Feb 16, 2013, 11:49 PM EDT
“It feels good,” Irving said afterward. “Add it to the résumé. MVP for Rising Stars, and now Three‑Point Shoot Out champion.”
The first round featured largely mediocre performances, with no one reaching the 20-point mark in scoring. Bonner had the opening round high score by finishing with 19.
Irving lit it up in the final round, however, putting on an electrifying shooting display by knocking down 17 of his first 18 shots.
“I feel like I was a dark house in this competition,” Irving said. “I just wanted to go out and prove a point that I was one of the premiere shooters out here with all these guys. Steve Novak and Matt Bonner, I never thought I’d beat those guys.”
It was more than just about personal satisfaction for Irving this weekend; it was about proving himself to a national audience. He first made his mark during the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday by taking apart Brandon Knight in a one-on-one battle late in the game, and followed it up with Saturday night’s stellar performance.
“This weekend was just basically about earning everybody’s respect and getting a chance for people to see me that don’t usually see me; we’re not nationally televised,” Irving said. “This weekend [was to] show my face to the fans and get everybody acclimated to my face in the league.”
Irving executed that plan to perfection during each of the weekend’s first two nights. He’ll have one final shot to show what he can do when he makes his first All-Star game appearance on Sunday, but no matter what happens in that one, he’s already feeling humbled by all that he’s accomplished in the middle of just his second NBA season, and admitted he spends time thinking about how quickly it’s all come together.
“Sometimes,” Irving said, when asked if he’s ever surprised by his success. “I just realize when I’m alone and I’m watching SportsCenter or NBA TV or something like that. It’s a surreal moment; I do have some surreal moments at times. It’s a blessing, and an honor to be recognized as one of the great players in the league.”
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