Jalen Brunson reveals how iconic 3-point celebration originated

DENVER — As Seinfeld might say, it’s a celebration about nothing.

Jalen Brunson’s hand-over-the-mouth gesture has become synonymous with the greatest Knicks point guard since Clyde Frazier, copied by others as the symbol of an opportune 3-point conversion and memed on social media. 

It’s also shrouded in mystery after Brunson declined last season to divulge the meaning, turning back a question about it on an ESPN broadcast and later telling reporters, “That’s between me and my teammates.”

Jalen Bruson reacts after hitting a three-point shot vs. the Sixers on March 12, 2024. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

In an interview with The Post on Thursday, Brunson explained the gesture’s origin and its anticlimactic significance.

“It truly came out of nowhere and it truly has no meaning other than three points on the board,” he said. “I just kind of stuck with it because it was unique and nobody was doing it.” 

There was an evolution to Brunson’s hand-tucked-under-the-nose celebration.

The 27-year-old point guard said he first used it as a Dallas Maverick – albeit with only a partial mouth cover – during the 2022 playoffs, when he nailed a corner trey and the broadcast replayed the celebration in slo-mo after a stoppage in play.

Brunson picked it back up after signing with the Knicks but noticed an unflattering picture of his lips protruding between his fingers. 

Jalen Brunson reacts after hitting a 3-pointer. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“It’s constantly used on ads. Forget what game it was used, but it was early in the season last year my first year here,” Brunson said. “My mom looked at me and said, ‘Ehh, not a good look.’ 

“So, I switched it up a little bit.”

The variation, as Knicks fans have come to love and appreciate for its meaning to the scoreboard, covers Brunson’s lips and appears as if he’s smelling his hand.

It was reminiscent of a goal celebration used by Paolo Dybala, an Argentinian soccer star.

Jalen Brunson is having another strong season. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Dybala has said the gesture is meant to symbolize a gladiator mask as a nod to his obsession with the 2000 Academy Award-winning film “Gladiator,” which stars Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoneix.

“I saw those comparisons and I’ve seen him do it, and actually played with (Dybala) on FIFA (the video game),” Brunson said, “but I never really tried to emulate that.”

Brunson isn’t even a fan of the “Gladiator” movie.

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“Telling you man, it’s just a weird coincidence how it started to unravel,” he said.

In high school at Stevenson outside of Chicago, Brunson used the familiar “3-in-the-holster” gesture following treys. But celebrations were outlawed at Villanova, where coach Jay Wright established old-school guidelines. 

“Coach Wright would’ve killed us,” Brunson said.

Donte DiVincenzo, who was Brunson’s roommate at Villanova, vouched for that. 

Jalen Brunson leads the Knicks in points per game. Noah K. Murray-NY Post

“He would tell us to turn around and get back on defense. If you watch us back in college, after dunks, 3s, no celebrations,” DiVincenzo said. “As soon as you dunk the ball, as soon as your feet hit the ground, you turn around and you’re sprinting back. 

“Because it would be on the film the next day. And he would point it out.” 

Brunson has made up for it in the NBA. His celebration with neither a name nor special meaning has spread, similar to Carmelo Anthony’s ‘3-to-the-dome’ craze about a decade ago. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo used Brunson’s celebration this season. Members of Team USA flashed it during the FIBA World Cup. More recently, college players picked it up. 

Considering how this began from nothing, Brunson is “very surprised” by the popularity. 

“Once it caught wind I thought it was pretty cool and just kept doing it and doing it,” Brunson said, “and that’s how that started.”

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