Kevin Love is a very good NBA basketball player. He is a four-time NBA All-Star, a two-time All-NBA selection, and a key cog for the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Love is also one of the best rebounders in the league, with a season-long rebounding title on his resume to go along with a career average north of 11 boards per game.
For good measure, the 6’10 big man is also lauded for his versatility, which includes being the game’s best outlet passer and a more than capable floor spacer, especially when playing the center position.
With all of that said, what if I told you that Kevin Love won the three-point contest? No, really, he did.
The 2012 three-point contest feels like a lifetime ago for each of its contestants, as Love was flanked by James Jones, Anthony Morrow, Mario Chalmers, Ryan Anderson and former NBA MVP Kevin Durant.
At the time, Love was coming into his own as a long-distance shooter but, when the All-Star break arrived, he sported the worst three-point percentage (36 percent) of any player involved in the proceedings and was seen as quite a long-shot to actually secure the title.
Then, he did just enough to sneak past the opening round. Jones (22 points) and Durant (20 points) cruised through their first performance, while Love (18 points) actually landed in a tie with Chalmers that prompted a tiebreaker. In that 24-second (shortened) event, the big man was able to outlast the point guard of the reigning NBA runner-up Miami Heat at that point, knocking down five shots to just four from Chalmers to survive and advance.
In the final round, Love continued to outperform expectations, tying Durant with 16 points to eliminate Jones (the 2011 champion) and send the contest into a do-or-die tiebreaker to decide glory. From there, it was the perfect scenario for the league with its two most prominent entrants facing off in a battle between two of the taller contestants in the event’s history.
Love then drew the short straw in that he had to shoot first and allow the (heavy) favorite to know the mark he had to exceed, but the former UCLA standout provided a very high bar with a strong final round showing.
On cue, Durant couldn’t quite muster the performance required under the pressure. Needing 17 points to tie and 18 points to garner the title, he produced only 14.
At this point, Love had produced an unthinkable result, outlasting one of the game’s rising stars and a player that was already on a direct path to becoming an elite NBA shooter and scorer. To that end, it was a shocking result, but one that Love shed some light on after the fact, highlighting the work ethic and adaptability required to become this type of perimeter threat with his size and build (h/t Orlando Sentinel).
“I’m a guy that loves to rebound the ball, a guy that loves to play inside, really a physical player. But for me, coming into the league, I was told not to shoot 3-point shots. So to be where I am now and continue to work on my game, I think this definitely speaks to my versatility.”
Much has changed since Kevin Love stunningly won the three-point contest, including the fact that he moved from the Minnesota Timberwolves as the “franchise” player to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a thoroughly supporting role.
Still, it was probably a strong indicator that Love had more upside left when he was able to out-gun some of the NBA’s best marksmen on Feb. 25, 2012 and his opponent in the final round never returned to the three-point contest again.
Kevin Love remains closer to an average three-point shooter than he is to an elite one in 2017 but, when considering his position and background, it was always impressive that he was able to legitimately compete in, much less win, the NBA’s three-point contest. It seems like a lifetime ago and, to be fair, this probably isn’t the crowning achievement of a professional basketball career that includes a very famous defensive stop and the ability to claim greatness in the form of an NBA title.
What Love’s win is, though, is an extremely nice footnote and a piece of largely forgotten All-Star history.