On This Date in Sports February 8, 1986: Larry From Downtown

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NBA All-Star Weekend continues to grow, as the league holds the first Three-Point Shooting Contest along with the third Slam Dunk Contest at Reunion Arena in Dallas. With 22 points in the final round, including 11-straight baskets, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics wins, beating Craig Hodges of the Milwaukee Bucks in the finals. While the Slam Dunk Contest sees 5-foot-7 Spud Webb shock his Atlanta Hawks teammate Dominique Wilkins. 


The 1986 NBA All-Star Game took place at Reunion Arena in Dallas. On the night before the All-Star Game, the first Three-Point Contest was held along with a Legend’s Game and the Slam Dunk Contest. As they had with the Slam Dunk Contest in 1984, the NBA looked to add more sizzle as they lined up the best shooters from beyond the three-point arc with $10,000 going to the winner. The first three-point contest had five racks with one money ball on each rack worth two, set at different areas at the three-point line. 

All eyes were on Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics for the Three-Point Contest, but it was Craig Hodges of the Milwaukee Bucks who wowed the fans scoring 25 points in the first round. Bird had his struggles but was good enough to advance to the second-round finishing among the top four shooters with 16 points, along with Dale Ellis of the Dallas Mavericks and Trent Tucker from the New York Knicks. In the second round, Bird did slightly better, finishing with 18 points, while Ellis and Hodges battled for second, needing two separate 24-second shootouts with Craig Hodges coming out the winner. The final would be all Larry Bird, as a tired Craig Hodges struggled. Bird meanwhile soared firing off 11 in a row as he finished with 22 to win the first Three-Point Shooting Contest, with the “Theme from Miami Vice” playing. 


Before the All-Star Weekend, there was a bit of a letdown with the Slam Dunk Contest as Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls who battled Dominique Wilkins in the 1985 contest was unable to participate due to injury. Wilkins, “the Human Highlight Reel,” was expected to win easily, but his own teammate from the Atlanta Hawks, Spud Webb, ended up stealing the show. At 5’7” Webb, a native of Dallas hardly seemed like somebody would be among the best dunkers, but his ability to get air brought Reunion Arena to its feet. Webb’s Dunks included a 360-degree Helicopter Dunk that drew a perfect 50 score. Wilkins was stunned at the ability of Webb as he had never shown off his skills in Hawks’ practice.   


Spud Webb remains the shortest player to ever win the Slam Dunk Contest. Two decades after his win, he helped Nate Robinson at 5’9” become the second player under six-feet-tall to win the Slam Dunk Contest. Larry Bird would win the Three-Point Contest in each of the first three years it was held, before retiring from the competition. Craig Hodges would match his three titles in a row after joining the Chicago Bulls in 1990.