The country’s two most high-profile basketball players showed up and showed out this weekend on one of the biggest stages for the sport in the United States.
DeAndre Ayton made a significant contribution in the Mountain Dew Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend, and in the case of Chavano “Buddy” Hield, it was another history-making moment.
Hield was not only the first full-blown Bahamian to compete in the three-point competition of the National Basketball Association (NBA), but he also made the final after putting up 26 points in the first round — tied for fourth-most in any round in the history of the competition.
The Grand Bahama native had the second-most prolific opening round performance behind Golden State’s two-time MVP Stephen Curry in the Mountain Dew NBA Three-Point Contest on Saturday, and finished third overall behind eventual winner Joe Harris, of the Brooklyn Nets and Curry.
The all-star weekend wrapped up with the NBA’s 68th annual All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, last night.
In the three-point contest, Harris scored 25 in the first round, including eight straight at one point and all five from the money-ball rack. Hield was one point better with 26 and Curry led the way with 27.
In the final, Harris won with 26, Curry came up a money-ball shot with 24 in his hometown of Charlotte, and Hield finished with 19 to settle for third.
“Yeah, I had a bad stretch there in the final. I was able to finish strong, but it wasn’t enough,” said Hield to OurTV’s Marcellus Hall afterward. “Hopefully I’ll have some more chances at it. Hopefully, this won’t be the last one I compete in,” he added.
As he has been doing all season, Hield certainly left his mark as one of the game’s best shooters from three-point land, standing out as one of the key contributors in the Sacramento Kings’ push for a playoff position this season, and making a whole nation proud. The Bahamian sharp-shooting guard is putting up career numbers almost across the board this season.
In the competition on Saturday, he was up first among the second group of shooters in the first round. Hield got off to a moderate start but finished strong. He hit eight of his final 10 shots, including seven straight at one point and four out of the five in the money-ball rack to surge to the lead with 26 points. Three shooters later, two-time league most valuable player (MVP) Curry struck for 27.
In total, Hield hit all but one money ball in the first round. Each round consists of nine money balls worth two points each and 16 regular balls at one point each. The maximum score is 34, and Hield’s 26 put him a tie for fourth for the most points ever scored in a round. In total, he missed just seven of 25 shots – a shooting percentage of 72. Superstar guard Curry matched the second-most prolific round in the history of the competition, scoring 27 including 10 straight at one point. He also put up 27 in the final in 2015 when he won, and his Golden State Warriors’ teammate Klay Thompson, son of NBA legend Mychal “Sweet Bells” Thompson, won with 27 in 2016.
Hield proved that he is right up there with them.
“You win some and you lose some, but it’s been a dream come true for me,” said Hield afterward. “Everyone knows me, and know that I love the three-ball. I’m just blessed to be in this position, and I’m thankful. It was a fun competition. These guys shoot the hell out of the ball. It was good.”
In the final on Saturday, Nets forward Harris set the tone early, erupting for 26 points including 12 straight at one point and all five in the money-ball rack. It was the fourth-most prolific performance in the final in the history of the competition.
Hield was a bit overwhelmed, finishing with 19. He started slowly and by the time he recovered it was too late. He missed all five from the top of the key, which took him out of the running. Hield hit eight of his final 10 shots and four out of five on the money-ball rack, but it was too little too late for him.
Curry was the final shooter between Harris and the title, and he started off as if he would cruise to victory but stumbled in the middle of the round. Curry hit his first nine shots, but then missed three out of five from the top of the key. He hit seven of his final 10 shots, including four out of five on the money-ball rack, but in the end, came up a money ball short, falling 26-24.
Harris became the first player in Nets history to win the NBA’s Three-Point Contest. Also in the competition with him, Hield and Curry were Curry’s brother Seth Curry, of the Portland Trail Blazers; Damian Lillard, also of the Trail Blazers; defending champion Devin Booker, of the Phoenix Suns; NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki, of the Dallas Mavericks; Charlotte’s Kemba Walker; Danny Green, of the Toronto Raptors; and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton.
Third-year guard Hield was certainly special in his first NBA three-point competition, showing that he belongs in the conversation with the league’s best shooters. He is fourth in the league in three-pointers made and fourth in three-point percentage. He remains on pace to break the Kings’ single season record for three-pointers made in a single season and can challenge the team record for three-point percentage as well.
The other Bahamian who was a part of the festivities over the weekend turned in a significant performance as well.
Ayton, the Phoenix Suns’ starting center, had respectable numbers across the board for Team World in the Mountain Dew Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night. Ayton scored 15 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out five assists for Team World.
Led by 35 points from Rising Stars MVP Kyle Kuzma, of the Los Angeles Lakers, Team USA broke a two-year drought with a 161-144 win over Team World.
Ayton didn’t partake in the high-flying display too much during the contest but did have a reverse tip dunk for two of his 15 points. He finished 7-for-12 from the floor with four of those attempts coming from three-point land. Ayton came up 0-for-4 from distance.
The Bahamian big man is the only rookie in the NBA averaging a double-double. He is at 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game for the Suns this season. Ayton is also shooting 58.8 percent from the floor – one of the field goal highest percentages for rookies in the history of the game.
The 7-foot-1 250-pound center has season- and career-high numbers of 33 points, and 18 rebounds, which he has done three times.
Hield and Ayton will return to their respective teams this week. Hield and the Kings travel to Oakland, California, to play the two-time defending champions Warriors at Oracle Arena on Thursday night, while Ayton and the Suns will be in Cleveland, Ohio, to play the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, also on Thursday.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting