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When NBA three-point shooters are dialed in, time stands still

Pure shooters like Chuck Person (now a Lakers assistant) can do amazing things from long range. And NBA's three-point contest is still a showcase for amazing.

February 17, 2013|By Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
  • Chuck Person, center, finished fourth in the three-point contest in 1995.
Chuck Person, center, finished fourth in the three-point contest in 1995. (BarbaraDavidson / Los Angeles…)

Chuck Person stands out in a crowd, but the former NBA forward turned Lakers assistant coach isn't instantly recognizable, even to some ardent basketball fans.

That has its advantages.

The 6-foot-8 Person, nicknamed "The Rifleman," finished fourth in the three-point shooting contest at the 1995 NBA All-Star game. And he still has a deadly shot from the perimeter.

He proved that recently at a street fair in Redondo Beach, where, anonymously, he made some jaws drop at a long-range-shooting game.

"I have to admit I did that," he said, almost sheepishly. "Won a lot of animals."

He buried shot after shot, and his identity "didn't ever dawn on them." Making his performance even more impressive, the carnival-style hoops were something less than favorable.

"The rims were actually a little higher," he said. "They raise them about three inches, you can tell. I can tell when a rim is a quarter-inch off. Shooters will know when a rim's not quite right."

Shooters of his caliber are remarkable with a basketball, absurdly accurate when they don't have a hand in their face or — as in Saturday's three-point contest in Houston — with a one-minute clock ticking down.

"I'm often asked, 'How many threes do you think you could make right now if you shot 100 balls?'" said former NBA guard Tim Legler, who won the1996 shootout and is now an ESPN analyst. "I always thought at the peak of my career, when I was shooting every day and at the maximum amount of health, I was confident I could make 80 or 85.

"Some of these guys I played with, Brent Price and Mark Price, these shooting games we'd get into could last forever because you're just waiting for somebody to miss."

Steve Kerr, who made an NBA-record 45.4% of his three-point shots over his 15-year career, and won the 1997 shootout, said that muscle memory never truly goes away.

As shooters will tell you, it's not about dunk contests. It's about who can take one more step backward and still snap the net.

"You see two kids playing H-O-R-S-E in the driveway," Kerr said. "The one who's got the deeper range usually winds up winning."

Even when the baskets aren't quite up to NBA standards.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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