Sabrina Ionescu: from admiring Steph Curry to competing against him

Players in this post:
Stephen Curry
(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

This upcoming NBA All-Star weekend is a "pinch me moment" for New York Liberty star, Sabrina Ionescu. How many people can say they are competing during a first ever shootout against your idol? It's a dream come true for not only Sabrina, but WNBA and NBA fans as well.


Growing up in the 90's, I had dreams of playing one on one with Michael Jordan, and I couldn't imagine meeting him, let alone competing against him.

For quite some time, Ionescu has been a dedicated admirer of NBA star Steph Curry. Since she was 10 years old, he even graced the screen background of her phone. Like many young sports enthusiasts, Ionescu adorned her bedroom with Curry memorabilia, including posters and pictures.

This weekend, the two superstars will face off in the "Stephen vs. Sabrina" 3-point challenge. As a four-time NBA Champion, the Warriors star has been an inspiration to Ionescu in numerous ways. Likewise, the Liberty guard has made a significant impact on Curry, and their friendship spans many years.

"I was about 10, and watched him from up in the stands," Ionescu told the media on a video conference call. "I just knew how much he inspired me from a really young age, and who I wanted to model my game after, as a basketball player, but as a person."

With a connection to the late Kobe Bryant, Ionescu shares similarities in her game with Curry. Renowned as two of the finest three-point shooters in basketball, both are notorious for their ability to sink shots from well beyond the three-point line.

Raised in California, Ionescu hails from Walnut Creek, near the Bay Area, and attended Miramonte High School in Orinda, California. Coincidentally, her proximity allowed her to attend games during her upbringing. Curry, 35, is in his 15th NBA season, all with the Warriors.

Sabrina Ionescu grew up idolizing Steph Curry

In a video call with the media, Ionescu expressed, "I couldn't have asked for a better idol and mentor, and someone I can look up to and want to emulate my game after and who I am as a person." She emphasized that Curry's authenticity, as seen in public, has been crucial in her endeavor to remain genuine and true to herself."

For Curry, he recognizes how significant she is to the game of basketball and acknowledges her dedication to her craft.

"There's a wave around her every time she steps foot on the floor," said Curry. "You see somebody that has that look, that determination, and that reverence for the game. How you handle yourself and how you carry yourself with that spotlight, it's not easy."

He describes the former Oregon Duck as a "true ambassador for the game, somebody that you would want your daughters, your sons to looks up to."

When did Steph and Sabrina develop their connection?

Apart from Sabrina growing up in the backyard of Curry's success, there's interest in exploring the roots of their connection. Like Curry, she's motivated, and of course, the two share the Bay-Area connection. Curry made it known Sabrina "was a true Warriors die-hard fan from the jump," which makes the relationship even more special.

Leading up to the NBA All-Star weekend, Curry highlighted that their connection dates back to Ionescu's college days at Oregon. He mentioned taking his children to her games, where Sabrina made them feel valued and cherished.

In fact, while the two haven't officially competed on the court just yet, it sounds like they've gone up against each other quite a few times back at home.

"Well, Steph remembers the last time that we played up in San Francisco, "Sabrina chuckled during her interaction with the media. "So, I don't know if he wants to talk about it. Curry was quick to point out "Thats why I called her the champ."

Perhaps Sabrina left Curry stumbling on the floor with some ankle breaking moves. Though we may never have the full details, it's heartening to witness their connection evolve over the years.

"We've had fun," said Sabrina Ionescu. "I mean, we've competed a couple of times, obviously never on this stage. I feel like we've always been competing and being able to keep up with one another from afar. " Since the WNBA and NBA seasons don't overlap, Sabrina mentioned that they shoot "a lot" and "love to play" whenever they have the opportunity to spend time together in the gym.

After all, it's the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made versus the three-point queen. Can you imagine just how many threes are sunk during their meetups?

How it all went down

The 3-point contest is something that's been in the works, especially after Ionescu hit 20 straight shots for a record 37 points in the WNBA 3-point contest. Initially, it started off as a joke between the two.

"We talked about it the day that it happened," said Sabrina. " We got on the phone and just of were just laughing. Sabrina emphasized the significance of this event, highlighting its uniqueness as a one-of-a-kind moment between the two of them. Given that Ionescu is in the off-season, she and Curry are finally able to be in the same place at the same time.

"We're able to highlight the W [WNBA)," said Ionescu. "Knowing that we're able to have our own contest, it's not like I'm joining the NBA three-point contest. But we're really having our own and the significance and importance of that--Kind of just having that idea stemmed as a joke, and now being able to see it come to life. It's going to be a great experience for us both and exciting to see obviously who the winner is, but what it's going to mean for basketball as a whole."

Steph Curry said he "couldn't back down" after he was challenged by Ionescu on social media and that he "absolutely loves it."

What this means for women's basketball

Steph Curry has always been an advocate for women's basketball, and this yet another way to showcase Sabrina Ionescu and women's hoops on a larger stage. While it's a friendly matchup, Ionescu shared with us the importance of the event, and what she hopes it will accomplish.

"There's an opportunity to raise awareness of and there's obviously many, many people in our society that still don't give the respect to women's sports and to women in general. Knowing this is an opportunity is sometimes all you need to be able to go out there and shut a lot of people up. Steph really believes in me to be able to go out there but is understanding what it is that we're accomplishing. Speaks volumes to him as an individual."

For Curry, it's about redefining competition and continuously pushing the boundaries. It's about seizing opportunities and fully investing in the moment. While they emphasize that none of this is scripted, the event provides an opportunity for young girls and boys to witness women's basketball on a much larger platform.

"You look for opportunities to continue to raise the bar on what it means to be a basketball fan, said Curry. "Watching what she [Sabrina] did on All-Stat weekend, watching what the WNBA season was like, how it's continuing to grow. It's an authentic competition between two great shooters, who have had success in a three-point contest."

This Saturday, basketball fans worldwide are poised to witness two of the greatest three-point shooters in the history of the game.

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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter, Content Creator and Social Media Manager for Ballislife Bets. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut/NYC area with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.


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