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The NBA’s All-Star weekend in Indianapolis is coming up. Events are set to begin on Friday, February 16, and they will extend through Sunday.
One of the headlines for this weekend, besides the All-Star Game itself, of course, is a battle of the sexes that will take place between Golden State Warriors legend Steph Curry and New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu.
For decades, the thought of pitting men against women has been intensely prominent, one that has sparked the interest of all sorts of people, from curious on-lookers, to feminists, to misogynists.
While different people will root for or against Curry or Ionescu to varying degrees of intensity, one thing is for sure: a lot of people will simply be entertained by this matchup, regardless of the outcome.
The sort of competition planned between the male sharpshooter and his female counterpart is a three-point shootout, set to take place on February 17.
Steph Curry told one of his teammates that he wanted to participate in a three-point shooting contest against Ionescu. Ionescu was only too happy to oblige, as, not much time later, she agreed to Curry’s proposal.
You might find it odd that the male was the challenger here, but this fact expresses his respect for Ionescu, who, frankly, deserves it, in view of her accolades as a sharpshooter.
A four-time All-NBA First Team selection, a four-time All-NBA Second Team selection, an NBA Finals MVP, a two-time NBA MVP, a two-time NBA three-point contest winner, Curry justifiably has this much respect for Ionescu to challenge her.
Sabrina Ionescu’s Impressive Record
NBA fans will likely assume that Curry will win. But a deeper dive into Ionescu reveals that this assumption might be unfounded.
Can you guess who holds the record for the most three-pointers made in a round of three-point shooting competition? Hint: it isn’t Curry.
Ionescu holds this record, as she dropped 37 points in a round, a particularly impressive feat when you consider that it was the final round of competition, and players sometimes experience noticeable fatigue by the end, after shooting so many threes.
Curry was the previous record-holder, at 31 points. So it cannot come as a surprise that Ionescu beats Curry in this competition, because she has already outperformed him.
Ionescu’s accolades are extensive, showing that she is an amazing player, one who did not simply have one good flurry of good shooting in that historic three-point competition.
The top pick in her draft after her decorated time as a player for the Oregon Ducks, she is, for example, the first WNBA player to record a 30-point triple-double.
She has also earned an All-WNBA Second Team bid for two straight seasons now.
So Ionescu Really Has a Chance?
If you are still doubting Ionescu’s chances of beating Curry, let’s consider human physiology from a gendered perspective.
Men do have physical advantages over women. Men have greater lung capacity. The volume of their lungs is about ten to twelve percent higher than that of women. This is correlated with their greater height.
As is well-known, and what is immediately thought of in athletic battles of the sexes, is that men are born with more muscle mass than women. In terms of skeletal muscle mass, studies show that men tend to have about 36% more than women, which seems like a significant difference.
So men have these significant physical advantages over women.
Why, again, should we not count out Ionescu?
We have to consider the nature of the competition. If this were a five-kilometer race, then Curry would definitely win. Likewise, if these two athletes were going to box each other, then we would have to choose Curry.
But this is a three-point shooting contest, and nobody can doubt the conditioning of Ionescu, her physical ability to sustain strong shooting throughout a round of shooting.
Similarly, nobody can doubt Ionescu’s ability, with her muscle volume, to reach the rim. This is about technique and mental focus. She has the technique. She might also have a mental advantage over Curry because, as a man, Curry is likely facing more pressure than Ionescu does.
Ionescu certainly wouldn’t be the first woman to defeat a man, and to do so on such a significant stage.
In 1973, tennis player Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs, a former number one-ranked tennis player, in straight sets. Riggs was 55 years old, but this outcome was still hailed generally as a big win for female athletes and for women in general, especially in view of Riggs’ notorious male chauvinistic attitude.
Riggs thought that he would beat her, and he was very wrong. Her win was monumental for women’s rights activists in the 1970s. Women athletes and women in general could feel a lot more confident about themselves, having gained a sense of their capability relative to that of men.
Ionescu has a chance to continue in this tradition of females using sports to empower themselves.