return to his hometown. But Harris either didn’t get the memo or simply didn’t care. And if not Steph, it should have been defending shootout champion Devin Booker, Hornets All-Star Kemba Walker or Steph’s younger brother, Trail Blazers guard Seth Curry, also a Charlotte native. All three failed to advance to the contest finals, tallying 23, 15 and 16 first-round points, respectively.

The elder Curry brother’s favorite status was not lost on a humble Harris after the competition.

“Steph is the greatest shooter of all time,” Harris said. “But again, shooting off of the rack for a minute is not indicative of being a better shooter than Steph Curry.”

The entire event was billed as a Curry family reunion, with father Dell Curry introducing the actual contest by shooting for charity along with fellow retired three-point shooters Hornets great Glen Rice, Mark Price and Ray Allen, a one-time Seattle SuperSonic whom Harris idolized growing up in Washington state. However, Harris shouldn’t have emulated the former Sonic Saturday night, as Allen and the other legends mustered eight points total among their five racks.

Harris, who is shooting 47.1 percent from deep this season, was the first of the 10 competitors to shoot, promptly draining all five money balls on the final rack in the right corner, his favorite spot, for a first-round total of 25 points. Not to be outdone, Stephen Curry matched him with a perfect last rack of money balls in the opening round and led the field with 27 points, while Kings guard Buddy Hield finished with a cool 26 points to round out the contest finalists.

In the finals, Harris again went first, since he had the lowest score of the finalists, and again drained all five money balls in his signature right-corner spot to post a 26-point spot. When Hield finished with 19 in his final round, all eyes were on Stephen Curry, the predestined superstar of the weekend. Heading into the last rack, Curry needed all five money balls to force a shootout tiebreaker for the contest crown, but Charlotte’s prodigal son could only muster four, falling to Joe Harris by one money ball.

While Steph was getting mobbed everywhere he went all weekend, Harris painted walls and attached signage on a playground at an NBA Cares event Friday with no media attention whatsoever. The commemorative NBA signs actually didn’t fit right, so Harris and Lakers wing Reggie Bullock were forced to showcase their handiness and finesse the screws in place. Holding up signs for half an hour a day earlier apparently did not exhaust Harris enough to stop him from ruining the Curry family reunion.

A second-round draft pick out of the University of Virginia, the sharpshooter was out of an NBA job for six months in 2016 before being signed by the Nets. Now, Harris is a full-time starter for the first time in his fifth season.

“Getting into this league is a monster, and staying in it is even tougher,” Harris said. “Everybody’s got a different path in figuring out their role, their niche. I’m just lucky to be here.”

Safe to say, Harris has found his niche, and a place in All-Star weekend history to boot.

Photo at top: Joe Harris hoists the Three-Point Contest trophy after beating Stephen Curry and Buddy Hield in the final round. (Christopher Cadeau/MEDILL)