Big Smooth's Perfect Night
Praise for the wonderful Sam Perkins
Do you love Sam Perkins?
I love Sam Perkins.
Everybody love Sam Perkins.
Why don’t you love Sam Perkins?
You will after this article…
January 15, 1997, might be the greatest night of Sam Perkins’s NBA career. His Seattle SuperSonics entered their home game against the Toronto Raptors with 26 wins and 11 losses.
They left KeyArena with their 27th win and it was quite easy. Seattle won every quarter by at least nine points and throttled hapless Toronto by a final score of 122 to 78.
Okay enough about the team, let’s get to Big Smooth.
Coming off the bench as he typically did during these years, Perkins hit two threes in his three minutes of action in the first quarter. In the second quarter Perkins let loose making four more threes.
Perkins got a break in the third quarter to rest his weary arms. In the fourth quarter he drilled two more threes. He also swished two free throws.
So in total Perkins made every single one of his eight three point attempts. Perhaps most stunning is that he managed to come up with three steals in this game. If you’ve ever watched post-1996 Sam Perkins you know he wasn’t exactly the most robust of figures on the court.
During the 1997 All-Star Weekend Perkins participated in the three-point contest and after the first shot went up, you realized, “Oh no… Sam ain’t gonna win cuz he ain’t gonna make it to the third rack at this pace.” Okay it wasn’t that bad, but it was truly stunning he finished cuz his shooting motion was dipped in molasses.
Back to the downtown fire against Toronto…
Perkins’s 8-8 perfection tied Jeff Hornacek for most three-pointers taken in a game without a miss. Hornacek previously made eight threes of his own without a brick in a 1994 game against… the Sonics.
Difference here is that Hornacek played 36 minutes for his record. Perkins swaggered around on the court for a mere 23 minutes.
For a man with a glacial shooting release, this was insane rapid fire. And Seattle coach George Karl loved every minute of it.
Perkins himself seemed somewhat surprised that three-pointers had extended his NBA shelf life. “I really didn’t know it was going to enhance my career like this until I got here,” he told the AP about the trade that brought him to Seattle in 1993. “When I got here, my attempts really came up.”
The stats don’t lie.
From his rookie season through the 1991-92 campaign, Perkins attempted 0.6 threes a game making just 25.6% of them. Then during the 1992-93 season, he gets traded to Seattle and for the back half of his career he attempts 2.9 threes a game making 38.0% of them.
Perkins’s accuracy was no accident. He would stick around long after formal practice was over to keep firing away from downtown.
“This year and last year I’ve really tried to concentrate on making them,” Perkins said. “But it’s not whether I make ‘em or not make ‘em. It’s the fact that it opens my teammates up a lot more.”
Karl and teammate Hersey Hawkins knew the value of Smooth’s contributions.
“The player covering him falls asleep sometimes because that player is usually a center and he doesn’t have to cover the three-pointer that much,” Karl observed. Hawkins chimed, “It’s difficult. You know he’s going to get his threes, but it’s uncomfortable for centers to play that far out on the floor.”
And for Toronto’s overwhelmed frontcourt—Popeye Jones, Sharone Wright, Marcus Camby, Acie Earl—Perkins was too much too handle that wondrous January night of ‘97.
PS—So, uh, it turns out Seattle as a team had 27 steals this game. Hell, slo-mo Perkins somehow had three steals.
Even Craig Ehlo… yes… CRAIG EHLO in the year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred Ninety-Seven had four steals in this game.
The 27 steals are still an NBA record for most steals in a game by one team.
As great a night as this was for Seattle and Perkins, it was equally awful for Toronto.